Monday, October 26, 2009

Mac Tonnies: Blogger, Transhumanist and Paranormal Expert Dead

It is with a lot of sorrow that I pass along the word that Mac Tonnies, writer and blogger who ran the Posthuman Blues blog has passed away. Mac wrote about some very brilliant stuff and, the reason why he is mentioned here, is because he was the very first blogger to ever link to my blog. I hadn't spoken with him in a long while, and all of my communications with him had been virtual, but he is defintitely going to be missed.

Here are a couple of information links:

Sentient Developments: Remembering Mac Tonnies
Back in 2006 I discovered that a prominent UFOlogist had been linking to a number of articles on my blog. Even more startling was the realization that the blog in question, Posthuman Blues, was an effort to bridge transhumanist discourse with that of the UFOlogists.

Eager to break the memetic linkage between the two seemingly disparate schools of thought, I penned the article, "Unidentified Flying Idiots." It was typical of my rants, a vitriolic diatribe directed against a group of know-nothing X-Files zealots who were giving legitimate scientific studies a bad name.
UFO Mystic: Mac Tonnies Gone
It is hard to find the right words to describe my feelings at this moment.

The last time we talked was just after his appearance on Coast To Coast on September 28th. He asked if I thought he had done a good job. I said he hit one over the fence.

Mac Tonnies is a voice in these topics that will be missed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Librarians Won't Give Child 'Porn' Book

I'm not one for censorship, and I am probably going to get some grief over this but I completely agree with these women and think that there's a great deal in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics that are definitely not suitable for children and I don't think they should have access to them. If parents think that it is ok, and have the comics around the house that's an entirely different manner.

Unfortunately many libraries seem to lump all comic books together, sometimes even in children's book sections. I used to go around with the local branch of my library back in Cleveland because they shelved Alan Moore's From Hell (a comic about the Jack The Ripper killings that inspired the movie of the same name) in their children's section. They finally moved it into a more "adult" section of the library.

The two women say they were fired last month when they wouldn't let a young girl check out a book from The League of Extraordinary Gentleman series. Now, both women say they're less concerned with their jobs and more concerned with keeping material like this out of children's hands.

'Residents in Jessamine County do not realize that these books that are so graphic are available in the library let alone to their children,' former Jessamine County librarian, Beth Bovaire, said.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Mirage Group Sells Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(TM) to Nickelodeon

As previously announced, The Mirage Group, owners of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(TM) property, have sold the iconic brand to Nickelodeon - part of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B). 4Kids Entertainment (NYSE: KDE) has received a payment of approximately $9.75 million at the Closing in consideration of its agreement to terminate its right to serve as the merchandise licensing agent prior to the scheduled expiration of the representation agreement in 2012. 4Kids may also receive an additional $1 million upon expiration of the escrow relating to the transaction.

The sale of the Turtles property, which has achieved popularity across the world, comes in its 25th anniversary year, with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles having made their debut in an eponymous comic by TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in May 1984. In the quarter century that followed, the Turtles brand embraced nearly every medium and product form: four of the most successful independent theatrical motion pictures of all time, over 350 half-hours of TV programming, top 10 all-time sales status for worldwide sales of toy action figures, and over 600 worldwide merchandise licensees.

Monday, October 19, 2009

RPG Reviews?

Whither are the RPG reviewers? We've had 30+ years of this hobby/industry and yet we can't seem to get reviews that are elevated past the fanboy stage. Yes, I am biased in what I expect from a reviewer because I did do the whole Opinion Editor thing while in college, and a big part of that was fostering people to write reviews that were more than "this is my opinion, suck it!" Opinions can be bad, wrong, poorly informed, and even poorly articulated. Yes, everyone has them but that does not make them right. You know?

I look at comic websites like Comic Book Resources (link) and I see that, while in a similar geeky milieu to gaming, they manage to rise up put together a decent body of review. Mind you, I'm not calling for the New York Times level of quality (although that would be nice) but RPG reviews need to really to elevate themselves. The leading RPG site on the internet doesn't come close to the level of quality that sites like CBR or even Newsarama achieve. Even those sites are not perfect.

Now, it isn't like there aren't bright spots in RPG reviewing. SJ Games' Pyramid has always been the "gold standard" for reviews in gaming. This is something that I never made a secret of, even when I was actively posting on gaming "related" message forums. I think that RPG reviewers across the internet, particularly those at sites like RPGnet, could learn a thing or two, or three, from going back over the body of work from Matthew Pook.

Now, this is a completely different effort from a body of critical thought for gaming. As bad as the bulk of RPG reviewing tends to be the attempts at "critical" thought on gaming is even worse. I would like to see someone who is well grounded in Art and/or Literary theory (and by this I mean actual scholastic work in these fields and not some "well, I am an academic" person who thinks that they can do that sort of work) start to create a body of critical thought for RPGs. Yes, there is some out there but its really misguided attempts by people who think they know better about tackling the field. A shame really.

None of this is an attempt to get people to "convince" me that I should be doing these things. Yes, I can do both reviewing and critical writing but I'm not often moved to review something these days and while I would be interested in seeing critical work done on RPGs at the same time I'm not convinced of the real need for it. Really, I think that for design purposes much of the time a more solid grounding in the history of game design would serve most designers better than a critical overview.

Think of this more as a call to arms. I want to see reviews being done, and I want to see them being done better than they are. You are a reviewer and not an entertainer, while you do have to hold the attention of your audience you are not a replacement for the entertainment of the experience of gaming. Get in. Give us your opinions, explain them and rationalize them if you can. Get out. There is no need for fiction, no cutesy tricks with inserting the reviewer into the review. And for Pete's sake there is no need for hundreds upon hundreds of words. Editing is your friend. Be concise and make your point, and then get out. As a reviewer you are not the end destination.

Maybe, though, it is time to put my money where my mouth is and put out a few reviews myself here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Game Designer Blues

First off, I really need to have that breakthrough for the Deadworld game. I've been chasing my tail on explaining how I want conflict resolution to work for over a month now. It works in my head but I just can't seem to find the right way to explain/phrase it that looks right to me on paper. I keep having false starts that lead to nowhere. If only there was a way to transcribe what is on the whorls of my brain I'd be done by now. This is something that I really can't even hand off to someone for polish because, well, it's in my head. Game design can be frustrating sometimes.

I think that part of the problem is that I need to be gaming. I need to step up trying to pull some gamers together.

In The Queue
Kicking it Oldschool: I'm going to be starting active work on a retro clone once I can get Deadworld out of my head. I've talked with Daniel Proctor and I have a bunch of ideas that are going to go into a revised edition of the GORE rules. Rather than trying to be a more generic system I'm going to live up to its name and refresh the system into a modern-era horror game that draws upon both Call of Cthulhu and the classic (Pacesetter) version of Chill as inspirations. GORE is a great little system and I think that marrying it more closely to a setting will really help the system go somewhere. This isn't going to be a dramatic edition revision by any means. While the system is going to stick to its old school roots the setting is going to be more modern by comparison. I'll go more into this one various places (here and on Twitter most likely) as I get more involved in what I want to do with the game.

Kingdom of the Blind: The title is a reference to the quote "In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." by Desiderius Erasmus. As you can tell by reading this blog I am a gamer, a game designer, more than a bit of a geek, and a fan of comics. One of the things that I have been looking forward to for a bit is the upcoming First Wave mini-series from DC Comics that is going to reintroduce comic fans to the pulp characters of Doc Savage and The Avenger in a world without super-powers that is also going to blend in Will Eisner's Spirit and non-powered DCU characters like Bat-Man (yes, that is how they are going to be saying it in this world), Black Canary, Wildcat, The Blackhawks and others into a pulp influenced world where the greatest hero of the world is Doc Savage. This has inspired me to pull together a system that will also create characters of this caliber (but without super or supernatural powers) and unleash them upon the world of 1938.

Jane Austen's Tales of Terror: This is going to be a setting book for Crafty Games' FantasyCraft game that will be set in the British Regency period and influenced by the works of Austen, the Brontes, Thomas Hardy and the British Romantic poets. The "high concept" pitch to Crafty was "Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a Merchant/Ivory production." Also expect some various FantasyCraft musings on here as well.

Monday, October 05, 2009

She had Seven Seconds to save the world. Part One.

Trevor Von Eeden's recent interview in the Comics Journal, along with Michael Fiffe's excellent series of blog posts spotlighting his art over the years (scroll down, they're not tagged), has caused a bit of buzz in some circles about the artist and his work, and one of those works just happens to be an obscure 12-issue mid-80's title called Thriller, created and written by Robert Loren Fleming, and illustrated by Von Eeden, which just happens to be one of my all-time favorite comics series.