Archive for September, 2012

Research Blog Antarctica #114: Little America

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Non-fiction: Richard E. Byrd: Little America (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1930)

Little America is the U.S. explorer Richard Byrd’s account of his first Antarctic expedition. I’ve written before about Byrd’s two other Antarctic books, the account of the second expedition, called Discovery, and the account of Byrd’s winter alone (called Alone) in the Antarctic, also his best book. I’ve also written about the documentary With Byrd at the South Pole, documenting the same expedition as Little America.

The name of the book comes from the name of Byrd’s main expedition base on Antarctica. I don’t have a cover image because the copy I have is a ramshackle first edition that doesn’t really have cover graphics of any kind.

Little America is a thorough but workmanlike depiction of Byrd’s expedition. We learn that all of his men were great and that he’s grateful for his sponsors. In places it’s almost like an official report. In scale, Byrd’s operation is much bigger than that of predecessor’s like Scott and Amundsen, and unlike many of his peers, Byrd was there almost purely for the science.

Despite the general dryness of the book, the flight over the South Pole is interesting stuff.

Tilt-Juhana: Gravity Rush ja Sleeping Dogs

Friday, September 14th, 2012

(Kuva: Sleeping Dogs)

Tiltin sivuilla on julkaisut mun tekemät arvostelut peleistä Gravity Rush, Sleeping Dogs, New Super Mario Bros. 2 ja Spec Ops: the Line.

Kirjoitan myös osallistumisen ongelmista videopeleissä ja teatterissa.

Roleplaying Game Movie Night #3: Astrópía & Role Models

Monday, September 10th, 2012

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.

(Astrópía)

Larp is a very specific subculture, so when a vacuous member of straight society is dropped into it, hilarity ensues. At least, that’s the theory behind the U.S. comedy Role Models and the Icelandic Astrópía.

Hildur is a blonde society girl who’s boyfriend ends up in jail. She’s left with no money and no prospects. By a coincidence, she lands a job in a gaming store called Astrópía. Through the job, she meets roleplayers and is drawn into trying roleplaying games.

Gunnar B. Gudmundsson’s Astrópía is one of the best roleplaying comedies out there. The fish-out-of-water story allows it to riff on the various curiosities of geek culture, but the love for the scene is self-evident. Hildur enjoys gaming, and uses it as a vehicle for personal liberation.

(Astrópía)

Little details in the movie, like the choice of the covers of old Forgotten Realms modules as posters you can see in the background, are geek gold. The best scene in the movie has one of the roleplayers in the gaming store with a small child. He explains that it’s necessary to see all the classics of horror cinema while young, “before you get jaded”. As someone who saw many of them quite young, I couldn’t agree more.

(Role Models)

David Wain’s Role Models is a movie about two thirtysomething dudes who have problems growing up. After they get into trouble with the law, they choose community service and and up in a big brother program, mentoring troubled teens. One of the kids, Augie, is a larper, and Danny, his “big brother”, has to larp too to fulfil his obligations.

Larp is portrayed as a geeky activity that nevertheless offers a safe environment for self-expression for kids who have problems fitting in. Danny’s story is more about learning to take responsibility by taking on the duties of a father rather than becoming interested in larp per se, but the message still is “be a good dad and larp with your kid”.

Roleplaying Game Movie Night #2: Darkon, Monster Camp & Screw It, I’ll Play Make-Believe

Monday, September 10th, 2012

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.

Darkon, Monster Camp and Screw It, I’ll Play Make-Believe are the three best documentaries about U.S. style larp. They’re also a revelaing look into the socioeconomic differences between U.S. larp and Finnish larp. It’s hard not to read a class element into the generally derogatory style many U.S. media outlets use when they talk about larp. U.S. larp looks like a working class phenomenon, and Finnish larp a middle class thing. Maybe that’s why larp gets so much better press in Finland than it does in the U.S.

Briana Young’s Screw It, I’ll Play Make-Believe is a 38 minute doc about two different California larp groups. One is playing a Lost-stype scenario (and features L.A. larp designer Aaron Vanek), and the other a traditional fantasy game. It’s an excellent look into the personalities and motivations of the players involved, and one of the most sympathetic depictions of U.S. larp I’ve seen.

(Darkon)

Darkon and Monster Camp are both feature length docs, both well made and fun to watch. They’re both about very traditional fantasy games, and perhaps speak more to the value of larp as a communal activity than as an artform.

Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel’s Darkon is about a high production value, combat heavy game. One of the things that strikes me when I watch it is the theatrical, overblown style of playing. Everybody seems to be making speeches, and it looks like the players are really embracing the campy scenario.

(Monster Camp)

Cullen Hoback’s Monster Camp presents larp as a form of escapism for people who don’t have a whole lot going for them. It’s hard to argue against escapism in these circumstances: maybe escapism is just another word for improving the quality of your life.

In terms of game design, the most interesting detail is the use of World of Warcraft -like mechanisms. From a Finnish perspective, plots like “kill four crab creatures” seem bizarre, but perhaps they make sense in a more action-oriented context.

Roleplaying Game Movie Night #1: Supernatural

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

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.

(A gay couple larping as the lead characters of the show in the Supernatural episode “The Real Ghostbusters”.)

Supernatural is an American tv series about a pair of brothers who fight supernatural threats. Episode nine of season five, “The Real Ghostbusters”, featured a layered meta story where the Winchester brothers visit a small convention held in the honor of a writer who’s books are actually prophecies of things the brothers will do. The book series is naturally called “Supernatural”.

To complicate things further, some of the convention attendees are larpers, and they’re holding a larp in which participants can play as the brothers and fight ghosts. The real Winchesters are confused for larpers pretending to be the Winchesters.

The game depicted in the episode seems pretty terrible, but also kinda realistic.  The treatment of larp and larpers is informed and reasonably positive. Often, it seems that the show is intent on making fun of itself and its main characters, and the role of the larper is to be the voice of reason.

Supernatural is a popular subject for incest-themed slash fiction. The show engages with this part of its fandom by making the larpers playing the Winchester brothers into a gay couple.

Larp gets a mention in season four episode eighteen, “The Monster at the End of This Book”. That episode leads to the story of “The Real Ghostbusters”.

Palestiinan ensimmäinen larppi

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Palestiinan ensimmäinen larppi pelattiin Bir Zeitin kylässä 10.-12. elokuuta, 2012. Täällä Hesariin kirjoittamani artikkeli pelistä.