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Tracking our games, Tracking our shames

by Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Thanks to Andria Wood's post on Facebook about buying ALL THE THINGS, I mused today about how we track ou game collection. I wonder: do other gamers track their Wall of Shame, and if so, how?

A night at Cafe Mox where me and
mah gurlz met a sweet Swede. Memories!
I use the BGG interface to track plays, purchases, wishlists, etc. (when do we get the whole website updated??! PLEASE OH PLEASE BE SOON!!) Whenever we play games, I take a few photos of every game, including the final game state. This way if I don't get to updating my BGG in a timely fashion, I can go to my handy-dandy Google Photos and be reminded what we played, with who, when, and who won. I then select a few representative photos to move over to our "Gaming" shared folder where my husband and I both contribute pictures we've taken of gaming sessions to share with each other. It's a fun album to scroll through as a walk down gaming memory lane!

In addition to this, I also keep a Google doc, updated monthly with new acquisitions, Kickstarters (including KS page links and estimated delivery by month/year), and the ongoing Wall of Shame--that is, games you own but have not yet played; which in our definition includes games we have played elsewhere and subsequently purchased, but have not yet played our own copy.

Thanks to Andria's post, I was reminded I needed to be a March update to our games list. We were already developing a healthy 2017 Wall of Shame thanks to the holidays and hubby's birthday being around the turn of the year. But also thanks to flash sales, discounts, a local FLGS closing out merch, Kickstarters arriving, and ECCC, we...um...expanded some more recently. To be precise, 16 new games in the last month alone. *cringe* Worse yet (better yet??!), there would be more, but 6 Kickstarters are running behind schedule. And also? 20+ KS due in 2017 so far.

*facepalm* Can I get an Amen?

Unexpected Events - The Tale of Tom

by Saturday, March 04, 2017
Lovely day at ComicCon, and then ended strange and sad. We came home via Uber, and there was a black car parked in the street, still running with lights on, in front of our neighbors across the street. We assumed it was another Uber picking up or dropping someone off, so we thought nothing of it.

About 15 minutes later I notice it's still there, still lights on. Strange, but..they aren't breaking any laws so *shrug*. An hour later it is still there when my neighbor gets home--dogs barking, go to look, car is there and neighbor is kinda looking at it strangely, but the windows are dark, so you can't tell if anyone is in it. I ask Chris to go out and get the license number in case it is an abandoned car. We can call the police and inquire.

He grabs a flashlight and asks me to go out with him, with the phone handy in case it is something dangerous and I need to call 911. We walked over there and he shines the light in the window...and there caught in the light is an old man mouthing frantically at us "Help me!". I run over and open the door, and he can barely speak. I lean in and put my ear close to his mouth and he hoarsely whispers "Call the police." Chris calls 911 and I squat down by him and lean in to hear him better. He is weak and barely moving. His hands are clenched on his thighs and he doesn't think he can move. "I can't do anything," he kept saying. I put my arm around him and told him we won't leave him and we are calling for medical help.

Chris talks to dispatch while I get him talking. Asked his name, where he lives, how old he is, how he got out here this time of night alone. He starts to perk up a little and speak more coherently and strongly as we talk. He tells me his name is Tom Healy, he is 85, lives on the other side of 99 and up a few blocks. He tried to call for medical help earlier and realized all he could say was "Hello" and couldn't get help. So he got in the car to drive himself to the hospital. He got lost and realized he couldn't move well any more so parked the car and had been sitting there OVER AN HOUR while we neighbors came and went, thinking the car was just an Uber or something, waiting for someone to come help him.

I told him I wouldn't leave his side until help came. We chatted about being native Seattlites (rare!), if anyone was looking for him (family lives near by), and about his sweet vintage music CD collection in the door. He reminds me so much of Chris' late grandfather, who passed away around this age, and I feel heartbroken that he has been out here alone and scared so long. A fire truck comes down the street, cordons off the road, I tell him I will stay nearby, and Chris and I move out of the way but within his sight line so he can see we are still there. They do all the usual tests and whatnot and call for an ambulance. It takes longer than I expect, but they come lights a'blarin, which brings our neighbor to the window, so I walk over to explain what went on. He feels as terrible as we do for not walking over to investigate more closely.

Before they loaded him up, I asked if I could talk to him. I tell him it was nice meeting him, but I wish it had been better circumstances. "Me too!" he said with a little chuckle. I tell him to get better. He says, "I don't know that I will. I don't think they can do anything for me." I poked him in the arm playfully and say, "Don't be an Eeyore, now. You concentrate on getting better, okay?" He nods and thanks me for helping him. I want to hug him so bad it hurts.

We saw him off in the ambulance, shook hands and thanks all the firemen (and firewoman!), and gave all our vital details to both the firemen and the EMT's. We offered to let them park his car in our driveway, and they gave us his cell number to call him tomorrow to arrange him or his family getting his car back when they can. ComicCon plans may be changed tomorrow accordingly.

I have been on the verge of tears feeling like a horrible human being--a true city-dweller who is too afraid to approach a car (a late model black Mercedes with tinted windows, fairly) for fear of getting hurt. All the while, he was begging for someone to find him and help him, scared and alone. I'm just glad Chris agreed to go out and had the forethought to bring a flashlight, or who knows how long that poor, sweet man would have been out there in the cold. I am also on the verge of tears feeling blessed that we WERE there and able to help him in time to get medical care.

I feel shaken. Tired. Sad. It reminds me of how I felt when we were first on that car accident scene around this time last year. I still think of Betsey often and wonder how she is doing. And I believe I will continue to think of Tom and hope he is safe, comfortable, and loved to the end of his days.

"Chicksplaining" Women and Board Games

by Thursday, February 23, 2017
Did you know Monopoly was originally invented by a woman?
Ah the fun of being a woman in the board game world!

Often there are discussions opened which explore the experiences of women in the world of gaming. I see these across the spectrum--in video games, console games, and board games--and there is always this impressive push back from a certain segment of men. I don't know why it is such a hard concept to grasp: that women are as varied as men and that your limited experience with women and gaming isn't representative of a whole. But also, there is a social construct around gaming in our world that has been developed over generations, and conversations like these are a way to call the status quo into question, and hopefully steer this ship on a different course. This should be welcome to anyone who truly believes gaming is for everyone and gaming spaces should offer equal opportunity. And yet I see men talking out of both sides of their mouths constantly. The old "You say women like all games, but in my gaming group, only a few show up and they only like lighter games. So that proves women don't like gaming that much, and they only like simple games." trope.

I dove into one discussion recently, and decided I would share my thoughts. This was in a thread started, innocently enough, by a father who had blogged about his daughter being an avid gamer. He speaks of how important it is that she be welcome in gaming, and how she and girls like her are changing the landscape. You can read his blog here. To catch up on the discussion I was participating in, here is a different man among the participants in the discussion:

"...Here's an idea- start a meetup group, with a focus on games that women might like. One of the more successful ones in my area blended a women's get -together with a board game meetup group. Some nights I go there, and the women outnumber the men. They are playing TtR, Roll for It, Splendor and Rack-O. I know that unless some of the guys show up, that lighter more social-oriented games will be on the agenda. I am OK with that. In fact, last Monday they had five playing TtR and I was late, so I coached the 3 new players (all senior women). I enjoyed it, too, even though it was not ASL or Terraforming Mars.

That's what they play when I get there. I have another mixed group that plays heavier stuff, but the Women's open Meetup plays lighter games. Please chicksplain what led you to believe I was talking about all women."

A little "chicksplaining" for ya' (not a thing, by the way, just like reverse racism isn't a thing):

I mean come on, now...
Here's the funny thing about stereotypes and social constructs: they tend to create a feedback loop. Girls are told all their lives "this kind of toy/game is your kind of toy/game", then some women grow up believing they would only be good at a certain kind of games. Meanwhile, little boys grow up with these same kinds of narratives, believing the spaces they occupy with "boys' toys and games" are their sole domain. They curate this space with that in mind. When women grow up with this consistent narrative, they subconsciously gravitate toward what they were taught and modeled; and in turn they then become the example that other people point to and say, "See?! Women only like those kinds of games. " Meanwhile, men continue cultivate their male-dominated spaces, content their point is proven and their assumptions are safe, and so the wheel turns.

What is great about the world we live in today is we are many of us, men and women alike, pushing back against those stereotypes and rewriting the script that little girls and boys will hear. Right now we have a culture around gaming which doesn't fully understand women in it because it hasn't considered women part of it much in the past. Don't forget we have generations of men and women--alive and well today--raised in a culture where women were breeders in the kitchen, and "game night" was a beer and poker game where women were invited only to refill the pretzel bowls. For decades (centuries?) men built gaming spaces that are expected to be just for them because that was the accepted stereotype, and now that women are entering them, there is some push-back. Whenever I go to PAX and I get treated like the wife/girlfriend who tagged along instead of the actual person who bought the tickets and dragged her SO along, I am reminded. When at ComicCon they hand him schwag left and right and I have to stand there staring for a minute with my hand out to make sure I get some for myself. Hell, this whole discussion, every time it comes up, amply demonstrates the misconceptions about women in gaming which we are fed from the time we are young.

Kids learn young. The Glass Ceiling: The Game!
But listen to the women talking to you now, right here, with their lived experiences. We are telling you that what used to be true is NOT always true any more. So when you use your language to describe what you are experiencing, consider the importance of couching it with "in my limited experience..." or "the people I game with tend to...". Most importantly, remember you are seeing a tiny sliver of the gaming world, and in that world there will be many who grew up with the old script and don't have a new script. When we ask our fellow gamers to try and make a gaming environment more inclusive, we aren't asking you to make it "easier" or to bring children's party games to the table to placate us. We're asking you to take a look at the new script--that women gamers are as diverse as men gamers and we want you to treat us with fairness and respect--and help us in handing that script out to other women who haven't gotten the memo yet.

How can you do this? When you see newcomers to a gaming group, what do you do? If you see a guy walk in, do you stare him down? Do you automatically assume they wouldn't be interested in the game you're playing, hand him Connect Four and sit him down next to another new guy and tell them to have at it? Because if you don't do that with men, don't do it with women! Invite them over, ask them if they have played a certain game before, and offer to teach them if they haven't. If they demure thinking it's too complicated or heavy or intimidating in any way, (and it sounds like in your sliver of the world, many will--remember that pesky *old* script?), respond with encouragement. "Nah, give it a try! You might love this. I've been playing this game for years and my favorite thing about it is..."

I appreciate that not all games are for all people. I am not a huge 4X fan so don't seek them out, but if I walked into a game shop and someone offered to teach me, I happen to LOVE learning new game mechanics and--should the invitation be in good faith--I would enthusiastically say yes. According to you, if I walked in you'd hand me Roll For It and send me to the ladies table without much consideration. That is the change in the script we are asking of you and men like you--don't assume. Give opportunities. Be welcoming. ACTUALLY WELCOMING. For heaven's sake, I don't know why that is such a hard thing to ask of other humans, yet it seems the uphill battle in the gaming world.

Some further reading:

Playing Safe: Making Women Feel Welcome

Chocolate Marshmallow Bark

by Wednesday, December 07, 2016
The basis of this recipe is actually a Weight Watchers recipe I got a loooong time ago. I riffed on it and made my own version, which I make just about every single Christmas season because it's so damn good, and even more damn simple!

Chocolate Marshmallow Bark
Yields 12 servings (or more if you cut 'em smaller like we do)

Ingredients

2-10 oz. packages Ghiradelli 60% Cocao bittersweet chocolate ( or chocolate chips of choice)
1 Tbsp butter
1-10oz package mini marshmallows (6 cups)
1-5oz. package Craisins dried cranberries (~3/4 cup)
Sprinkling of shredded coconut if desired
You can also add nuts, substitute other dried fruit, crispy cereal or oats, crumbled cookies, etc as you like. This is very versatile!

Instructions

Line a 9- X 9-inch pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Place chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe measuring bowl and microwave at HIGH 2 minutes or until chocolate melts, stirring every 15-20 seconds. Stir in the marshmallows & dried cranberries.
Scrape the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan using a silicon spatula; smooth into a somewhat even layer.
Sprinkle with a light dusting of shredded coconut if desired. 
Cover and refrigerate until the chocolate sets, at least 1 hour and then keep refrigerated until ready to eat.
Cut into 12 pieces and serve.

Original WW Notes:
Nutritional Estimates Per Serving: 117 calories, 7.9 g fat, 12.9 g carbs, 1.5 g fiber, 1 g protein and 3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus value

Video games "aren't enriching" - my response

by Friday, October 21, 2016
A friend in the dance community posted a request for feedback on a particular video game franchise, rightfully concerned about her daughter's exposure to various themes of violence prevalent in games today and asking what we thought. Among the commentary was the following:

"I can 't see where this or any other game is a necessity for the development of anyone's child.
I'm so grateful that my days after school were spent playing football, basketball and baseball and drawing and painting in my spare time.
Life is about creating memories. I can hardly see where playing video games creates memories."


To which I had a ready reply:

Not all things we engage in need to be for our development. Some things are just fun for fun's sake!

That said, some of my FAVORITE memories as a kid--in the 80's no less!-- was sitting with my brother and playing Zelda. One of us would be the navigator with the map and the other would run the game, then we would swap. We would have friends over and play together as well.
I also was in theater, choir, took dance and gymnastics, and played on basketball and volleyball teams, went camping in the summers, and loved to ride my bike. Later in college, my console system was one of the only ones in the dorm. I would invite people over to play, would leave my door open and people would gather to watch and play together. I met a lot of people and made a lot of friends with that shared interest. Today I have an awesome husband who also loves to game, and we do it together--both board and video games. We sometimes play online with friends who live in other states! Very enriching for me my whole life, with meaningful relationships and happy memories to spare.

I go to multiple conventions every year where I meet hundreds, nay thousands, of people who share my interests. Some of us spend months crafting elaborate costumes to dress up as our favorite characters, some of us develop games for a living now and get paid to do something we love and brings other people joy, some of us create art around various game franchises, themes, and characters; some of us use the vehicle of gaming to tell meaningful stories or messages ("That Dragon, Cancer" and "We Are Chicago" being two games with moving messages, just off the top of my head)--there are so many creative and interesting outlets which grow from gamers' experiences.

It's okay if this isn't your idea of fun, or if you wouldn't find it enriching or connecting. For me it definitely has been. I am also a dancer, an artist, a seamstress, an amateur chef, a community-builder, a dog foster momma, a gardener, and many other things.
I still love to ride my bike! Video games can be as much a way to connect with stories, people, and creativity as any other activity, and the implication that it will somehow supplant or prevent other endeavors "in the real world" is the kind of hyperbole I usually see reserved to old church ladies clucking about "kids these days". I hope you will open your mind to the idea that gaming can have value and enrichment just like any other hobby out there today.

PLEASE VISIT MY DANCE BLOG!


On this blog I share my personal posts about cooking and knitting, travel and other musings; while I will blog about dance-specific topics over on the Deep Roots Dance blog:
http://www.deeprootsdance.com

I hope you will enjoy both my sites. Thanks for visiting!
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