Game Buy-In: Embracing Tone and Setting

Recently at Fan Expo (all my best stories start this way, I promise), I was lollygagging around and decided to play a game of Cartel with my friend who was GMing. She had GM'd it at Gen Con and people there always looked like they were having a blast. So I was eager to play it with her. After ensuring the last slots went off, I grabbed my crap and settled in to my seat across from her and with three other dudes at the table.
Dude to my right, almost immediately after I sat down, said, "I wanna play a French guy." 
Let me pause in my story to tell you about Cartel. Cartel is a Powered by the Apocalypse game of Mexican drug cartels set in Mexico about Mexican people. That sentence should give you all you know to see why I was instantly concerned. So I spoke up and said that this was a game about playing Mexican people, not white people. Dude didn't back down, name dropped the designer to me, and proceeded to play a white dude in a game about Mexican people.
I've s…

Wide Awake: The New Gate Keepers of Gaming

This is a big year for me. This is the year I stop being a lot of things to Toronto Area Gamers (and Fan Expo) and hand my keys over to younger, more diverse people. It's the year I let go of some reins, really focus on what I want to do, and decide where that leaves me. It's the year I recognize that stagnation in power seats is not good, and that I'm part of that problem. It's the year I acknowledge that term limits are a super good thing.

It's also the year I spent crying the most. Everyone I knew had a tale to tell, a trauma to unpack with me, and another person to throw shit at. I listened to the stories. I took note. I nodded and agreed and began to realize that most of the community hates someone else in the community and it's all clear as mud. It was heartbreaking to see the amount of ostracism and hate happening between people I knew had similar core values and beliefs, but weren't able to step back to see a bigger picture because hurt keeps us ve…

We Are Not Therapists: Gaming and Trauma

I remember about a year back or so I saw someone saying their GMs should basically have therapy tools on standby as they only played TTRPGs to explore their trauma. At the time, I made a "gross" face and moved on. More and more of these types of statements began to appear. People were playing games to explore their own traumas. Often, they were doing it at conventions, in larps, and in spaces where they were the only ones aware that they were deliberately entering into a potentially triggering situation and would need care if something hurt them or re-traumatized them. They were using gaming as exposure therapy.

A few months later I was having a conversation with my girlfriend about scopes of practice in our health care jobs. In health care, and I assume in other careers, you have scopes of practice. These are things in your job you're allowed to do and anything that falls outside of that scope is something you shouldn't do. Like, as an RMT, I'm allowed to clini…

Playtest Focus: Cartel

If you've managed to stay under the safety of a rock, let me congratulate you but also let you know that Cartel has hit Kickstarter and you should probably go check it out. I haven't had much time lately for genuinely playing many games. Between Breakout, Gen Con, Gauntlet Con, and Fan Expo, my plate is so full of con organizing that finding time to actually play games has been almost impossible. That being said, after reading and noticing all the hubbub around Cartel, I wanted to see for myself what the game was about.

Cartel is the newest game from Magpie, the company that brought us Epyllion, Masks, Urban Shadows, and most recently, Bluebeard's Bride. Each of these games packs a punch in terms of how comprehensible and inspiring the rules are. Cartel, from what I've read and seen, is no different and will make a stunning addition to the Magpie line up. The Kickstarter is evocative, the playbooks are beautiful, and the game itself hums with bits of Mexican culture i…

Girl Gamer: The Path of Perfection

I remember when I was asked to join the Gauntlet Podcast. Jason and I had been having a great time at Mark Diaz Truman's Zombie World game during Metatopia two Metatopia's ago. We clicked. Our gaming style was so on point with each other. I didn't know who he was and he didn't know who I was. But it worked. It was a solid game and I delighted in it. That night, the Gauntlet Podcast became a patreon supporter of my blog. Later, on the podcast, a shout out was giving to me by Jason and it was hinted that he might ask me to join the show.

Well, spoilers, he did. I was so excited. I had enjoyed gaming with Jason and had never entered an online gaming space. There were so many cool people who were already supporters of mine that existed in the Gauntlet community that I couldn't help but want to dive in. When I began to tell friends and community members about joining the Gauntlet, I didn't get the response I thought I would. People I thought valued me and my voice …

The Hated Ones: We Just Wanna Have Fun

As I settle in for a cup of tea and a good old fashion hate-watching of Fifty Shades of Grey, I'm absolutely shocked and appalled and genuinely disturbed by what's happening in the gaming community just North of our town of Toronto. While I had no intention of getting involved, shit happens. Two years ago I got involved when asked about safety tools and making a con inclusive. Several women organizers spoke up. We were told to tone it down, we were dismissed, and we were shouted down by con attendees who hated the idea of changing their ways to accommodate a safer space.

Silenced, we women departed. Until a lovely person wrote an article about the sexism she experienced at this convention. The con organizer posted it to the group (which was awesome) and then promptly everything fell apart. The behaviours from 2016 happened again. Deleting of messages that weren't supportive of the con. 24 hour banning of those who were saying harassment was happening. Silencing. We were be…

Victory: The Importance of Winning

Recently I played and finally finished Horizon Zero Dawn. It's an amazing game, full of all the things I want in any game. Diversity, incredible story, impressive characters, badass moments, and meaningful layers of nuance. Except the ending. The ending is one of those endings that promises other games (fuck yes) but it does it in a way I can't stand that I'm solidly convinced is bad story telling and bad GMing. And yes, I see all media as GMing in one way or another.

At the end of this game, the bad guy you thought you killed is still alive. The threat is stopped, temporarily. It's not a real win. You were promised it was, but it wasn't. Just like in the end of Season 2 of Stranger Things. You thought you won, but you didn't, jokes on you! Monster is still there! What is this nonsense? Honestly, it's just... cheap. It's an easy out for a cliffhanger to get you back in. It's a cheap trick to keep the story going. When this trick is used in gaming, …