Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.

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#nerdy9th: NaNoWriMo is Coming! And World-Building!

It’s #nerdy9th, and that means time to share some geek-deep love of something!

PrintI’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2002, and have written several unpublished novels in the program. Sometimes, I write with a hope of publishing, but mostly, I write for the sheer joy of writing. It’s like when I was a kid and my favorite vacation involved holing up with a typewriter for a week.

Many years ago, I wrote a world-building website I as part of an exercise in writing CSS. In 2004, I adapted it into a 30-day world-building guide for potential novelists and gamers to use for creating a setting. It takes about 15 minutes a day and it doesn’t make a static world. It makes a rough draft of a setting that you can then use in your creative work. It focuses on the mood of your piece– what are you trying to get people to feel when they read your novel– and then throws all the creative ideas around. Every week, there’s a check-in with the mood, however, and you toss out or set aside anything that doesn’t support that mood in your setting.

That guide has been used in classrooms, writing groups, gaming groups, and online websites. I CC-by licensed it, so anyone can use it with attribution, even if they sell it. It’s been translated into a few languages, and is one of the things I’ve written that probably has had the widest reach. I’m proud of it, even though there are spots where the science is a little weak (the geography bits are informed by my college science courses.)

This year, I am planning a Choose Your Own Adventure style novel for NaNoWriMo. I don’t fully have the title yet, but it’ll come to me soon. The mood is a dark, broody adventure in which the setting shifts slightly as the reader goes through the various paths.

Oh, yeah. If I win this year’s NaNoWriMo, I will have written half a million words as a direct result of the project. Some good, some terrible. Some amazing moments in writing that reminded me that I love to write fiction, and to keep doing it.

NaNoWriMo. Because why should “professionals” get all the fun of making art?

Follow-Up: Some GREAT Resources for Making Games

So. My post last week sparked some really good discussion among tabletop game creators!

Side note: It also hit the twittersphere and was inaccurately associated with video games, which it’s rather explicitly not about. As a result, I received a number of well-meaning comments from video gamers, and I just want to give a shout-out to those and let you know I heard you, and I appreciate your view, even if I chose not to engage further or de-moderate them due to being out of scope for this discussion.

The problem statement I made in that post can boil down to “new tabletop game creators are disadvantaged in the following areas, and women and minorities are especially disadvantaged for various reasons:”

  1. Time
  2. Creativity
  3. Experience
  4. Confidence
  5. Extra People
  6. Money

I loved the responding blog posts, from men and women, sharing their own experiences, many of which mirrored mine. Here’s one from William Maldonado talking about his experience creating Agents of Change with a $1000 budget. Those obstacles aren’t unique to women, and it was gratifying to get multiple perspectives on these challenges.

Update (Nov 17, 2014): Golden Cobra winner Wendy Gorman sums up the importance of representation rather nicely:

Representation matters.  Although I never consciously had the thought “I can’t design games because I’m a girl,” the pervasiveness of this message leaves me with no doubt that it did indeed play a role in my decisions and thoughts.  I am also certain that the lack of women in the field, and the under representation of the women who ARE in the field plays into my feelings of discomfort with calling myself a “game designer.”

Below the jump, there are a bunch of links and resources and some follow-up comments on the technical and social challenges of this problem. You will definitely want to read if you are at all interested in creating tabletop games.

Continue reading Follow-Up: Some GREAT Resources for Making Games

Thoughts on Being a Woman and Trying to Make Games

UPDATE (Nov 9, 2014): I’ve written a follow-up post with a bunch of helpful resources that came out of the discussion prompted by this post! Please check those out! 

I’m going to write about some of the obstacles I see as a writer and creator of games. These are in no way representative of the obstacles other people have experienced, and I acknowledge that my obstacles are unique to me, as a middle-aged, well-educated white woman from the middle class. These aren’t even obstacles that I have necessarily faced, so much as ones I can see even through my own experience’s filter.

This post is spurred by something a trollish person said a couple of weeks ago in a Google+ thread about gatekeepers and exclusion in gaming. The thread started with a thinly-veiled metaphor about exclusion in geek culture, but it expanded in the comments. Most telling about the comments was that, for the first several hours at least, they were all from men. Probably white men, but I don’t know– this is the Internet.

But back to the trollish. He remarked that it was very easy to make games, if you want to have games that reflect you or your experience, or just games that don’t limit women to virgin/whore/victim roles.

“All you have to do is have something to write in. You can make a game for less than $1000.”

This speaks of a privilege that is so invisible to the speaker, it astounds me. Anyone wondering about why this statement blows my mind should please go read Virginia Woolf’s excellent work, A Room of One’s Own, which is entirely about women not having a safe space to write. In the broader sense, it’s about anyone who lacks a space to write due to lack of privilege, but Woolf was a feminist of her time, so it’s written from the perspective of women’s issues (much like this post).

But anyway. Here are some of the obstacles to making games that I see, as a woman who is starting to make games. This is limited to tabletop games, and I use the phrase “game creator” here because “game designer” is not always what a game creator does– if you write an adventure for a pre-existing system, you aren’t really designing that game, though you are creating, and share many of the same obstacles as a designer.

Video games cost much more money and have even more obstacles, including “you will get death/rape threats just for daring to exist.” I’m not going to address those, since they don’t happen as much or as visibly in tabletop gaming. Yet.

Continue reading Thoughts on Being a Woman and Trying to Make Games

The Musketgears RPG

I present to you game #3 in my 14 in 2014 challenge!

I wrote this in response to Matthew Bannock’s Steampunk RPG contest.D'Artagnan_(silver)_rv

This is The Musketgears, a steampunk RPG  set in mid-19th century France, during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III.

The players take the roles of Codenames: Athos, Aramis, Porthos, and D’artagnan, the espionage successors to the original Musketeers. Now dedicated to protecting the weak and ushering in the Republique, the Musketgears are a force for the Emperor to reckon with… if only he knew who they are!

This playtest packet is being released in “alpha playtest” stage, which means everything might be wrong and broken with it. Try to have fun with it and let me know what’s really broken, what works, and what you think would improve.

pdf-download-iconDownload the Files Here!

 

NEW: Submit your feedback here!

Want to see more games I’ve written? I keep a list of them right here!

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