Friday, July 29, 2011

Geek Pilgrimage

I've been busy lately and haven't time to blog much this month. The past several weeks my head's been down writing two Ravaged Earth adventures I'm scheduled to run at Gencon in Indianapolis next week.

This will be my fourth Gencon. The first time I attended Gencon was in 2000 in Milwaukee. I played a game of Deadlands and had a blast chatting with fellow gamers and ogling the eye candy in the gaming hall, prowling the bars and restaurants and generally enjoying this insane hobby I share with thousands of geeks who participated.

I'm part of the gaming industry now, and while the sense of delight and wonder hasn't left me when I walk into that crowded gaming hall, I'm viewing everything from a different perspective. the girls in chainmail bikinis have been replaced by fans eager to learn about my game, the bars and restaurants replaced by late night talking sessions in hotel rooms with other industry writers and designers. Sometimes there is pizza. Mostly there's alcohol and laughter.

We share anecdotes around the table and immerse ourselves in all manner of games.

This year I'm running two games; one on Friday afternoon and the other on Saturday night. I've put everything on hold, scribbling like a madman on a cocaine binge and fretting about the quality of design and writing for these two gems of thrilling excitement and adventure.

Both games have already been sold out, so if you're one of the lucky few who signed up early, congratulations. You're in for one hell of a ride, Ravaged Earth style. Depending on which game you'll be playing, you'll square off against Nazis, occultists, dinosaurs and robots. You'll be at the mercy of Martian technology and a lost race of people who dwell in the Hollow Earth. You will laugh. You will tremble with terror. You will have fun.

That's what gaming should be about.

Next week I'll pack my dicebag, minis and assorted gaming paraphernalia, haul myself onto an airplane and fly to Indianapolis. There will be crappy food along the way, and long lines of frantic passengers. I don't attend Gencon for the publicity or the trendiness (that's what Comicon is for). I do it for the pleasure of gaming, of weaving my tales and telling my stories for a group of strangers who interact with the world I've created and cobbled together with blood, sweat and grey matter. All these Herculean efforts pay off after the first few dice rolls, when I've immersed them into my bizarre realm. They let slip a few laughs as I ham it up. Soon everyone is enjoying themselves.

Thanks for playing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Phone Hacking

I’m enthralled over the News International phone-hacking scandal, primarily because it involves so many threads twisting into a shitstorm of Biblical proportions. It involves the media, the police and politicians. It proves that even if American journalism is vile and contemptible, British journalism is much worse, like Hitler performing open-heart surgery on Mother Theresa with a chainsaw.

It disgraced the News of the World, which folded after 168 years, and turned the head up on Rupert Murdoch and News International, a subsidiary of News Corporation.

The scandal involved journalists acting as low-rent versions of James Bond, hacking into the cellphones of prominent figures and listening to voicemails. The News of the World hacked into the voicemails of the Royal Family, of celebrities and of politicians.

Journalists paid private investigators to hack into voicemails of the 7/7 bombing victims. But the most unforgivable was the hacking of Milly Dowler’s cellphone. Dowler was 13 when she went missing in March 2002. News of the World hacked into Dowler’s voicemail. Unbeknownst to her parents, Dowler had been murdered. Wanting to hear more details from new voicemails, the hackers deleted voicemails when the mailbox was full, giving Dowler’s parents false hope that there daughter was still alive.

In their quest for information, the News of the World paid off police officers, private detectives and employed tactics only Cold War spy agencies would envy.

The public’s trust in journalism has failed with this scandal. In poll after poll, the media receives low overall ratings in credibility and honesty. Perhaps that’s deserved.

When you overstep your bounds and pry into the privacy of citizens, you’re not a newspaper. You’re the NSA.