It’s been a week since ClexaCon ended, and I finally feel up to talking about it. Not because I haven’t had anything to say, but because I’ve honestly been recovering from the worst con crud I’ve ever had for the past week (I’m still coughing and sneezing, but at least I don’t feel like I’m dying anymore and napping 3x a day!). However, the prolonged time has given me space to fully flesh out my initial reactions.
Coming home last year, I was more focused on how ClexaCon solidified my personal writing and career goals. This year is a little different. Rather than thinking about what the con means to me, as an attendee and panelist, I find myself reflecting on what it means to the queer actors and creators. What it means for them to have this space, too.
It all started at Ascension—the afterparty Saturday night. Several of the celebrities showed up and mingled with fans, something they didn’t have to do and showcased just how invested they were in us and our community. While watching Stephanie Beatriz get down with Isabella Gomez to the delight of the room, my friend Leah (one of the organizers of TGIFemslash, who we interviewed last year) pointed out that being surrounded by queer women who love her and her work must be a relief for Beatriz. For the first time, she gets to be the big star. Her existence as a queer woman of color is not just acknowledged but celebrated. That got me thinking: ClexaCon isn’t just a safe space for the attendees, it’s a safe space for queer actors, too.
Where else does Stephanie Beatriz get to talk openly about her bisexuality and the bisexuality of her character and be met with cheers? Where else does Erica Luttrell get to be openly affectionate with her girlfriend and be greeted not with disgust or avoidance but happy tears and heart-eyes? Where else can queer actors dress how they want and be surrounded by folks who look like them?
As attendees, we’re so used to thinking about how important the con is in providing a space for us to be visible and see ourselves reflected in everyone around us. That’s true. This year, I thought about that being true for the actors as well. Not just us, but they get to be in a room of women who are just like them. How often does that happen for them? Even in Hollywood, probably not all that often.
More than that, how often do they get to be the stars? How often do actors like Briana Venskus, Dot Marie Jones, Rachel Paulson, and Nicole Pacent get to be the actors that fans are lining up for and hype to get autographs, selfies, and photo ops with? How frequently do you think Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis get to be some of the biggest stars in the room? When do these queer women get to be not just adjacent to the action, but the main attraction?
We’re here to see them and that means just as much to them as it does to us. They’re getting recognition and hype for being queer women who play queer female characters. They have space to celebrate who they are as much as we do. That’s HUGE.
And even for straight actors playing queer female characters, how often is it that the queerness of the role they’re playing is the main draw?
On Saturday, staff was shorthanded on volunteers in the autograph lines, so I signed myself up to help out. I ended up in Chyler Leigh’s line scanning tickets and let me tell you, I was getting emotional listening to fans talk to her. I’m sure at other cons she gets to hear stories like the ones I heard, but imagine that being the only story you hear over and over. “You’re so important to me as an actor because Alex helped me accept that I’m gay.” “Alex helped me come out to my parents.” “Alex’s conversation with Kara was exactly like talking to my sister, and I cried watching it because of how important that was to see.” All these and more.
For actors who truly care about the representation they’re embodying with their characters, as all the actors at ClexaCon do, being bombarded with love, support, and celebration of the work they’re doing must be one of the most fulfilling experiences. They might get flak from family, friends, or other people in the industry for portraying a queer character. They might have people say awful things to them because of the choice to support queer rep and do it well. But at ClexaCon, all they get is love. And them receiving that is important because they may not get it elsewhere.
That’s why I got so angry when I heard about how short the autograph lines were for Nafessa Williams after I finished my volunteer shift. She plays Anissa Pierce on Black Lightning—a literal bulletproof black lesbian and, in my opinion, the most important queer female superhero on TV right now (no offense to White Canary or Alex Danvers) because of that. Yet she wasn’t being given the same level of recognition as other actors were. This is her place to shine and be lauded for everything she’s doing for queer women of color representation and yet…it wasn’t happening the way I expected and wanted it to. Given the levels of racism and homophobia in our society, Nafessa Williams deserved to be celebrated at ClexaCon, because if not there, where else?
Because to me, ClexaCon isn’t just a chance to gush about ships—though I do understand why that’s such a huge draw—it’s a space to participate in and listen to conversations about layered identities. Where else can we discuss what it means to be queer and mentally ill? Or about being queer and disabled? Or queer and non-white? Where else do those conversations get to be not just in the margins, but the main attractions?
I participated in three panels this year, and what has surprised me most is that the one I’ve gotten the most positive feedback from is the Neurodiversity in Writing panel I moderated. (Fellow managing editor Kylie and Fandomentals writers Lisa and Kristen were the panelists.) Sure, I got a lot of people saying how much they loved the Korrasami panel and my Responsibility of Media Makers panel (you can find both of those panels on YouTube). But I’ve had more people go out of their way to email, Tumblr message, or tweet me and my fellow panelists about the neurodiversity panel.
That tells me something. It tells me that this is a conversation people are desperate to have but have no space for. They’re so grateful that we talked about it because no one else is making that space for them. Which, again, is why ClexaCon is so necessary and why it’s important that it not just be about shipping. Because we as queer women don’t get space to talk about ourselves and our layered identities anywhere else. And we need that if we’re going to change the way stories about us are told.
Panels such as these allow us to talk about ourselves and what we want to see when it comes to representation. They’re a form of activism because we’re advocating for our own stories. We have to carve this space out for ourselves because no one else will. And if we don’t have these conversations ourselves, how can what we say get back to the actual content creators in a way that they can listen to and reflect on when they’re creating art?
Most content creators don’t go online and listen to marginalized fans about how they want their stories told. Some do, but most don’t. As much as I hate that it has to be this way, conventions are a recognized means of bringing attention to issues in a way that content creators might be more likely to listen to. Even then, there’s no guarantee they will pay attention. Still, panels at a convention ‘look’ professional to the media industry and are more likely to be acknowledged. They spark conversations that can ripple into something bigger.
Nevertheless, some of the content creators are in the room and they’re listening to us. And I don’t just mean the industry professionals like Emily Andras of Wynonna Earp or Gloria Calderon Kellet and Mike Royce of One Day at a Time. It’s great to have advocates within the industry who are writing and creating nuanced queer stories and characters. But they aren’t the only ones who deserve our attention.
ClexaCon is bursting with original content creators who either haven’t found a way to break into the industry or want to do things differently. Three times as many booths filled the vendor hall this year. Most of the fanartists also create their own original art, and I saw more book booths this year than last year, which makes my bibliophile heart happy to see. We need more queer books and the queer books we do have deserve more recognition, especially those being produced outside of traditional publishing avenues.
ClexaCon presents a unique opportunity for queer women and allies to support queer content creators. There’s art or books to buy, films at the film festival to see, and plenty of time to talk about new projects and how to support a creator who is in media res. That’s why I always take cash with me to ClexaCon. I look at it as an opportunity to put my money where my mouth is by supporting queer original content creators.
It’s also why I take my microphone with me so that I can interview a creator or two for my Creator Corner series. I met Foley at ClexaCon last year—my all-time favorite fanartist for SuperCorp and Supergirl as well a really talented author and webcomic artist. This year, I met up with original fiction and fic author Rae D. Magdon to talk about her most recent book. I also caught up with the folks from the Clexa Project, who interviewed me last year and are still working on their documentary film about challenging industry standards for representation.
Not that everyone can do interviews or can afford to buy a lot of original art. The point is that I can. I have a position of relative privilege when it comes to spending cash and the added privilege of an online platform (however small it is) that I can use to benefit them. I truly believe that it’s my responsibility as a member of this marginalized community to do what I can to support and highlight queer artists creating original content. I say it’s what I want: more stories written by queer women about queer women. ClexaCon is a safe space where I can throw money at artists for making beautiful things and offer what little publicity I can. Because if we’re going to change the media industry and society to make it safer for people like us, we all have to get there together.
And that’s what I love so much about ClexaCon. Because when I’m there, I can see how it’s possible. I see queer actors being celebrated and queer characters being cheered for and fawned over. I see queer art and queer books and queer artists and writers making these beautiful things for us to enjoy. And I think about how important it is for everyone who is there that this space exists.
ClexaCon isn’t just for me. It’s for every queer actor who has never gotten the chance to be in the spotlight or celebrated for who they are. It’s for the actors playing queer characters to experience how powerful and necessary their allyship is first hand. It’s for queer content creators and storytellers to gain recognition and support for the hard work they do making art for us. It’s for all the panelists who spent time and energy preparing to talk about significant issues. It’s for the volunteers and staff to see their hard work come to fruition and for the fans and attendees to revel in the safety and joy of being in a room full of like-minded people.
And it’s for all the other queer women who can’t be there, too. Who might not be out or safe enough or able to afford to go. We celebrate with them in spirit and hold them in our hearts.
ClexaCon is, quite simply, a place for all queer women to shine and for all of us to be stronger together.
Featured Image Courtesy of ClexaCon
GenCon Report: White Wolf Publishing On Making The Modern Vampire
It’s been seven years since the last version of Vampire: The Masquerade debuted, the longest gap between editions since the game debuted in 1991. The vampire-shaped void in White Wolf Publishing’s World of Darkness setting was filled by Masquerade’s companion and ostensible successor: The Requiem. But after all that time, people still wanted Masquerade. And so, as their first project after being bought by Paradox Interactive, White Wolf debuted Vampire: The Masquerade, Fifth Edition at GenCon.
I was lucky enough to meet with a pair of developers who worked on 5e: Karim Muammar, Editor In Chief at White Wolf, and Jason (not Lorenzo) Carl, Producer. We had a great chat about how the new edition was developed, what thoughts went into changing the game, how vampires are adapting to the 21st century, and how White Wolf got back to its roots.
Dan: So tell me a little bit about what you two put into the creation of V5?
Karim Muammar: I oversaw the writing as well as the system designs, mainly the vampiric system, which is the hunger system, and all the different powers of the blood and so on.
Jason Carl: My role was as Producer, a role that sits between creative and business and has operational oversight for the project. Budget, scheduling, resources, that sort of thing.
Dan: It’s been a few years since the last edition of Vampire, the last one being released in 2011. Has this been in development for that long or is there a reason to bring it back now?
JC: Man, seven years would be awesome! Wouldn’t you love having had seven years to work?
KM: Imagine what we could have done in seven years!
JC: Can we do that?
KM: You know what, let’s do that for Werewolf, yes?
JC: Seven years, that sounds reasonable.
KM: What we actually did here, me and Martin Ericcson the Lead Storyteller, we did a lot of preliminary work in 2016 and 2017, thinking about what kind of game we wanted it to be. But past the meta part, what we wanted to bring to the fore, what we wanted to add to it, what we wanted to see as separate projects, as well as what types of rules we wanted to see. What kind of system, to what extent we would adhere to the old system, to what extent we would try to renew things. I think the actual writing process, that really started about a year ago.
JC: I think the whole development cycle, from beginning to end, is almost eighteen months, but about a year of really intense development on the aspects of the game that you see in the book.
Dan: What inspired you to bring it back? It obviously has enduring popularity, but why bring it back after such a long gap between editions?
KM: I think the reason is that as White Wolf was purchased by Paradox Interactive, we felt that we sort of had to “carry the torch” forward for the centerpiece of this transmedia brand that we were trying to create out of White Wolf. So we are looking at more than tabletop role-playing games. We’re looking at board games, we’re looking at card games, we’re looking at books, we’re looking at video games, naturally-
JC: Films, TV, Comic books.
KM: Exactly! But all of these need a strong centerpiece. So we wanted to go back to where it all began: a tabletop role-playing game. And really, we’re really inspired by the first edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, that when it came out it revolutionized everything. A completely new look different from every other game, a completely new setting, a new feel and a new way to play tabletop role-playing games.
JC: I think that there’s a reason. It’s that once we settled on it, we realized that we still have plenty of stories in this world to tell. Vampires are still very relevant to the world around us and what’s happening today, globally. This is still a very rich storytelling experience, with an infinite amount of stories to tell.
Dan: So you drew inspiration from the first edition that came out in 1991, and obviously with this sort of genre, as you say, ties heavily into contemporary things. As well, gaming tastes and habits have changed since then. What are some of the things you’ve added or changed about Masquerade that reflect the world in this new edition?
KM: I think one thing that has changed is gaming technology and the way to play tabletop RPG’s, there’s more expected of the players. Games today have a much more modern rule set, that is often less “simulationist,” and more narrative or “gameist.” So what we wanted to do with this game is create a game where the rules did not interfere with the story, but rather created the story, so that every single roll has the potential for drama, excitement, and even tragedy.
So we started with the parts that worked. The dots, the d10s (we couldn’t change that or else it wouldn’t be Vampire: The Masquerade). But we wanted to look at how these things actually translate to the table experience. Instead of rolling five times per interaction, we wanted to take it down to one. Instead of [an] initiative to hit, damage, soak, you’d instead make a single role for an engagement, any engagement, whether it be a physical engagement or a social engagement.
But we also wanted to make it clear to the player that you are playing a vampire. Thus, we came upon “The Hunger” system, which is a way to introduce “The Hunger” as a constant in every single roll. The hungrier you are, the more your dice are going to turn into Hunger dice, which carry with them the possibility for tragedy or violence or just great drama that comes with being a monster, especially a hungry one.
JK: We also obviously updated how the book looks, visually. That was really important to us. When you look back at the first edition of Vampire, it’s easy to forget the impact that it made on the eyes. It looked like a rock n’ roll album with it’s black and white cover, visceral colors, and real people as vampires. And we wanted to be sure that v5 has the same visual power as the original. So we decided to include a lot of very high-quality photography to show what real vampires look like today, but also drawings, sketches, pictures, graphic design digital art, in a really interesting visual mix in order to reflect the World of Darkness as it is today.
We were very fortunate because our layout artists were Free League, a Swedish design company who’ve been winning awards for Tales From The Loop and Mutant Year Zero. Just incredible design that you’re going to see in this book, just interesting design layouts; you’re going to see infographic charts, you’re going to see information laid out in a way that’s easy to read. It makes the game easier to learn and teach that way, too. It all works together with the art and the design to give the whole book a very sleek, very modern, and contemporary look.
DA: So you’ve changed the mechanics, but let’s talk about the setting, the World of Darkness itself. How has it changed in the way you’ve written and conceptualized it to fit into more modern sensibilities?
KM: I will say it has progressed.
JC: This is not a reboot.
KM: Yes, it has progressed, nothing has changed as in being retconned, but the story has moved forward so that the vampires are caught up in the events of the modern world. They are being hunted by what is called the Second Inquisition, which is a result of the War on Terror getting a whiff of these strange anomalies, Swiss bank accounts, and people disappearing.
JC: People who don’t show up in airport scanners…
KM: Exactly, exactly. The kind of people, they call them “blank bodies” because they don’t show up on scans, they don’t have a body. That means that vampires are hunted to a much larger degree than they were previously.
JC: And we all know how that turned out. Look, it’s a terrible time to be a vampire. People are walking around at night with one of these “phone” things with a camera on it. There are closed circuit TV cameras everywhere. There are biometric scanners and its impossible to get through an airport without a screening. So vampires really have to adapt to a modern world that is changing fast both technologically and culturally, or they’re going to be hunted and killed.
KM: Or they recoil like the Camarilla does (EN: the Camarilla are the most conservative sect of vampires, working the hardest to maintain the Masquerade and keep vampire society as it is) and disavow technology, trying to return to a feudal age.
DA: Vampire Amish, basically.
JC: Exactly. If the Prince of Chicago wants to talk to a vampire in Boston, whereas in the 90’s he’d have just picked up a phone and called him…that’s too dangerous now. Who’s listening? Now, he’s got to write or send a coded message or find a neonate.
KM: Exactly. He might get a coterie to act as his messenger.
JC: “Hey you, standing over there in Elysium (EN: A place where vampires may gather without fear of discovery or harm), go to Boston!”
KM: At the same time, there’s also “The Beckoning,” a mysterious force that is calling all vampires of a certain generation to the Middle East as the Antediluvians (EN: The god-like eldest vampires and mythical founders of the thirteen clans) either might be rising, or might be threatened by the Sabbat (EN: Militant vampires bent on destroying the Antediluvians at Gehenna, the vampire Armageddon said to take place in the Middle East) of the Gehenna Crusade, leaving gaps in the Camarilla’s power structure that can be exploited by an ambitious coterie. So all these changes have been made to give the players agency with the way they can interact and have a bigger impact on the setting. Rather than just being constant lapdogs.
JC: Something that Karim mentioned that is expanded on the rules set as well is that the vampire factions are again in conflict. The Camarilla and the Anarchs (EN: Vampires who reject the rigid rules of vampire society) have been pulled apart, their political alliance has been destroyed. Clans have left the Camarilla and moved to the Anarchs and in future products, you might see new clans join the Camarilla. So vampire society really reflects the turmoil of the real world today.
DA: It sounds like you’ve really embraced the more globalized world we live in now. It sounds like there’s been a lot of globalizing and internationalizing of the Masquerade.
JC: There is. We consider ourselves a global company, and we consider our game to be global in nature. It’s very important to use to reflect all the world, so we will move away from the very North American focus and will look at vampires as they are in Europe, in Latin America, in Asia, and Australia. It will be very important [for] us to make sure that we have people who are experts in those cultures writing those books for us.
KM: Write about what you know.
JC: When you see the Chicago By Night book coming from Onyx Press, you’ll see a very diverse team of writers, many of whom live in Chicago, and work there, and represent very diverse points of view. And we think that’s super important.
KM: We think that credibility and authentic representation of a world [are] important. What was most striking, for me about the first Vampire was how real it felt. It felt genuine and rooted in the real world.
JC: You could believe it.
KM: Exactly. Real authors and real music. You could almost…smell the West Coast, even for me as a Swede living up north. And that also made the vampires more real. They didn’t live in some sort of fantasy vampire strata, but they were firmly anchored in the real world, which made them so much more alluring and interesting to play. And we really wanna push that there.
DA: It sounds like you have a lot for new players, but also a lot for players who have been with you since 1991.
JC: I think that players who have always loved Vampire are still going to love it, and I think it’s going to match their expectations for how games are designed and played. But we are seeing very positive reactions from people who have never played Vampire before, who didn’t even know it existed, and they are eager to play a game that lets them play the monster in the modern world. And do so in a way that they can share with their friends. We’re pretty enthusiastic that this game will help us grow that community.
DA: So can you give me a little taste of what might be coming next in The Masquerade?
KM: Well we have a couple books coming out this year, the setting books: The Camarilla book and the Anarch book. These will portray two vastly different ways to be a vampire. What it is to be a vampire in a Camarilla, the methods of the Camarilla, and how the Camarilla perceive the outside world, how it ties into both the real world and the world of Vampires. Plus more lore, more sheets, as well as some playable crunch there as well.
And of course the Anarch book, which tells us wildly different stories about vampires outside of the Camarilla. Whether they are trying to live their own lives in various ways, still connected to their families or subcultures, or if they’re organized as part of the Anarch movement fighting a harsh and desperate, but passionate, political struggle against the Camarilla and everything they represent. The Anarch book, looking at some of the initial work, it is a really really incredible book. I’m really looking forward to the books. And they’re also going to have their own distinct art styles that illustrate the themes and the mood of the book.
JC: And of course Chicago By Night, where we will return to where it all began, the setting of the very first Vampire chronicle ever, Chicago, and take a look at what’s been happening there. That’s where we will introduce what’s happening with the Lasombra clan (EN: A clan of predatory social Darwinists who seek to rule other vampires by virtue of their power), who play a pivotal role in what’s happening in Chicago, and the Sabbat. But we’ll also have to turn our attention to Werewolf very soon as well.
KM: But I thought we had seven years?
DA: And that’ll reflect the same sort of changes that we’re seeing in the Vampire books?
JC: Yeah. We’re still at a very early conceptual phase with it so nothing’s set in stone, but yes of course. The werewolf situation is in many ways even more dire than the vampire situation and that will be reflected in the game.
KM: Yeah, I mean, a lot of vampires are thriving in today’s world.
JC: Absolutely, if we could just get rid of the pesky cell phones!
KM: Whereas for werewolves its just much worse.
DA: Thinking back to the present, when will V5 be available for purchase?
JC: This is the worldwide debut at GenCon, the pdf is available right now on worldofdarkness.com, and depending on where you live, your local hobby store could have it on their shelves as early as right after GenCon, but it might be a week or two.
DA: North America and Europe, primarily?
JC: Yes, it’ll take a little longer to reach Australia because basically everything does.
Be sure to keep an eye out for physical copies of Vampire: The Masquerade V5 at your local game shop or, as Jason mentioned, pick up the PDF from their website for $24.99. And keep an eye here on The Fandomentals for our full review of Vampire: The Masquerade including an in-depth look at the story, characters, and mechanics of the game as well as what it’s like to actually play it!
Update: Some of the lore within the editor’s notes has been changed to reflect V5 more accurately. Jason Carl’s name has also been corrected to its proper spelling. Please don’t call the Camarilla on me.
Images Courtesy of White Wolf Publishing
GenCon Report: Asmodee Digital Lets You Game From Beyond The Tabletop
The intersection between the digital and the physical has become a theme at GenCon in recent years, and 2018’s was no different. Computer games are becoming board games, video game companies are making board games, and there is even a growing market for VR tabletop. One of the companies leading the charge from dinner table to computer screen is French developer Asmodee Digital. I had a chance to talk with Julie Le Vacon, Head of PR & Social Media at Asmodee, about their newest releases and hottest GenCon announcements.
Terraforming Mars debuted in 2016 from Fryx Games, and was hailed as one of the best games of the year by publications like Popular Mechanics, ars technica, and Polygon. It was also nominated for a Kennerspiel des Jahres (Connoisseur Game of the Year) at the prestigious Spiel de Jahres board game awards in Germany. This success, and a very dedicated fanbase, has led to a lot of excitement as Asmodee brings the game into the digital realm.
Set in the 2400’s, you take on the role of a corporation competing with other corporations (one of them no doubt led by the preserved brain of Elon Musk) to transform Mars from a lifeless husk into a new home for humanity. At its core, Terraforming Mars is similar to other resource management games like Catan in that you must get enough money and resources to change the climate or build cities. The end goal of the game is to have more victory points than the other players. In the demo I played, I ended up using an ocean that an AI built to benefit my buildings. While certainly not the fast-paced action game that’s going to take EVO by storm, it’s a really well-made strategy game for people who love the genre. With the addition of the Internet, you can play against faraway friends or total strangers. The game is also ripe for expansions, even beyond the two that have already released.
Terraforming Mars is due to release at the end of September of this year and will be coming to Steam and eventually iOS and Android.
Scythe, designed by Jamey Stegmaier and published by Stonemaier Games, is another hit game from 2016 that Asmodee is adapting. The game is set in an alternative 1920’s Europe, where dieselpunk engines of war fight for territory in the wake of the Great War. It won awards from BoardGameGeek.com and Geek and Sundry and was followed by three expansions (the second of which, The Wind Gambit, won awards on its own).
Players take on one of the factions that are vying for control in Europe. The goal of the game is to earn all six stars for your faction. These are obtained through accomplishing goals like playing all four mechs or a secret objective like Crimea’s “King of the Hill.” Players spend the game trading or gathering resources, building their nation and military up, fighting their opponents, or upgrading their ability to act.
The game is a one to one rendition of the physical game board, but with all the dynamism that a digital game can offer. They also kept the absolutely breathtaking oil paint art by Jacob Rozalski, meaning the game retains the unique aesthetic that has made it so popular.
Scythe is currently available on Steam Early Access and is planned to be released in Q3 of this year.
New Games For Console
Ticket To Ride (Ps4)
Ticket To Ride is one of the biggest successes in board gaming this century, and since its release in 2004 has sold over three million copies. While I’ve never quite understood the appeal of the game, it has certainly made its mark on the landscape. It has won myriad awards, gotten seven spin-offs, and 17 expansions (not including fan add-0ns). Asmodee has already released versions of Ticket for iOS, Android, and Steam, but their newest version releases for the PS4.
The game is built around constructing a network of railways connecting different destinations around the map, claiming routes and placing train tiles as they compete to become a railroad tycoon. The winner is the player who has connected the most destinations. The new game will use Sony’s brand new Playlink system, where players will be able to use their phones to look at their digital hands and plan ahead.
Ticket To Ride comes to PS4 at the tail end of 2018
Carcassone (Nintendo Switch)
Ah, Carcassone. The German game with the hard to pronounce name. Released in 2000 by Hans im Glück, Carcassone has been a staple of strategy gaming since its release and received nearly 30 expansions. Asmodee has previously released the game on both Google Play and Steam, but in a first for Asmodee, Carcassone will be releasing soon on the Nintendo Switch.
Players must work to develop their medieval fortress by building roads, cloisters, cities, and fields. The player does this by placing development tiles and adding “meeple” to that tile to gain the points and resources therein. The game’s winner is the player who has the most points after the last tile is placed.
Carcassone on Switch will use the same 3D appearance as the version on Steam, and Asmodee is confident that the game will be the first of many games to come to the Switch.
Carcassone will come to the Switch in the final part of this year.
Asmodee Looking Forward
While Asmodee has made a name for themselves adapting board games directly to the screen, their newest games will be brand new games inspired by board games. Their biggest announcement at GenCon was the announcement that Gloomhaven, declared “No. 1 Board Game Of All Time” by BoardGameGeek, will be developed as a video game by Asmodee and Flaming Fowl Studios. In a press release, Asmodee’s Chief Marketing Officer Phillipe Dao said that Gloomhaven “continues our commitment of expanding our catalog with more original video game experiences based on board game IPs and not just direct 1:1 adaptations of existing board games.”
The new game will be a dungeon crawler like the board game, but will actually look, play, and feel like a dungeon crawl video gaming while still using the look and mechanics of the original. It will be an RPG with turn-based tactical combat that allows people to team up in an “infinitely replayable” roguelike. Players will fight through the procedurally generated levels to find loot and level up their abilities.
Gloomhaven is due to release on Steam Early Access in the first part of 2019.
The first game announced by Asmodee to adapt a board game to an original game, Mansions of Madness is based on Fantasy Flight’s hit Lovecraftian strategy game. The new game will emulate the story and atmosphere of the original in Asmodee’s first adventure game. The player will take place in an eerie mansion in 1926, and must lead a team of investigators through traps, puzzles, and monsters to discover the secret of the mansion. But like any good Lovecraft game, you must beware you do not allow the madness to take you.
Mansions of Madness: Mother’s Embrace will release for Steam in early 2019.
Munchkin! You’ve played it! I’ve played it! It has a billion licenses, versions, and adaptations. It’s the game that made Steve Jackson Games. From space to superheroes to ninja turtles, Munchkin has been seemingly everywhere since it released in 2001. Its skewering of nearly every media property has made it popular, but it has especially endeared itself to tabletop gamers for its extremely well-informed parodies of common tropes in games like D&D (even the name, Munchkin, refers to a player archetype who play the game way too aggressively, turning a co-op experience in a competition). The game is fast and frenetic, encouraging players to undermine and backstab their fellow players.
The game, like Mansions and Gloomhaven, will be a full on game rather than a digital card game. It will be a dungeon crawler, with players moving through each room to fight monsters from the Potted Plant to the dreaded Gazebo to the mighty Squidzilla. It will be, in the words of Le Vacon, a “co-opetition” game where the players are all heading towards the same goal, but only one can come out on top. The new game was produced with the personal help of Steve Jackson himself and captures the spirit of Munchkin in a radical new way.
Munchkin will come to Steam in 2019
Images courtesy of Asmodee Digital
Gencon Report: 7 Things Gaymers Want Game Developers To Know
Tabletop Gaymers has been a mainstay of the tabletop gaming circuit since its formation in 2013, working to facilitate awareness, connections, and safe spaces for gamers across the LGBT spectrum. As the biggest tabletop game in the world, their presence has been strong at GenCon since they were just a Yahoo group. Their “Queer As A Three Sided Die” is the longest running queer panel at GenCon, running since 2011, and often acts as a communal place for the queer gamers and developers to kvetch and critique an industry that was and remains dominated by straight, cis, men, (though us white gamers don’t get away scot free either).
I attended this year’s iteration on Thursday. Moderated by Tanya DePass (@cypheroftyr), founder and director of I Need Diverse Games), the panel also featured writer and game developer Crystal Frasier (@AmazonChique), Roll20 Production Coordinator Trivia Fox (@dark_deer_), and writer and culture critic Anna Kreider (@wundergeek). It was a Redditor’s worst nightmare: 2 enbies with bright colored hair and completely different presentations, a bi black woman, and a trans woman with her hair in bisexual colors wearing a The Last Jedi shirt; all walking into a room to talk about how they want to make gaming more diverse. It was glorious. You’ll be able to watch a full recording after the show, but below are some of the biggest takeaways from the 2018 iteration of “Queer As A Three Sided Die.”
1. Don’t Forget About The Queer POC’s
Tanya was not fucking around at this panel when it came to intersectionality. Almost immediately, she was willing to point out the rather monochromatic makeup of the room and the still underrepresented POC’s and especially Queer POC’s in gaming. While the focus of the panel was the LGBTQ community in general, ideas like fetishization of black men and women, servant POC tropes, and the general absence of POC game developers and writers at GenCon all were bubbling under the surface of discussion. Its clear that there could be three other panels on this topic that Tanya could host, so be sure to check out her work at INDG. But as it stands, it helped ground the conversation and kept the discussions from turning into an exercise in “oppression Olympics.”
2. You Have To Listen To Sensitivity Readers, Not Just Use Them As PR
Crystal, Anna, and Tanya all are veteran sensitivity readers, and they were passionate about the importance of a sensitivity reader for game companies and writers. These readers are given preliminary drafts of games or books to critique the author’s use of characters or plot points within the reader’s expertise. In a games environment trying to cater to LGBT gamers without hiring them (more on that later), it’s vital for devs to not just take advantage of sensitivity readers but to LISTEN TO THEM. It doesn’t matter if you show your accidentally transphobic or racist character to Crystal or Tanya, you’re doing nothing if you then ignore them. You also shouldn’t listen to a “sensitivity reader” if they don’t really fit the “sensitivity” they’re critiquing. Don’t send your nonbinary characters to, say, me for instance. I don’t really have the experience to speak to that (no matter how much white dude confidence I have). Instead, send them to Anna. Just please, PLEASE pay your consultants.
3. Humanize Your Trans Characters (And Don’t Fetishize Them)
Luckily, the culture has shifted to a point where the vast majority of writers have at least some awareness on how not to write trans characters (though there is a nagging trope that being trans is a symptom of demonic curses). But in many creators’ rush to present their characters in a positive light, they go all the way around the bend int over idealising them. The more benign manifestation of this is in trans characters who act as purely good, brave heroes who have no real personality beyond their identity (Crystal recounted how happy she was to finally get to write an trans character who was an ass hole in a recent Pathfinder adventure). But it also manifests in a grosser way, one that the panelists agreed is possibly worse than outright homophobia: fetishization. Never give your characters magic genitals, try to move them away from being “promiscuous,” and never make them some weird ethereal beauty due solely to their identity (but you can make them ethereally beautiful).
4. You Do Know Non-Binary People Exist, Right?
Gender isn’t a binary, my dudes. In real life, the community is beginning to understand that some people do not fit into the male or female label. But if the games industry has been slow to represent transgender characters, it has been absolutely glacial at representing their non-binary player base. When they do show up, they usually are shoved onto rock monsters, alien creatures, and the like. A non-binary player shouldn’t have to play a sentient ball of mud to come close to their existence outside of the gender binary. Get on it, people.
5. Don’t Keep Waving Magic Wands Over Your Trans Characters
An incredibly common trope in fantasy and science fiction, when handling trans characters, is to give them some sort of instantaneous magical gender switch. A belt that lets a trans man impregnate his partner, a ring that lets a trans woman fit the clothes she wants, etc. While the panel acknowledged the pure escapism of these story elements, they also discussed diversifying how creators represent the trans experience in their work. An example given was an alchemical solution that would, over time, allow a character to fully transition into their preferred gender. The important thing is to allow the experience to become more diverse and therefore more representative. We’ve had every kind of cis person in games, why not spread that diversity?
6. The Con Audience Is Not Your Whole Audience
At these panels, there’s sometimes a topic that makes even the attendees feel a wave of discomfort. That came near the middle of the panel, when the idea of privilege came up. It’s easy to pat ourselves on the back at the panel or at the con and say “we did it.” We came to this panel and we’ll solve the problems. But for every one person at GenCon, there’s hundreds of gamers who can’t afford to attend. But they still buy and play the games sold and discussed there and would like a say in how they’re represented. We as con attendees shouldn’t get to big in our breeches when it comes to our say in game development. If we’re lucky enough to be at a con, we should make sure we try to listen to our fellow gamers so that when we meet the people making our favorite games, we can advocate as unselfishly as possible. It’s important for the people making the games, from the big boys on top to the little fish just finding their places, to take into account what the players they don’t meet might be sensitive to as well. There is, though, an even better way to improve representation in games…
7. HIRE US
Throughout the course of the panel, the panelists referred frequently to the “same ten brown haired, blue eyed white dudes” being hired over and over to make games, even as companies pay lip service to increased representation. But if they really want experts on writing the LGBTQ experience or the black experience or the Asian experience…fucking HIRE them. Not just as sensitivity readers, not just as reviewers. Bring them in as writers, as designers, as artists. Let them catch your bullshit before it even gets out of the writer’s room. Let them pitch you their non-binary heroes, their big buff orc femmes, their rail-thin elf butches, their gay clerics, their black princesses.
If you don’t want to be left behind, let us work for you. Cause we don’t really need you. Queer people have a knack for telling our stories, always have and always will. We’ll tell our stories wherever we can and however we can. We’re not going to stop.
Be sure to check out Anna Kreider’s Patreon as well as her blog Go Make Me A Sandwich (particularly her takedown of D&D 5e’s horrifying handling of Curse of Strahd), Crystal Frasier’s website, Tanya at I Need Diverse Games, and Trivia’s Tumblr as well as their work at Roll20. And stay tuned for the full video of the panel, with a special cameo by yours truly.
Editor’s Note: We incorrectly used a pronoun in the above article. This has been corrected and we regret the error.
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