Pikseliparatiisi: Tiskausta vallankumouksen keskellä

Olen saanut töitä siivoojana. Asiakas on rikas, ja hänellä on valtava kämppä. Kaksi kerrosta, valtavia valoisia tiloja ja talvipuutarha. Ensimmäisenä työpäivänä hoidan varsinaiset tehtäväni, mutta teen paljon muutakin. Asiakas on ilmeisesti juuri muuttanut asuntoon, joten availen laatikoita ja laitan asioita paikalleen. Kaikki on mielenkiintoista ja jännittävää.

Pian alan ryytyä. Työ on itseääntoistavaa. Katson työtehtävät, tulen sisään, hoidan hommat, häivyn.

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(Jokaiselle päivälle on työlista.)

Pelin nimi on Sunset, ja se on ilmestynyt juuri. Tekijänä on belgialainen Tale of Tales -studio, ja rahoitus tuli Kickstarterista. Tale of Tales on kahden hengen operaatio, ja se näkyy myös peleissä: Ne ovat pieniä, fiksuja ja kauniita. Sunset ei ole poikkeus.

Tavallinen arkinen työ ei ole kovin yleistä videopeleissä. Mafia II on peli, jossa päähenkilö yrittää pysyä kaidalla polulla ennen kun saa tarpeekseen ja rupeaa rikolliseksi. Kaitaa polkua havainnollistetaan itseään toistavalla ja ankealla pelitoiminnalla, joka ei johda mihinkään. Sen kanssa voi räpeltää kunnes saa tarpeekseen ja ryhtyy mafiamieheksi.

Arki on ankeaa, peli on glamouria. Jos pelissä tehdäänkin työtä, täytyy ammatin olla palkkamurhaaja, hirviönmetsästäjä tai salainen agentti.

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(Kaupungissa tapahtuu, mutta asunnossa pitää silti tiskata.)

Sunset ei toistostaan huolimatta ole siivoussimulaattori. Sen ideana on kertoa latinalaisessa amerikassa tapahtuvasta yhteiskunnallisesta sekasorrosta yhdestä, hyvin tarkkaan rajatusta näkökulmasta. Pelaajahahmo on siivoaja, ja hän siivoaa samalla kun ulkona rytisee.

Pelin toiminnot koostuvat työstä, mutta siinä on ennen kaikkea kyse tavallisen ihmisen näkökulmasta. Joissain muissa peleissä ollaan keskellä toimintaa. Sunsetin kauneus syntyy siitä, että pelaajahahmo on siinä missä pelaajakin saattaisi olla vastaavassa tilanteessa: Tekemässä hommia, huolestuneena siitä mitä seuraavaksi tapahtuu.

Non-Digital: The Last Ropecon at Dipoli

Ropecon is a Finnish roleplaying game convention. It’s also been something that’s been a part of my life for twenty years now.

It was first organized in 1994, but I missed the initial years. I’m pretty sure my first Ropecon was 1996. I was sixteen and had just discovered Werewolf: the Apocalypse. I had made a character I figured was real badass, and wanted to play it in a game.

Dipoli is a conference center in Espoo, Finland. It has been home to Ropecon from 1998, but now was the last year. Next time, it’s going to be at Messukeskus, or Helsinki Fair Centre.

For me, Dipoli was “the new Ropecon venue” for maybe ten years, because the first ones I attended had been at another place. The building has come to define the event with its labyrinthine interior and plentiful greenery outside. The event is usually held at the end of July, but this time it was last weekend.

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(Mike Pohjola places a viking helmet on top of a flapboard at our Baltic Warriors presentation.)

My Ropecon experiences tend to be defined by the program items I go there to hold, and this year was no different. We started on Friday with Mike Pohjola by doing a presentation about Baltic Warriors, the larp campaign we’re organizing this summer. This is something I’ve done a number of years: Go to Ropecon to talk about my latest things.

I got downright sentimental later when we went to drink outside with a few friends. We headed to the end of a pier down at the waterfront, because I wanted to stand there one more time. I’ve published or helped to publish five books at Ropecon, and after the book publishing presentations, we’ve had a little champagne to celebrate at the pier. This time we didn’t have a book, but it was still nice to go there anyway.

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(A larp prop from the game Tonnin stiflat, this is a “torpedo” of canisters that are filled with booze for smuggling during the Prohibition. It was used at the larp costume gala.)

On Saturday night, I held a presentation called Larpin rajoilla, the Limits of Larp, with Maria Pettersson. Our idea was simply to see what are all the places larp has gone to, geographically, socially, within the human body. It was one of the most fun presentations I’ve ever worked on, and seemed to go down well.

Here’s the Argentinean video about Hitler and Vampire larp we used:

On Sunday, we walked around the con area with Maria. It felt nostalgic to think about all the things that had happened there, the larps we’ve run, the books we’ve published, the presentations, the parties, the games and the conversations.

Ropecon will go on, but I suspect that at least for the next ten years, it will feel like its at “the new venue”.

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(The view at the entrance on Sunday.)

Non-Digital: Baltic Warriors Tallinn

I work as a larp producer in the Baltic Warriors project, and first game of our summer season was played last Saturday in Tallinn. It’s quite intimidating to go another country to do a game there. I had never even played in an Estonian larp, but it seemed to go well.

(The Estonian producer of Baltic Warriors, Aapo Reitsak, as a viking zombie. Ingame-photo by Juhana Pettersson)

This summer, we’re doing a series of seven Baltic Warriors games, each in a different country. In each game, the subject is eutrophication and other environmental disasters afflicting the Baltic Sea. The zombies are there to remind us that while we talk, the situation is steadily getting worse.

(For the venue, we had the museum ship Suur Tõll. Photo by Juhana Pettersson)

We had the distinct advantage of having a really cool venue, the ice breaker Suur Tõll, now a museum. It was almost too spectacular: It was easy to imagine a much bigger, much longer game taking place there.

The larp, like all Baltic Warriors games, was divided into two parts: Politics and zombie action. During the political part, characters come together to talk about a given issue that’s being voted upon in the parliament.

(One of the techniques we used was the media wall, in which characters can make news headlines. Photo by Juhana Pettersson)

After the debate has gone for a few hours, the zombies attack. In this case, two viking zombies shambled forth from the hold of the ship, attacking the living. The museum was open to normal visitors during this time, and it was fun to see how they reacted to the screaming and gurgling that was going on.

(Not even the Bible helps against newly zombified people. Photo by Juhana Pettersson)

After this, we have Baltic Warriors games in St Petersburg, Gdansk, Kiel, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki. It will be fun to see how they change depending on the players, the local issues, the venue, and other matters.

Pikseliparatiisi: Joukkorahoittaja rumentaa peliä

Seikkailijaporukkamme on onnistunut saamaan haltuunsa Caed Nuan raunioituneen linnakkeen. Sen alta paljastuu luolasto, joka tuntuu jatkuvan loputtomiin maan syvyyksiin. Ensimmäiseltä ja ylimmältä tasolta löytyy vihreää kiveä oleva valtava käsi, ikään kuin jättimäinen hahmo kurkottaisi kohti taivasta.

Matkatessamme syvemmälle luolastoon törmäämme kataliin hirviöihin ja ansoihin, jotka kerta toisensa jälkeen rampauttavat seikkailijamme. Surmaamme inhan mustan liman, jolta löytyy sapeli. Sen avulla löydämme salaisen kammion. Mitä jännittävää sieltä löytyy?

Seinätaulu, muistokirjoituksia? Ehkä pelin maailma avautuu meille jännittävällä tavalla!

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(Monumentti McFeebille. Pillars of Eternity)

Muistotaulussa lukee “McFeeb”. Häntä on huomioitu sanoilla “He was feeble”, hän oli heikko.

Muita muistettavia henkilöitä ovat MeHail, Vraagh ja Martin “Mimer” Karlsson. Pelin muistotauluista löytyy muutama suomalainenkin, mutta he ovat jättäneet niin koskettavia lapsille tai edesmenneille perheenjäsenille omistettuja kirjoituksia, etten kehtaa ruveta ilkkumaan heitä tässä.

Luolaston syvyyksistä löytyy McFeebin monumentti siksi, että Pillars of Eternity on Kickstarter-peli. Kampanjasivua voi käydä tsekkaamassa täällä.

Moni pelin elementeistä on sidottu Kickstarteriin. Kaupunkeja ja tavernoita kansoittavat sivuhahmot, joita on siunattu loputtomilla taustajorinoilla. Luolaholvien muistotaulut. Jopa Caed Nuan linnake on Kickstarterin stretch goal, samaten kuin sen alla oleva luolasto.

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(Pelissä on sivuhahmoja, joiden sieluja tutkailemalla voi löytää loputtomia taustajorinoita. Niillä ei ole mitään tekemistä minkään kanssa. Pillars of Eternity)

Kickstarteriin kuuluu tietty yhteisöllisyys, ja on hauskaa että niin monet ovat ottaneet Pillars of Eternityn asiakseen. Pelillä on omistautuneita faneja, ja on tavallaan sopivaa, että heidän osallisuutensa näkyy myös pelissä.

Valitettavasti rahoittajille myönnetty näkyvyys rumentaa peliä. Esteettisestä ja pelikokemuksen näkökulmasta McFeeb on rujo häiriö muuten tyylikkäässä pelissä. Se on kuin keskiaikainen kirkkomaalaus, johon on Jeesuksen ja opetuslapsien viereen maalattu paroni, joka maksoi koko taulun.

Sama pätee joihinkin pelin stretch goaleina lisättyihin ominaisuuksiin. Normaaliin pelintekemiseen kuuluu, että ominaisuuksia lisätään ja karsitaan sen mukaan, mikä toimii. Jos ominaisuus on jo luvattu Kickstarter-yleisölle, ei sitä voi enää ottaa pois.

Pillars of Eternityn tapauksessa Caed Nuan tukikohta jää irralliseksi eikä sen alla oleva luolasto ole erityisen inspiroitunut. Ne ovat filleriä pelissä, joka pärjäisi ilmankin.

Pillars of Eternity on hyvä peli, ja on hienoa että tällaisille projekteille löytyy rahoittajia. Nuo rahoittajat eivät silti kuulu Jeesuksen ja opetuslapsien rinnalle, osaksi peliä.

Research Blog Antarctica #137 – Arktos

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Non-fiction: Joscelyn Godwin: Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism and Nazi Survival (Adventures Unlimited Press, 1996)

Arktos is a book about the idea of poles and polar regions in occultism. It goes through things like Nazi occult ideas related to the poles and the history of the concept of the polar shift. Sometimes its deep in the territory of Madam Blavatsky, and at other times it references Dungeons & Dragons.

From an Antarctic perspective, the book is quite unconcerned with the factual existence of the continent. It’s more of a history of ideas and concepts, written by a kind of half-believer.

For much of the book, Godwin’s own position on the subject matter is hard to pin down. He notes how the spritual nature of some of the Nazi officials destroys the idea that engaging with spiritual ideas necessarily leads to enlightenment and kindness. He criticizes many of his occult sources for being mentally unbalanced or otherwise unreliable.

At the end of the book, he attempts to position himself in the middle ground between two extreme positions: Science and the materialism of scientists, and the revelations of the individuals he terms “illuminates”. We need to listen to both to acquire a true understanding of the nature of phenomena such as polar shift!

Non-Digital: Murder in Helsinki

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(Photo from Tonnin stiflat by Tuomas Puikkonen)

Tonnin stiflat is a Finnish larp campaign played in Helsinki in 2014. Consisting of three games, it was organized by the veteran city game designers Niina Niskanen and Simo Järvelä.

The setting is Helsinki in the year 1927, and the subject matter crime, prohibition, working class life and the violent legacy of the civil war. The characters were bootleggers and policemen, struggling artists and their sybaritic patrons.

Niskanen and Järvelä have edited and published a documentation book about the larps in English. It’s downloadable here, for free, and definitely worth a look.

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(Photo from Tonnin stiflat by Tuomas Puikkonen)

The book is especially welcome as Finnish larp has traditionally been something of a poor cousin in the milieu of Nordic larp. There have been interesting games aplenty, but documentation has been scarce and Nordic attention usually limited to the games that Finnish writers have pushed the hardest, like Ground Zero.

City games played in an open urban environment have traditionally been a Finnish strong suit, and Niskanen and Järvelä are masters of this form. It’s especially nice to see this type of game documented in book form and in English, as the games that tend to receive this treatment are usually one-weekend affair played in a closed environment, such as Kapo and Mad About the Boy.

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(Photo from Tonnin stiflat by Tuomas Puikkonen)

Tonnin stiflat (the title is an expression for very expensive shoes in the traditional Helsinki slang) benefits greatly from the fact that it’s been documented by the Finnish larp photographer Tuomas Puikkonen. His photos are all over the book, and you can see the full set here.

There are many good larp photographers in the Nordic countries, but Puikkonen distinguishes himself by his ability to be in the moment and capture the subjective feeling of the player.

The only real complaint that I have for this book is that it’s so short. I could’ve read more about this stuff.

Research Blog Antarctica #136 – Blood and Ice

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Novel: Robert Masello: Blood and Ice (Bantam, 2009)

In one sense, Blood and Ice is a great Antarctic book. It’s clearly well researched, full of traditional modern Antarctic detail. Reading this, it feels like the author has gone through all the same books I have.

It’s the story of nature photographer Michael Wilde, who goes on assignment to an American base on Antarctica. While there, he discovers a slab of ice in which two British vampires have been preserved since the Crimean War. Indeed, Victorian England and Crimea are almost as important for the book as Antarctica.

Despite the vampire theme, the book proceeds in a very staid, detail-oriented fashion. The two lovers thawed from ice, the soldier Sinclair and the nurse Eleanor, are people, not monsters. The book’s idea of vampirism is almost like a medical condition, as befits its essentially rational worldview.

Despite its research and subject matter, there’s something in Blood and Ice that just fails to click. Near the end, the story is crumpled into less than the sum of its parts. The characters have been drawn according to the most rote, cliched understanding of humanity as seen in American popular entertainment.

Pikseliparatiisi: Täydellinen pelikokemus alle tunnissa

Kun aloitin videopeliohjelma Tiltin tuottajana vuonna 2009, pelimarkkinoilla oli selkeät suuret linjat: Konsoleissa oli tulevaisuus. Mobiilipelit olivat tulossa, mutta kuitenkin vielä epävarmaa puuhastelua. Pelistudiot tekivät pelejä, ja julkaisijat julkaisivat niitä.

Toki kuvio oli silloinkin monimutkaisempi, mutta kun Tilttiin haalittiin aineistoa viikon peliarvosteluihin, tilanne näytti tältä.

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(Pelissä Freshman Year tsekataan viestejä melkein yhtä usein kuin tosielämässä.)

Sittemmin pelimaailma on elänyt ja muuttunut hurjaa vauhtia. Älypuhelimet ja tabletit valtasivat oman osansa, PC on tehnyt alustana vahvan comebackin Kickstarterin ja erilaisten indiepelien myötä ja konsolit hakevat paikkaansa muuttuvassa maailmassa.

Yksi uuden maailmanjärjestyksen ilahduttavista piirteistä on se, että selaimessa pelattavia lyhyitä tarinapelejä tuntuu olevan yhä enemmän, ja ne ovat yhä parempia. Tänä päivänä tällainen peli voi olla vartissa ohi, mutta sisällöllisesti silti kilpailukykyinen minkä tahansa pidemmän julkaisun kanssa. Entisajan rosoisten Flash-pelien sijaan meillä on viimeisteltyjä, toimivia ja omaperäisiä teoksia.

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(The Mysterious Shadows of Skullshadow Island on huumoripeli, joka saa odottamattomia syvyyksiä kirjoituksensa tason ansiosta.)

Tältä keväältä on kolme hyvää esimerkkiä, The Mysterious Shadows of Skullshadow Island, The Writer Will Do Something sekä Freshman Year.

The Mysterious Shadows of Skullshadow Island on parodia entisaikojen poikaseikkailuista, joissa neuvokkaat ja nokkelat nuoret ratkaisevat rikoksia, mysteerejä tai muuta kummallista. Se on julkaistu The Onion -parodiasivuston sisarsaitilla The Clickhole, mutta nousee rutiininomaisen nettijutun yläpuolelle omituisen ilmapiirinsä vuoksi.

Pelisuunnittelija Nina Freemanin Freshman Year on peli, jossa lähdetään baariin kaverin kanssa. Se on yksinkertainen, elämänmakuinen ja tavoittaa hyvin puhelimen ja hermostumisen suhteen.

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(The Writer Will Do Something on käytännössä dokumentaarinen peli.)

Elokuvantekijät tekevät elokuvia elokuvien tekemisestä, joten miksipä sama ei sopisi myös pelisuunnittelijoille. Matthew S. Burnsin The Writer Will Do Something on kuvaa kokousta ison pelijulkaisun käsikirjoittajan näkökulmasta. Siinä on ohut satiirin pintakerros, mutta oikeastaan peli tuntuu täysin autenttiselta otokselta siitä, miten pelejä tehdään.

Non-Digital: Better Dead Than Red

I wrote this article for the now defunct roleplaying magazine Playground. It went under before this got published, so here it is. If you want to read old issues of Playground, they’re all here.

Better Dead Than Red

Playing the right-wing roleplaying game The Price of Freedom.

The Communist party elite is scrambling away in panic. There has been a huge explosion on the stage, shredding the traitor Jack Reed’s body into pieces. The players have a short discussion whether firing a rocket launcher into the crowd is justified.

It goes something like this:

“I didn’t get to fire my rocket launcher.”

“All Communist sympathizers are traitors.”

“All right then.”

I’m running a game of Greg Costikyan’s anti-Soviet roleplaying game The Price of Freedom, published in 1986. It’s an early example of a political roleplaying game, well ahead of its time both because of its design innovations and its contemporary setting. We’re playing the game because we want to explore political games other than the left-wing orthodoxy of Nordic games such as Kapo and Mellan himmel och hav.

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A note to liberal readers

A probably unique feature in all of roleplaying publishing, The Price of Freedom’s Player Book contains a “Note to Liberal Readers”. Among other things, it says that: “The Price of Freedom is a fantasy roleplaying game in the true sense of the word; its fantasy is the right-wing nightmare that America is delivered into the hands of her enemies.” It instructs the players to think of the game as “The Lord of the Rings meets William F. Buckley“.

Indeed, the game seems specifically intended for a player of a certain political persuasion: it contains many conservative slogans such as “Don’t tread on me” and “Free minds, free markets”. I asked the designer Greg Costikyan about it, and he explained that the idea was to capitalize on the conservative fanbase of Twilight 2000, a post-apocalyptic military game popular at that time. “I wanted to out-do Twilight 2000, in a way”, Costikyan says.

“My political views are not those of The Price of Freedom; at the time, I considered myself a ‘left libertarian'”, he continues. “I supported free markets and the minimal state, but had a suspicion of large businesses and their frequent attempts to use the power of the state to exclude or diminish competition, and largely supported unions as a counterpoint to the power of big business. And, of course, strongly supported civil liberties.”

This makes The Price of Freedom something of an oddity, a conservative game designed by a non-conservative designer wishing to sell games to conservatives.

Sometimes, reading the materials provided with the game, you get the feeling the designer is attempting to make something sensible out of a bizarre premise. The premade characters provided with the game run the gamut of anti-Soviet resistance: one is a rock star defending rock’n’roll, another is a vigilante cop who believes that the scum should be cleaned off the streets. Perhaps the strangest character is Maria Cagliari, a committed Trotskyite who fought against the Contras in Nicaragua and believes that Stalin betrayed the Revolution. The player who played Maria in our game said that it was particularly difficult to be a left-wing character in a right-wing game. In our game, Maria immediately found common ground with the vigilante cop: both believed in extreme solutions.

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(A sample character from The Price of Freedom.)

Death to traitors

I used to believe that it would be impossible to use roleplaying games for the purposes of political propaganda. Players had too much agency, too many opportunities to subvert the message.

I no longer believe this.

We set out to play The Price of Freedom as seriously as possible. According to the game book, things were supposed to be grim and heroic. The introductory adventure included with the game hadn’t aged especially well, but I used as many story beats from it and other adventure ideas in the game as I could.

Many of these were about how to sell the mindset of the game to the players. The game says that tragedy is a great way to motivate characters. Having the Soviet enemy perpetrate atrocities against your family and friends gives you the proper mindset to kill. With this in mind, in the beginning of my game a turncoat in the players’ resistance cell killed Moshe, an elderly veteran of the Polish guerrilla fight against the Nazis. As he died, Moshe gave a speech on the importance of freedom, resistance and killing snitches.

We discovered that once you decided to try to get into the game’s atmosphere, it was quite easy. Moshe’s speech was crude and obvious, but also fulfilled its intended purpose. When the characters finally caught up with the snitch, an old man and a friend of Moshe’s from the days of the Polish resistance, they executed him in cold blood.

Indeed, the game says that players should enjoy the license to kill without having to feel bad about it. According to the Player Book: “Let’s face it, we’d all like to blow things up. We’d all like to crush our enemies. Fortunately, society forbids us to act on those impulses. The Price of Freedom releases those emotions. And as a result, it can be a gas.”

And it was. Of all the design ideas, this concept of freeing the players from the moral qualms of extreme violence worked the best. One player said it was liberating to just kill people without all the moral agonizing that goes on in the games she usually plays. Costikyan describes the game as a “power fantasy, albeit with a darker setting than most”.

The propaganda beats of The Price of Freedom work, if you let them. For a player who’s intent on subverting the game, it doesn’t do a thing. But for a player who’s open to the message, I believe it can work quite well. Of course, the Soviet threat is no longer quite as germane as it once was, but I’m sure that other, more contemporary propaganda games work this way too.

Gutless President

The folder with the sample characters contains a summary of the events that led to the Soviet invasion of the US. It begins with: “A gutless President has been elected.” The Price of Freedom makes its politics obvious with slogans and conservative fears. The game doesn’t say whether the “gutless President” is Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan, but we can hazard a guess.

The game wasn’t particularly well received. “Some of my more liberal friends were intrigued by the idea, but repulsed by the heavy-handed nature of its political message”, Costikyan says. “But in general, you know, it was a flop. We had quite a lot of interest from the distributors pre-publication, but in the event, it did not sell particularly well. Keep in mind that this was the Gorbachev era, US-Soviet relations were improving, and the scenario was viewed as pretty implausible.”

Perhaps unhappy with it himself, Costikyan concludes by saying that he’s: “A tad embarrassed by the game”. Despite his misgivings and the Red Dawn -style premise and politics, I think The Price of Freedom has aged surprisingly well. It’s a great antidote for the idea that roleplaying is inherently utopian. Sometimes the message is: “Eat hot lead, Commie dog!”

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(A slogan from The Price of Freedom.)

Extra

Can’t play this

A book doesn’t change even if the original audience is long gone. Its interpretations may change, but the text itself remains the same.

Playing a roleplaying game is a different matter. Since running the game depends on our own creative contribution, we simply cannot experience the game as it was intended to be experienced in 1986.

Every roleplaying game is designed with an audience in mind. The Price of Freedom is clearly and explicitly meant to be played by conservative U.S. players living in 1986. The recommended mode of play is the “avatar campaign”, a game in which players play themselves in the event of Soviet invasion of the U.S.

Playing such a game is impossible for us. We’re not politically conservative, and the Soviet Union can’t invade us because it doesn’t exist. We don’t live in the U.S. and it’s not the Eighties. One of us was even born in the Soviet Union, further complicating the us-vs-them setup of the game.

We decided to play The Price of Freedom with the ready-made characters provided with the game, and use the intended setting of 1986 America. This already makes the game different from what it was designed to be. Without its audience, The Price of Freedom ceases to be.

Pikseliparatiisi: Eurooppalainen äärioikeisto videopelipahiksina

Videopeleissä ei kauheasti nähdä mitään, mikä olisi tunnistettavissa arjeksi nykyaikaisessa Länsi-Euroopassa. Silloinkin kun pelihahmot elävät tavallisten ihmisten elämää, se tapahtuu anonyymissä Amerikassa, kuten ranskalaispelissä Heavy Rain.

Norjalaispeli Dreamfall Chapters on ilahduttava poikkeus sääntöön. Se ilmestyy osissa, joista toinen on julkaistu äskettäin. Chaptersin toinen päähenkilö Zoë Castillo on vapaaehtoisena mukana vasemmistokandidaatti Lea Uminskan vaalikampanjassa.

Voi olla, että täytyy olla pelannut paljon pelejä hahmottaakseen, kuinka eriskummallista tämä on. Jos on yksi aihe, jota pelit kammoavat kuin ruttoa, se on arkitasolla tunnistettava poliittinen toiminta. Karikatyyrit saattavat vielä käydä päinsä, mutta ajatus siitä että päähenkilöllä olisi poliittisia kantoja on täysin mahdoton.

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(Konstantin Wolf on puolueen European Dawn ehdokas.)

Zoën tukeman Uminskan merkittävin vastustaja on European Dawn -puolueen ehdokas Konstantin Wolf. European Dawn on viittaus Kreikan Kultainen aamunkoitto -puolueeseen, ja on piirun verran ilmeisempi fasisminsa kanssa kuin omat kotoperäiset Perussuomalaisemme.

European Dawnissa näkyy nimenomaan eurooppalainen huoli äärioikeistolaisten poliittisten voimien noususta. Maailmaelementtinä siinä on tolkkua Suomessa, Norjassa, Ranskassa ja muualla Euroopassa, ja on hauska nähdä että kerrankin rajaviivoja vedetään muutenkin kuin amerikkalaisen pelaajan ehdoilla.

Chapters jakautuu kahteen osaan. Yhdessä Zoë seikkailee scifi-Euroopassa ja toisessa yrmeä Kian fantasiamaailmassa. Kian on kolonialistisen Azadi-kansan edustaja, joka on loikannut antikolonialistien puolelle. Chaptersin kakkososassa hän liikkuu kaupungissa, jossa Azadi-mieliset miehittäjien mielistelijät ovat kokoontuneet salaseuraksi, jonka nimi on National Front.

Tosielämässä kaksi kuuluisinta National Fronttia ovat englantilainen ja ranskalainen äärioikeistolainen puolue.

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(Lea Uminskan vaalitoimisto.)

Chaptersin edetessä jotkut alun poliittisista teemoista jäävät taakse, ja toiset tallautuvat perinteisten korruptiojuonten jalkoihin. Toivon silti, että peliin tulee uutta nimenomaan eurooppalaista poliittista tematiikkaa. Kakkososassa näin käykin, kun Azadien kolonialistista projektia valotetaan.

Vaikka Suomi on kova videopelimaa, on yllättävän harvinaista että peleissä on jotain joka liittyy niihin keskusteluihin ja kysymyksiin, jotka ovat täällä olennaisia. Jos Suomi ei tällaisia pelejä tuota, haetaan sitten Norjasta.

Non-Digital: The Arcane Mysteries of Descriptive Game Design

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I wrote about the booklet Manhattan 2010 here. It was an attempt to map out a childhood roleplaying game as a playable design.

In conceptual terms, there’s something very interesting going on here. Almost all game design is prescriptive. “This is how I think you should play the game.” However, in Manhattan 2010, the design is descriptive. “These rules are an attempt to capture a game that was actually played.”

A common goal for prescriptive game design is to make a game that works. A good game. The goal for the much rarer descriptive game design is to reflect the play that’s being described accurately.

Descriptive game design is so rare, in fact, that Manhattan 2010 is the only example I can think of. It’s elevated by the fact that its authors didn’t fudge it to make a good game. Instead, they tried to follow the nature of the original game as closely as possible. Perhaps the difference is highlighted in this game by the fact that Manhattan 2010 describes a childhood game with all its weird peculiarities.

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Year’s ago, I played in Mike Pohjola’s tabletop campaign Tähti. We played the members of a girl band in a near future cyberpunk world. The game was a great success, and Pohjola decided to use it as the basis for a published tabletop game book.

Unlike the designers of Manhattan 2010, Pohjola chose to go the more conventional and perhaps appealing route of using a private game as fodder for the construction of a playable set of instructions. The published Tähti didn’t reflect all the quirks and diversions of the actual tabletop campaign, choosing instead to streamline the whole thing into something approachable and fun.

For someone who had actually played in the original campaign, the experience of reading the published book was almost alienating. “This was not the game we played.”

Trying to think of a descriptive game I could make, I’m drawn back to my childhood games, the same as the authors of Manhattan 2010. My descriptive game would be set in the fantasy world of Mystara, the setting of a certain incarnation of Dungeons & Dragons. It would be a GM vs. players game. The goal of the players would be to move their characters to the border of the map, and the goal of the GM would be to move the characters to Alfheim, because elves were cool.

(If you’re wondering why the player characters were going to the edge of the map, you’ll have to go back in time to ask my twelve-year old players.)

Other mechanics would involve exchanging candy for experience points and conspiring with the GM to kill another player’s character.

These examples of descriptive game design are rather marginal. Anyone come up with a more meaningful use for this concept?

Pikseliparatiisi: Tappamatta jättämisen autuus

Pelaan videopelejä työkseni. Monissa niistä tapetaan vihollisia, esimerkiksi venäläisiä tai arabeja. Call of Duty -peleissä tai Battlefieldeissä tapetaan satoja vastustajia. Headshottia toisen perään.

Se on peliä, ja mitä pidempään pelaa, sitä enemmän se tuntuu vain peliltä. Fiktion fiktiivisyys on yhä ilmeisempää, eikä keksittyä pikselihahmoa ajattele ihmisen kuvana. Tarpeeksi monen räiskintäpelin jälkeen vihollisissa on kiinni yhtä paljon inhimillistä fiilistä kuin Pac-Manin syömissä pallukoissa.

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Olikin yllättävää, kuinka vapauttavalta ja kivalta tuntui, kun uudessa Battlefield: Hardlinessä pääsi pidättämään vihollisia. Huomasin alkavani kuvitella vihollisille omia tarinoita. Jos tehtävä meni hyvin puoliväliin asti, mutta hajosi sitten räiskinnäksi, ajattelin että nuo pari kaveria menivät vankilaan, ja nämä loput hautausmaalle.

Joillain lapsilla oli vielä isät, toisilla ei.

Peliin tuli odottamattomasti lisää tunnetta, kun viholliset jälleen vähän inhimillistyivät. Huomasin yrittäväni hoitaa tehtäviä mahdollisimman verettömästi, vaikka se olikin vaikeampaa. Viimeinen kenttä on mahdollista suorittaa ampumatta laukaustakaan, paitsi välianimaatiossa, ja oli tyydyttävää tehdä juuri niin.

Hardline on yhdistelmä räiskintää ja hiiviskelypeliä, jossa yritetään vaivihkaa livahtaa vihollisen ohi tämän huomaamatta. Monessa kentässä livahdin vihollisten taakse ja pistin heitä rautoihin yksitellen, kunnes lopulta koko alue oli tyhjä. Siinä oli omaa poliisifiilistään, vaikkei se kovin realistista ollutkaan.

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Valitettavasti Hardline ei sitoudu omiin innovaatioihinsa. Siinä on myös kohta, jossa ammutaan panssarivaunulla helikoptereita alas taivaalta ehtaan videopelityyliin. Sitä pelatessa ei juuri tullut ajatelleeksi, onko kopterilentäjillä lapsia.

Toiveeni onkin, että joku muu huomaa pidätysmekanismin ja kopioi sen johonkin tinkimättömämpään peliin.

Non-Digital: Real Hamlet

This past weekend, I played in the larp Inside Hamlet, in Denmark. The larp gave the play a Marxist vision of decadent nobles living their last murderous days while the Reds were closing in. In the end, when the rebels finally break down the doors, they find only piles of corpses and cowering survivors.

The game was played at the actual Elsinore castle. That was pretty cool.

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(At the venue, during a break between the acts. My character was a priest.)

The game had the rule “What happens in Elsinore stays in Elsinore”, so I’m not going to go into specifics. Instead, I’ll write about something that occurred to me as I watched the final moments of the dying court. I had already died myself, and was present as a mute ghost.

To prepare for the larp, I watched every Hamlet movie I could get my hands on. The Laurence Olivier Hamlet, the Derek Jacobi Hamlet, the Soviet Hamlet, and so on. Most of them shared a theatrical quality, a feeling of the actors and the director playing with the text and the language. Almost all of the movies were quite good, but they also made it seem as if adapting Hamlet was a bit of a lark.

Or a game of sorts.

When I was in my own version of Hamlet, larping my character, watching Queen Gertrude die of poison, I didn’t feel like we were playing. It felt deadly fucking serious.

The world of Inside Hamlet was grotesque and the characters monsters. It wasn’t played in a realistic style. Yet still, living inside this fictional context gave everything that happened a tragic weight. In the movies, the final duel has been done in many different ways, but only in the larp it felt like it was two people fighting over the deaths of their loved ones.

The movies were a game. The game was not.

Pikseliparatiisi: Gamergate poliisisarjassa

Gamergate on normalisoitunut osaksi videopelikenttää. Yksi tapa miten tämä näkyy on, että siihen on alettu viitata muualla popkulttuurissa. Yksi esimerkki tästä on 11. 2. 2015 esitetty poliisisarja Law & Order: Special Victims Unitin jakso Intimidation Game.

Jakso alkaa lupaavasti, joskin pöhkösti. Ice T:n hahmo on pelaaja, ja selittää muille pelislangia. Miehet ahdistelevat naista pelitapahtumassa, ja poliisi puuttuu asiaan. Linja on selvä: Ahdistelu ja uhkailu on paha, ja sillä hyvä. Sen sijaan, että yrittäisivät löytää jotain kuvitteellista keskitietä, tekijät ovat asettuneet selvästi Gamergatea ja sen kaltaisia häiriköintiliikkeitä vastaan.

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Viikon uhrina jaksossa toimii pelistudion johtaja Raina Punjabi, joka yrittää pitää uuden pelinsä julkaisua raiteilla vaikka poliisi haluaisi hänen panostavan enemmän omaan turvallisuuteensa. Punjabi ei halua antaa periksi uhkailijoille.

Jakson edetessä hänelle käy huonosti. Pelaajamiehet eivät hyväksy naispuolista pelisuunnittelijaa, vaan kidnappaavat tämän. Kuten peliaiheisten elokuvien ja tv-sarjajaksojen suurin klise vaatii, pelistä tulee totta.

On inhottavaa katsoa, kuinka fiktiivistä Punjabia pahoinpidellään tilanteessa, jossa hänen esikuviaan uhkaillaan edelleen päivittäin. Sikailuissa on melkeimpä mehusteleva ote, ja kun Punjabi vihdoin murtuu, siitä otetaan kaikki irti.

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Tv-sarjan maailmassa Gamergaten rikokset ovat pahempia kuin oikeasti, mutta oikeastikin Gamergaten silmätikuksi joutuneet naiset kuten Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn ja Brianna Wu ovat joutuneet massiivisen häirinnän kohteiksi, ja paikoin jopa lähtemään kotoaan oman turvallisuutensa vuoksi. Tästä huolimatta he ovat kaikki edelleen mukana taistelussa paremman pelikulttuurin puolesta.

Toistaiseksi pelialalla olevan naisen julkinen häpäisy ja murtuminen on tapahtunut vain Gamergate-aktiivien fantasioissa. Ja tässä SVU-jaksossa.

Toimittaja Leigh Alexander on saanut osansa Gamergate-inhoa. Hän kirjoittaa kokemuksistaan, ja Intimidation Game -jaksosta, täällä.

Roleplaying Game Movie Night #20: Warhammer 40K

I and some friends have a project of trying to watch all movies, tv episodes and other stuff with moving pictures related to roleplaying games ever made. We’re pretty far along on this goal. I’ll write here about old and new things we’ve found and watched.

Dragonlance is not the only gaming franchise that’s been badly served by adaptations. Another is the Games Workshop juggernaut Warhammer 40K. Its world has been created principally for war games, but there’s a solid line of roleplaying games as well.

There’s an official, animated 40K movie from 2010 called Ultramarines, and a German fan made movie called Damnatus from 2008. Of these two, Damnatus is inarguably the better.

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(Ultramarines)

Ultramarines features a bunch of space marines who go to a planet to investigate a distress call. They battle against their inner demons, but most importantly they seem to walk around a gravel pit for ever and ever.

The gravel pit is a classic location of fan-made and cheap genre movies, but why it was chosen as a location for an animated movie, I have no idea.

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(Damnatus)

Damnatus is a fan movie denied release at the last minute by Games Workshop. Mysteriously, following the ban it leaked into the internet. It’s about a bunch of mercenaries hired by an Inquisitor to investigate strange phenomena in the lower depths of a planet.

Very obviously a fan movie, Damnatus suffers from its lack of actual actors, a solid script or anything resembling interesting characters or dramatic scenes. However, I’d argue it’s still a must-watch for any 40K geek, because it captures the tone and style of the world so perfectly. Unlike in Ultramarines, in Damnatus you know you’re in the far future where there’s only war.

It’s full of fun little detail that only makes sense if you know the world already, like the servo-skull pictured above. It’s in German, and demonstrates that German is the only proper language for 40K.