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Book folks on games: Alison Croggon

Posted on August 28, 2014

Our next guest for this series is author, poet, dramatist and critic Alison Croggon. If you enjoy fantasy fiction, but haven't read her Books of Pellinor series or the Gothic-romantic saga Black Spring, I urge you to get hold of one or both! As is often the case, their genre trappings see them more readily recognised by Children's and YA awards, but there are rewards aplenty in the story and in the writing itself for the adult reader. And if you enjoy poetry, you should also seek her out: she brings that same gift for wordcraft to her work there too. You can find her at http://alisoncroggon.com.

Alison Croggon’s work includes poetry, criticism, novels and theatre. From 2004-2012 she ran the theatre review blog Theatre Notes, and was formerly Melbourne theatre critic for The Australian and The Bulletin. She is currently performance critic at large for ABC Art Online and poetry critic and columnist for Overland Journal. In 2009 she was awarded the Geraldine Pascall Prize for Critic of the Year. She wrote the best-selling fantasy quartet The Books of Pellinor, which was shortlisted for two Aurealis Awards and named one of the Notable Books of 2003 by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. Her novel Black Spring is a 2013 Children's Book Council Notable Book and was shortlisted for the Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Writing in the 2014 NSW Premier's Literary Awards and the Spellbinding Award in the UK. She has published several collections of poetry, which won the Anne Elder and Dame Mary Gilmore Prizes and were shortlisted for the Victorian and NSW Premier's Literary Awards. This year sees the premiere of two operas for which she wrote the libretti: The Riders with Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne; and Mayakovsky, with the Sydney Chamber Opera.

Alison, thanks for joining us! Let's start by asking: what's your history with games and play?

Like all kids, I liked games. In my day it was mainly board games. And as a family - my kids are now grown up - we still like playing board games like Articulate and even the odd nostalgic round of Happy Families or Harry Potter Uno. It's fun, and it's a fun way of getting together.

I play a lot of video games as downtime from writing. I think it just gives me time out from myself, and they occupy my mind in a way I find relaxing. I mainly play RPGs - though most recently I finished Tomb Raider. Other favourite series are the Metroid trilogy, Assassin's Creed, Zelda, Pikmin... I played Skyrim for literally years. It all began when we bought my oldest son Josh a Nintendo and Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, and I found myself fascinated. I am quite famously bad at video games, but my virtue is persistence - I will play a game continuously until I am good at it.

What is your sense of where games and play are now in the wider cultural picture?

There's a bigger and bigger emphasis now on games as a mode of story telling and meaning, which is where they get interesting: now we have things like Depression Quest and so on, which deal front on with questions and issues in much the same ways that other video arts do. Journey is probably the most famously beautiful example of that, and it really was very moving to play - it surprised and enchanted me. It's a medium that can be taken anywhere.

Where do you see that going, and where could it go?

I guess that depends on the one hand on the imagination of people who make them, which means the possibilities are pretty well infinite. But it's such a huge industry now that there are the kinds of inhibitions that come with any corporate enterprise. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the gaming world at present is how to deal with questions about diversity and representation, and, as the vicious backlash against some pretty straightforward gender criticism from Anita Sarkeesian demonstrates, there are parts of the culture that don't deal with that very well at all.

What’s Afoot, June edition: The last month in games

Posted on June 15, 2014

June is a pretty huge month in the gaming world, with the kickoff of convention season! This last weekend saw two of the biggest: E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, in LA; and the Game Manufacturers' Association GAMA's Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio.

Before we dig into those, since our last post, we've also had the Games For Change Festival, which has posted videos/articles from their conference. Games For Change (among whose directors is Jane McGonigal, keynote speaker at this year's ALA Annual) are another organisation seeking to expand the field of play to more concretely constructive ends, and are well worth a look.

Origins Game Fair

Origins is home to the tabletop games industry's awards, the Origins Awards. Because GAMA is a small not-for-profit, there is a charming quirkiness to the way in which high-quality tabletop games are gathered into one place for an awards ceremony... but the information about it is sometimes kinda hard to find. The following list of nominees and winners doesn't come from the Origins Awards page, for instance, but from gaming industry news site ICv2 and geek news site Bleeding Cool respectively (who in turn got it from the Facebook page of one of the early winners, which may explain why some of the categories towards the end are missing or a little mixed up...) - and a little investigation on Twitter (thanks to Karina Shaffer, @FidgetTBC, for livetweeting the winners!) to fill in the gaps. [NB: this may be the first time they are combined on a single list! That's sort of a scoop for our loyal IGD readers, right?]

In the list below, games in boldface are the official winners, and games in red are the "Fan Favorites" for that category (which may of course overlap). Without further ado, this year's Origins Awards go to:

Best Roleplaying Game
13th Age – Pelgrane Press
FATE Core System – Evil Hat Productions, LLC
Mummy: the Curse – White Wolf Game Studio
Numenera - Monte Cook Games
Shadowrun: Core Rulebook – Catalyst Game Labs

Best Roleplaying Supplement
DC Adventures Universe – Green Ronin Publishing
Heart of the Wild – Cubicle 7 Entertainment
Transhuman – Posthuman Studios
Night’s Watch – Green Ronin Publishing
Eternal Lies – Pelgrane Press

Best Board Game
Trains – Alderac Entertainment Group
Time n Space – Stronghold Games
Space Cadet: Dice Duel – Stronghold Games
Krosmaster Arena – Japanime Games
City of Iron – Red Raven Games

Best Collectible Card Game
Pokemon Black & White - Legendary Treasures – The Pokemon Company, Intl.
Pokemon Red Genesect Collection – The Pokemon Company, Intl.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Battle Pack 2 – Konami Digital Entertainment
Yu-Gi-Oh! Super Starter V for Victory – Konami Digital Entertainment
Yu-Gi-Oh! Legendary Collection 4: Joey’s World – Konami Digital Entertainment

Best Traditional Card Game
Love Letter– Alderac Entertainment Group
DC Comics Deck-Building Game – Cryptozoic Entertainment
Boss Monster - Brotherwise Games
Clubs – North Star Games
Marvel Legendary:  Dark City - Upper Deck

Best Children’s, Family, Party Game
Walk the Plank – Mayday Games
Three Little Pigs – Iello
My Happy Farm – 5th St. Games
ROFL – Cryptozoic Entertainment
Choose One! – Looney Labs

Best Game Accessory
Krosmaster:  Fire & Ice – Japanime Games
Shadowrun GM Screen – Catalyst Game Labs
Fate Dice – Evil Hat Productions, LLC
Space Gaming Mat – HC+D Supplies
Pathfinder Battles: Skull and Shackles – WizKids Games

Best Miniature Figure Rules
Marvel HeroClix: Avengers Vs X-men Starters – WizKids Games
Battletech Alpha Strike – Catalyst Game Labs
Judge Dredd – Warlord Games

Best Historical Miniature Figure/Line
Fife & Drum: Revolutionary War -– Fife & Drum
Highlander Force – North Star Military Figures
Fate of a Nation: Arab Israeli Wars – Battlefront Miniatures
Red Army: 28mm Russian Infantry – Wargames Factory
Devil Dogs and Dragons – Empress Miniatures
Best Historical Board Game
SOS Titanic – Ludonaute
Navajo Wars – GMT, designed by: Joel Toppen
Freedom: The Underground Railroad – Academy Games
1775: Rebellion – Academy Games
Francis Drake – Eagle Games

Best Historical Miniature Rules Supplements
SAGA: Varjazi & Basileus – Gripping Beast
Flames of War: Fate of a Nation – Battlefront Miniatures
Force on Force: Classified – Osprey Publishing

Best Historical Miniature Rules
Fields of Fire 2nd Edition – Proving Ground Games
Fire and Sword – Wargamer
Chain of Command – Too Fat Lardies

Best Miniature Figure Line
Malifaux: The Guild’s Judgement– Wyrd Miniatures
HeroClix: Wolverine and the X-men – WizKids Games
MERCs Mini’s (Shock Trooper, Spy, Eagle, Beacher) – MegaCon Games

Best Game Related Publication
Khan of Mars – Evil Hat Books
Fire for Effect – Catalyst Game Labs
ICv2 - Editor: Milton Griepp
Dork Tower – Editor: John Kovalic
TableTop – Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day

Congratulations to all the winners!

(As a side note, movie buffs might like to know that Origins is also home to movie awards the Smithees.)

E3

E3 gets a lot of media coverage, so here are some starters to other reading: GameSpot's news index, and some trailers for some of the "best-looking" games in the show.

Random IGD volunteer picks:

  • Dragon Age: Inquisition looks awesome, with over 40 different endings (they said once they write about 6 novels' worth for each game!). Here's their latest trailer, too.
  • Nintendo jumps on board the metacreativity train with Mario Maker.
  • Promenade game Dear Esther's Dan Pinchbeck returns with another exploration-based game.
  • Ubisoft games Far Cry 4 and Assassin's Creed: Unity are looking stunning (and apparently you can ride elephants in Far Cry 4!), but have come under scrutiny for their lack of female player character models - including from series creator Patrice Désilets. A detailed recreation of Revolutionary France - with no chance for women to play a part? Hmm, maybe not so detailed after all... still, anyone who's wanted to sneak through Versailles now has the chance.
   
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