D&D Never Left You, Baby

Last week I posted a link to an article about the resurgence of D&D. Summing up, the story took the position that D&D (along with other RPGs) was making a “comeback”, being rediscovered by a whole generation of once-upon-a-time gamers.
Now the thought of gamers coming back to the nerd-fold does put a certain spring in my step. And while I have no definite numbers (and neither did the article in question), I do have a decent amount of anecdotal evidence that a good many ex-gamers are rekindling their geek-flame. But I do take some umbrage to the idea that RPGs needed to make a comeback or that they went away somehow. I’ve been a gamer for 30+ years, and from where I sit role-playing games have never been very far away; certainly they’ve never travelled so far they had to make a return trip.
But perhaps we did go away, as Obi Wan says, “…from a certain point of view.” And the point of view in question would be that of the mainstream. I am steeped enough in the lore and history of the hobby to recall a time when RPGs were very much in an angry public eye. I remember discussions with my parents after yet another article or news story broke about the “dangers of D&D” or “satanistic role-players” or “baby-eating LARPers”…okay, maybe that last one isn’t true. But it is no secret that D&D and RPGs in general endured a period of mainstream distrust and disdain. It is also no secret that as time passed so did the public outcry. And when there was nothing to yell about, RPGs just sort of fell from the mainstream view, replaced by the next Big Outcry (something called “vee-d-o games”, I think).
But while the mainstream forgot about us, we thrived as a hobby. Oh, there were ups and downs, certainly. If you were in the gaming retail business during the 90’s as I was, you had an inkling that not everything was wine and roses, or even Mountain Dew and Cheezies. But gaming kept on, hiccups and all, and we kept playing the games we loved. And then the new editions of games we loved. And then the offshoot games sprung from the loins of the games we loved.
But the point is we never went away, non-gamers just weren’t looking. And so we were poised to unobtrusively regain the mainstream attention we had been missing ( I don’t use “been missing” to suggest we craved it, just to indicate that it had been absent). And this time the mainstream’s regard was favourable. So favourable in fact, I have to work pretty hard not to find a reference, however oblique, to gaming in the shows I love. Castle, Big Bang Theory, Human Target, Chuck, Nikita…okay, those are no-brainers when it comes to being geek-referential. But how about shows like The Chicago Code? Or Hawaii 5-0? Or NCIS and NCIS Los Angeles? Mike and Molly? Two-and-a-Half Men? I could keep going, but it is anecdotal-y clear: gaming has infiltrated the mainstream and it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.
So I can understand why the mainstream suffered the illusion of absence, even if I didn’t suffer along with it. And I suppose I could get all angry and militant about the “slighting of the hobby”, or some such nonsense. But honestly? I’m happy to see more gamers, whatever the reason. Who cares if they are rediscovering us, or if they think they’ve “revived” something that wasn’t really dead. More gamers are a good thing, and I for one look forward to meeting many of them, lapsed or newb, at the gaming table.
Because at the gaming table we are all made equal. Unless you use cheat dice, which just makes you a dick.
More links than a sausage factory (if said factory only made, like, four sausages or something):
– a thank-you to Liana K for pointing this out:  A letter from Joanne Siegel to Time Warner, written shortly before her passing on February 12.  Very rarely have I read anything so passionate, yet reasonable in its tone.  And it makes me want to punch TW in its dumb corporate face.
– I am a huge fan of the Whoniverse, including Torchwood.  So imagine my joy at the news that Torchwood is coming back.  I am uncertain of the casting of Bill Pullman, but am intrigued to see him play a villain…
– So if Torchwood floats my boat, the new season of Doctor Who is the big twin-diesel engine that makes that boat go, go, go!  But at 16 seconds the teaser is more of a taunt.
– What happens when you combine D&D, strippers and adult film stars?  You get “I Hit It with my Axe!” I would actually play in this game, and not just for the obvious reasons.
– Definitely NSFW most days, Chimneyspeak is a gritty, bloody webcomic of sex and revenge.  Makes me long for a good game of “Cthulhu by Gaslight”.
That is all, meinen geekenfreundin.  Until next we meet, may your dice roll smooth and straight.

A Miscellany Roundup

I have had what amounts to the plague for the last four days, so my apologies for the update gap.  While I regain my strength and health (and take a little of other people’s besides)  here are some things I found interesting around the netter regions:

The trailer is out for Captain America: The First Avenger, and it looks good.  I am cautiously optimistic that they may have pulled off another good Marvel comic book movie.  Only time will tell if premiering on my birthday will be a good or ill omen…

I can’t get enough of Team Unicorn, and Sexy Nightmare Slayers is no exception.

Speaking of unicorns, why not try out the Horny Blonde?

If you missed the big announcement over at Paizo, Sam Zeitlin is the 2011 RPG Superstar.  The complete story is here.

Want a little taste of manga with your Friday?  Check out Friday 4Koma over at Omake Theater.  Some NSFW, be warned.

Live in Alberta and jonesing for The Middle Ages?  KnightHaven has what you need, you Medieval junkie.

Okay, enough filler.  I’ll be back soon with a post of some substance, enough substance to have its own gravity…

What a world, what a world…

As I write this, I am watching live video feed of the final burn and approach of a probe called Messenger.
Fifteen years ago someone decided that we needed to get a better look at the planet Mercury, closest planet to our sun. Instead of moping about how far away it was, and how hard it would be, that person instead convinced a bunch of other people that this would be a good idea. Those people planned, designed and worked for nine years. In that time they not only created a probe capable of giving them answers to the questions they had, but also give them the best chance at getting answers to questions they didn’t yet know to ask. On top of that, the probe had to accept instructions from millions of miles away, communicate information over that same distance in a useful manner, and carry out some functions automatically without any human interaction. And all of that instrumentation had to fit into a package that weighed only 100lbs, and took up the space of a medium-sized steamer trunk.
At the same time the probe was in development, another bunch of people were figuring out a launch and delivery system. They created incredibly complex machines that not only lifted the probe safely off our planet, but moved it over 4.9 billion miles of distance and placed the probe in orbit of its destination, protecting it from a hostile environment the entire way.
And yet a third team used complex mathematics to determine the best way for all of this intricate machinery to make the journey, arriving where it needed to arrive safe and sound. And all of this before the probe even left the planet.
Six years ago, Messenger launched (those two words sum up an event so amazingly complex it boggles my mind). But the work didn’t stop there. Talented people would now get up in the morning or afternoon or evening, drink a coffee, eat something and then head in to work. At this work they would monitor the probe’s progress, shepherding it on its journey through our solar system. They would send signals to a probe that was millions, then tens of millions, then hundreds of millions of miles away. These messages had to be timed to account for signal lag, and to allow the craft to precisely carry out six planetary and five deep-space manoeuvres, so that the probe could arrive at the location their math told them Mercury would be. For six years this went on, while you and I worked at our jobs, played games, hung out with friends, slept and generally carried on.
Today, I’m watching the live feed from a device conceived of fifteen years ago, launched six years ago and arriving at Mercury…right…now.
If that doesn’t boggle your mind, consider this. I am watching this because we figured out how to turn visual signals into electronic signals and then back again. We developed a way to transmit those signals over varying distances, with or without direct connections. I am taking advantage of this technology on a device which computes and stores information at blinding speeds, with an interface simple enough that a non-engineer, non-scientist such as myself can use it to play Bejewelled. And write this blog post. And watch a creation of human genius pull off what might as well be a miracle millions of miles away. A distance so vast, by the way, that the feed is already eight minutes old by the time we get it. As I watch the craft is fine. But eight minutes from now it could crash. Or eight minutes from now. Or now. Or now…
Even more amazing? This is not the first time we have pulled off something like this. Or even the tenth or twentieth time.
We live in an age of wonders. This is not an original sentiment and I have certainly not restated it in a particularly new or enlightening way. But regardless of whether I do it well, I think it still needs to be said: we live in an age of wonders. As a species we are capable of achieving, and dream of achieving, things that will elevate us, that will make us better than we are. We can be great.
Take a moment to think about that.
Tonight, Messenger is safely in orbit around Mercury.  Congratulations to everyone at NASA and the Applied Physics Laboratory.
Here are a few other things to look at:
– a great article about rediscovering your inner geek
– I present without comment: Tonight I’m Frakking You
– this Sunday is the Edmonton Collectible Toy and Comic ShowCome out and meet Levar Burton and have a geeky good time!
– the Facebook page is up for Edmonton’s 2011 Can’t Stop the Serenity screening.  If you ain’t there, yer just a Ai Chr Jze Se Duh Fohn Diang Gho.  You have been warned.
‘Til next time, keep looking at the stars!

Happy Pi Day!

I couldn’t ask for a better day to reboot my blog than Pi Day, arguably the geekiest of geek days. If I was willing to wait I could have held out for “Pi Approximation Day” (22/07) which is coincidentally (or is it…?) my birthday. But putting it off that long tempted the possibility that it would never get running again, and I could not countenance that!

I know that some of you never really noticed I was gone, and some wept bitter tears and cursed cruel fate. I know the latter might be an exaggeration. But however you felt about me leaving, I’m back now. And daddy is going to make everything all right.

Oookay, I promise to never type those words in that order again…

Expect a geeky post of some kind every couple of days, more often if the mood takes me. As the blog title suggests, while I hold myself to be an “expert” in a few select areas, I definitely selected “breadth” instead of “depth” when delving into the course catalogue at Geek U. Nothing I write (unless I specifically say otherwise in a post) should be taken as my last word on a subject; I am more than happy to have someone correct me or point me to additional information. As a teacher once told me, “If you aren’t f&*%ing up, you aren’t learning.” By that logic I learn oh-so-much every day…

So here is what caught my eye today:

That is all for now, my fellow geeks!