I haven’t been blogging much lately, what with being busy doing real work. A little convention report should be doable, however: we were at Levels in Jyväskylä this past weekend with my brothers to represent and advocate for roleplaying game culture amongst the other game programming. Levels is a small video game convention (500 people or so) with a delightfully comprehensive view on the boundaries of game culture, encompassing and supporting quite a bit of non-electronic gaming as well. This was only the second year Levels has been convened, but perhaps it’ll continue; the convention is arranged by the local university of applied sciences as a student project, I understand, so it has some chances of becoming an institutional event in perpetuity even after the current crop of students leaves the house.
The convention didn’t involve very many roleplayers or otherwise interested people, which meant that our schedule was pretty lax most of the time. Although this meant that we didn’t get many sales (for our indie game line), it also meant that I had plenty of time to devote to discussing game craft and playing games with the few interested rpg activists that bothered to show. I also got interviewed for tv and radio with what hopefully may be considered a positive message.
I gave a small lecture on ethics of gamecraft at the beginning of the convention. The seminar participation in general seemed pretty sparse, as most convention participants were families and teenagers with little interest in listening to beards on podiums. The talks were pretty short as well, which meant that I could only scratch the surface of my topic: I gave a rundown of the largest ethical challenges game designers seem to face when it comes to their design decisions. I had many questions, but gave only a few answers in the allotted time-frame.
A local game designer, Petteri Hannila, was gracious in allowing us to make camp at his place in Jyväskylä on Saturday. We also got a good opportunity to talk about wuxia games, a topic that has been concerning Petteri lately. On Sunday Petteri, Markku and others played a long Solar System -based one-shot with wuxia elements: it was relatively ambituous mechanically, with new Pools and crunch created on the spot. Perhaps the wuxia interactions will inspire Petteri in the future; he has a couple of pretty interesting game ideas along these lines, so it’s just a matter of focusing on what matters and finishing those projects.
As we speculated on a game to play on Saturday, I surprised the crew by suggesting a playtest: we would play the game-in-development of one Tuomas Riekkinen from Oulu; the game’s name is Noitahovi (Witchcourt) and it seemed like a good pick for a convention one-shot. I’d been discussing the game with Tuomas during the last couple of weeks, so I wanted to see how it’d play in practice. What we got was a very northernly fantasy movie that discoursed in length on the futility of man’s endeavours in love and war. I’ll perhaps write more about this later, there are some mechanical bits that need careful thought before the game is ready for the limelight.
My own Sunday was mostly spent alternating between demonstrations of Zombie Cinema to people who’d never played roleplaying games and listening to a local designer by the name of Antti Luukkonen tell us about his game in development Tähtiritarit (Sidereal Knights). The latter had some interesting ideas, but I got the feel that Antti doesn’t quite yet have a focus on what, exactly, he wants the game to do. It was like a mix of Super Sentai and Shadow of the Colossus – both fine influences to be sure, but it seems to still be largely up in the air how Antti is going to utilize the obvious action sequences; especially the issue of whether player characters actually have a human nature or would they rather be shallow pawns for the players was completely up in the air.