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Found 124 results

  1. Technology develops at a rapid pace, but sometimes it can be hard to appreciate just how quickly things can move. This can be easily seen in the history of hard drive growth. Weighing in at a monstrous 550 pounds, IBM created the first 1 gigabyte hard drive in 1980. Less than a year ago, Sony worked with IBM to develop a magnetic storage system that can save up to 330 terabytes—330,000 times the storage capacity of that fridge-sized device in the palm of your hand. That’s also 330,000 times the amount of data being stored—data that can be obtained in a large-scale data breach. To keep pace with the escalating need to secure that data, cybersecurity has grown from a practically unheard-of industry in the 1980s into a multibillion dollar industry, ballooning in size from $3.5 billion in 2004 to over $120 billion in 2017. The cybersecurity industry develops alongside the wider tech world to meet its ever-evolving needs. Increasingly, recruitment has become one of the biggest problems facing the industry. It’s not necessarily an issue of budgeting or technical infrastructure, though both of those can become concerns. The Black Hat conference, a yearly gathering of cybersecurity specialists, has routinely ranked the inability to bring in new talent as the number one reason digital security measures fail and an overwhelming majority of conference attendees felt as if they lacked the means to refine their abilities. In other words, cybersecurity has emerged as a technological necessity so quickly that many programmers, both inside and outside the field, feel that they lack access to the skills required to compete. One of the most unexpected solutions to the pressing question of recruiting promising cybersecurity talent has been the turn toward video games. McAfee conducted a recent survey of 300 senior security managers and 650 security professionals from across a wide variety of major corporations. Of that pool of 950 cybersecurity experts, 92% believed that skills fostered by games, such as tenacity, logic, and predicting hostile strategies, could make the gaming community an ideal, untapped reservoir of candidates. Why, exactly, do these professionals believe gamers make such attractive candidates for cybersecurity positions? Michael McKeirnan, a Security Consultant at Deja vu Security, offered an explanation, translating the industry’s unexpected assessment. “To me, the skills developed by gaming could be arguably summarized as practice obsessing over digital problems. I think anyone who has seen both a hacker and a gamer obsessing over something can immediately understand the relationship. That ability to completely lose yourself in the problem is a valuable skill in the industry—partially because of the work ethic that comes from that obsession, and partially because of the comprehensive knowledge that type of person usually has in their domain.” When it comes to skills, there seemed to be some degree of overlap, a similar line of thinking that gives a certain type of gamer a mindset with many applications in cybersecurity. “I'm personally not much of a gamer,” said McKeirnan, “but in my experience there's a small, intangible reward for every goal reached, or level cleared; the same can be said of finding bugs in code. That similarity means that the mindset transfers pretty fluidly from gaming to hacking.” When asked specifically about the McAfee survey, McKeirnan found himself split on the issue. There are compelling arguments to be made on behalf of gamers, but the mindset and skills many cite as making gamers good candidates for cybersecurity aren’t necessarily unique to gamers. “With regard to the survey question, I certainly agree that the two have many similarities and that a certain type of gamer may make an excellent computer security engineer, but I'm not sure I'd buy in to the degree of hiring a gamer with no security training or experience,” he explained. He went on to describe what Deja seeks out in their hiring process, saying, “During our interviews, one of the qualities we look for is the ‘attacker mindset.’ The goal is to find that dogged problem-solving, goal-oriented mentality that we believe makes excellent hackers. In my experience, this mentality is shared by many excellent gamers; but I think that it's certainly possible to be a gamer and not have that mindset, and to have that mindset but not be overly excited about video games. As such, I'd say the candidate's drive and interest in our field, coupled with that attacker mindset, is much more important to me.” However, despite any reservations regarding gamers, senior managers at cybersecurity firms across the industry find themselves turning to more drastic measures to fill their short-term needs. The McAfee survey found that 75% of senior managers at cybersecurity firms reported that they would hire a gamer with no experience in the field and train them internally just to meet their projected short-term needs. The talent shortage in cybersecurity poses a large, persistent, and growing problem for both private and public interests in the long-term. Luckily for those managers, there’s no shortage of people who play video games. The medium has become the most popular form of entertainment on the planet, grossing record-breaking profits year after year. In 2016, 1.8 billion people played video games to some extent, a number that’s only expected to go up as technological infrastructure spreads around the world and the population increases. Having identified a large and growing field of potential talent, tech firms have been puzzling over how to break into gaming to snag some of the most qualified candidates. Offering bug bounties to anyone who can find an exploit that leaves sensitive information vulnerable stands as one of the oldest and most generalized approaches to digital security. While it certainly works to fill in unknown vulnerabilities, the process is often too vague to engage anyone outside of a niche community of hackers or enthusiasts and doesn’t cast a wide enough net to recruit talent to the company itself. Not to mention there are emerging concerns over the uncontrolled nature of such programs that can alert those outside of proper communication channels that data breaches have occurred. Framing cybersecurity as an evolving puzzle can change public perception of the industry, gamifying it in the eyes of future professionals. Meeting that changed perspective with competitive initiatives can create a game-like atmosphere around the industry. The most popular of these competitions are Capture the Flag (CTF) events. These trials test the ability of participants across a wide range of skills relevant in the security industry. Often these competitions are sponsored by companies like Uber, Walmart, Raytheon, Snapchat, Amazon, or IBM, and are used to recruit promising talent. The two most popular formats of CTF are called jeopardy and attack-defend. Jeopardy presents teams with several categories of challenges that require technical answers to problems facing areas such as cryptography, hacking, forensics, networking, and programming. Attack-defend challenges pit two or more teams against each other to use any means necessary to take and maintain control of an isolated network of computers. Competitive CTF events can be found throughout the industry, with notable examples like the US Cyber Challenge, the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, or at larger tech meetings like Google’s Chromium Conference. Those who rise to the top of these competitions become highly sought after by the companies who watch them intently. Rather than a job interview, excelling at a major competition can prove to be a method of entering the industry for those who find it engaging. “[The founders of Deja] were on a team that won the DEFCON CTF several times and subsequently ran that competition for a number of years afterwards,” Deja vu Security’s McKeirnan explained when asked about these competitions. “We love to talk about CTFs and CTF problems with our candidates, but we also sympathize with people who aren't overly fond of them. Some CTFs have a few ‘guess what's in my pocket’-type problems that can really rub some bright folks the wrong way.” Thankfully, the competitive space has become more varied with time. More variations on the traditional CTF types appear frequently and McKeirnan offered that a more equitable type of challenge could be found in wargame simulations. “There are some public wargames and challenge sets that we really like, and we love to chat with candidates about how they solved these problems and what they learned by doing them.” McKeirnan’s two favorite wargames of note are The Matasano Crypto Pals published by Matasano Security and the Over the Wire problems. “These types of wargames don't generally have a leaderboard or anything, but most people in the industry are familiar with them and they're a great way for folks to show some serious initiative and play some games at the same time.” While those exercises aren’t flashy and won’t win prestige in a public setting, they will teach valuable skills in a gamified format that will leave potential employers in cybersecurity eager to hire. While these initiatives are often aimed toward adults, some competitions are designed to educate the ever more technologically literate youth and offer scholarships to talented youngsters who excel. Programs like the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot aim to make cybersecurity problem-solving fun for kids grades K-12. Introducing the next generation to a world of competitions is framed as a long-term investment by the public and private interests sponsoring these initiatives. They seek to secure a steady stream of talent for years to come. The creative solutions to reach gamers have taken many forms over the last few years. Information security companies often make use of low-tech games that are meant to demonstrate skills such as codebreaking. Deja vu Security, for example, makes use of cards printed with different bite-sized challenges. McKeirnan explained that “puzzles like the cards are somewhat common in the industry, though certainly not ubiquitous. They provide excellent signals about how motivated and skilled candidates are before they even show up to an interview. Typically, if a candidate has completed or made significant progress through a challenge, they're an excellent fit.” These pocket-sized challenges can be easily distributed, and they offer a wide range of puzzles from simple codebreaking to deciphering elliptic curve cryptography. This makes them ideal for identifying competitive candidates in the wild at job fairs, though they aren’t the only options available. “Lately we've using an in-person ‘find the bug’ challenge instead [of the cards]. For that one, we post a sample of code at the booth with some known security vulnerabilities and direct anyone who's interested to ‘find the bug.’ This one is a big hit at career fairs.” McKeirnan said. “We consistently have crowds [of people] blocking off the whole area, just staring at the code until they think they've figured it out. Even recruiters from other companies usually come over near the end of the event to try and give it a go. We really like that type of challenge because it gives us a chance to talk over the problem with our potential candidates; we can see how they're thinking, and get to know them a bit better before we've even added their resume to the pile. Better still, many folks who wouldn't have submitted their answer online will come talk to us about it because we're right there.” This type of approach brings in new types of people with gamified challenges, though it operates on a small scale. Larger solutions loom on the horizon. If it’s difficult to train people up to dealing with the current level of complex technology, maybe it is possible to streamline complicated cybersecurity functions down to meet new talent on their own level with a game-like setting. In an announcement issued earlier this year, McAfee’s Chief Information Security Officer Grant Bourzikas stated, “With cybersecurity breaches being the norm for organizations, we have to create a workplace that empowers cybersecurity responders to do their best work. […] Keeping our workforce engaged, educated, and satisfied at work is critical to ensuring organizations do not increase complexity in the already high-stakes game against cybercrime.” Bourzikas makes a good point about streamlining the protection process on all fronts, and that includes recruitment. ProtectWise CEO Scott Chasin builds on that idea with the assumption that attracting new talent will be easier with a less daunting interface that feels more intuitive. What better way to do that than with a gamified digital environment to make the positions more attractive? To that end, Chasin’s company developed a tool called ProtectWise Grid, a UI overlay that creates a virtual city within which all devices connected to a given network appear. The software represents each device as a building that varies in size and shape depending on the kind of device, connection, and amount of data being used. Chasin believes his software holds at least part of the key to solving the cybersecurity shortage facing the industry by using a game-like model to lower the skill level necessary to enter the industry. The goal of the technology is to meet incoming talent in a manner they intuitively understand, skipping a lot of the technical know-how that traditional candidates require currently. "Level one analysts today require very advanced skillsets. In a UI like this, we can remove that," Chasin said. Given the ubiquity of gaming in the tech world, this could be a great help in bringing in entry level candidates. Of course, those who move up to leadership positions in cybersecurity will really have to know their stuff, but as Chasin notes, “You don't have to be a pilot to fly a drone.” By 2019, some organizations like Symantec, ISACA, and Cybersecurity Ventures predict a global shortage of over two million digital security specialists. However, the numerous gamified solutions to the ongoing cybersecurity shortage offer hope to those struggling on the frontlines against cybercriminals. An increasing emphasis on gamification techniques, both the tried-and-true methods of companies like Deja vu Security and the seemingly sci-fi solutions on the horizon, might just help us thwart the next big data theft or cyberattack. --- This piece has been cross-posted on the Deja vu Security blog. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  2. Technology develops at a rapid pace, but sometimes it can be hard to appreciate just how quickly things can move. This can be easily seen in the history of hard drive growth. Weighing in at a monstrous 550 pounds, IBM created the first 1 gigabyte hard drive in 1980. Less than a year ago, Sony worked with IBM to develop a magnetic storage system that can save up to 330 terabytes—330,000 times the storage capacity of that fridge-sized device in the palm of your hand. That’s also 330,000 times the amount of data being stored—data that can be obtained in a large-scale data breach. To keep pace with the escalating need to secure that data, cybersecurity has grown from a practically unheard-of industry in the 1980s into a multibillion dollar industry, ballooning in size from $3.5 billion in 2004 to over $120 billion in 2017. The cybersecurity industry develops alongside the wider tech world to meet its ever-evolving needs. Increasingly, recruitment has become one of the biggest problems facing the industry. It’s not necessarily an issue of budgeting or technical infrastructure, though both of those can become concerns. The Black Hat conference, a yearly gathering of cybersecurity specialists, has routinely ranked the inability to bring in new talent as the number one reason digital security measures fail and an overwhelming majority of conference attendees felt as if they lacked the means to refine their abilities. In other words, cybersecurity has emerged as a technological necessity so quickly that many programmers, both inside and outside the field, feel that they lack access to the skills required to compete. One of the most unexpected solutions to the pressing question of recruiting promising cybersecurity talent has been the turn toward video games. McAfee conducted a recent survey of 300 senior security managers and 650 security professionals from across a wide variety of major corporations. Of that pool of 950 cybersecurity experts, 92% believed that skills fostered by games, such as tenacity, logic, and predicting hostile strategies, could make the gaming community an ideal, untapped reservoir of candidates. Why, exactly, do these professionals believe gamers make such attractive candidates for cybersecurity positions? Michael McKeirnan, a Security Consultant at Deja vu Security, offered an explanation, translating the industry’s unexpected assessment. “To me, the skills developed by gaming could be arguably summarized as practice obsessing over digital problems. I think anyone who has seen both a hacker and a gamer obsessing over something can immediately understand the relationship. That ability to completely lose yourself in the problem is a valuable skill in the industry—partially because of the work ethic that comes from that obsession, and partially because of the comprehensive knowledge that type of person usually has in their domain.” When it comes to skills, there seemed to be some degree of overlap, a similar line of thinking that gives a certain type of gamer a mindset with many applications in cybersecurity. “I'm personally not much of a gamer,” said McKeirnan, “but in my experience there's a small, intangible reward for every goal reached, or level cleared; the same can be said of finding bugs in code. That similarity means that the mindset transfers pretty fluidly from gaming to hacking.” When asked specifically about the McAfee survey, McKeirnan found himself split on the issue. There are compelling arguments to be made on behalf of gamers, but the mindset and skills many cite as making gamers good candidates for cybersecurity aren’t necessarily unique to gamers. “With regard to the survey question, I certainly agree that the two have many similarities and that a certain type of gamer may make an excellent computer security engineer, but I'm not sure I'd buy in to the degree of hiring a gamer with no security training or experience,” he explained. He went on to describe what Deja seeks out in their hiring process, saying, “During our interviews, one of the qualities we look for is the ‘attacker mindset.’ The goal is to find that dogged problem-solving, goal-oriented mentality that we believe makes excellent hackers. In my experience, this mentality is shared by many excellent gamers; but I think that it's certainly possible to be a gamer and not have that mindset, and to have that mindset but not be overly excited about video games. As such, I'd say the candidate's drive and interest in our field, coupled with that attacker mindset, is much more important to me.” However, despite any reservations regarding gamers, senior managers at cybersecurity firms across the industry find themselves turning to more drastic measures to fill their short-term needs. The McAfee survey found that 75% of senior managers at cybersecurity firms reported that they would hire a gamer with no experience in the field and train them internally just to meet their projected short-term needs. The talent shortage in cybersecurity poses a large, persistent, and growing problem for both private and public interests in the long-term. Luckily for those managers, there’s no shortage of people who play video games. The medium has become the most popular form of entertainment on the planet, grossing record-breaking profits year after year. In 2016, 1.8 billion people played video games to some extent, a number that’s only expected to go up as technological infrastructure spreads around the world and the population increases. Having identified a large and growing field of potential talent, tech firms have been puzzling over how to break into gaming to snag some of the most qualified candidates. Offering bug bounties to anyone who can find an exploit that leaves sensitive information vulnerable stands as one of the oldest and most generalized approaches to digital security. While it certainly works to fill in unknown vulnerabilities, the process is often too vague to engage anyone outside of a niche community of hackers or enthusiasts and doesn’t cast a wide enough net to recruit talent to the company itself. Not to mention there are emerging concerns over the uncontrolled nature of such programs that can alert those outside of proper communication channels that data breaches have occurred. Framing cybersecurity as an evolving puzzle can change public perception of the industry, gamifying it in the eyes of future professionals. Meeting that changed perspective with competitive initiatives can create a game-like atmosphere around the industry. The most popular of these competitions are Capture the Flag (CTF) events. These trials test the ability of participants across a wide range of skills relevant in the security industry. Often these competitions are sponsored by companies like Uber, Walmart, Raytheon, Snapchat, Amazon, or IBM, and are used to recruit promising talent. The two most popular formats of CTF are called jeopardy and attack-defend. Jeopardy presents teams with several categories of challenges that require technical answers to problems facing areas such as cryptography, hacking, forensics, networking, and programming. Attack-defend challenges pit two or more teams against each other to use any means necessary to take and maintain control of an isolated network of computers. Competitive CTF events can be found throughout the industry, with notable examples like the US Cyber Challenge, the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, or at larger tech meetings like Google’s Chromium Conference. Those who rise to the top of these competitions become highly sought after by the companies who watch them intently. Rather than a job interview, excelling at a major competition can prove to be a method of entering the industry for those who find it engaging. “[The founders of Deja] were on a team that won the DEFCON CTF several times and subsequently ran that competition for a number of years afterwards,” Deja vu Security’s McKeirnan explained when asked about these competitions. “We love to talk about CTFs and CTF problems with our candidates, but we also sympathize with people who aren't overly fond of them. Some CTFs have a few ‘guess what's in my pocket’-type problems that can really rub some bright folks the wrong way.” Thankfully, the competitive space has become more varied with time. More variations on the traditional CTF types appear frequently and McKeirnan offered that a more equitable type of challenge could be found in wargame simulations. “There are some public wargames and challenge sets that we really like, and we love to chat with candidates about how they solved these problems and what they learned by doing them.” McKeirnan’s two favorite wargames of note are The Matasano Crypto Pals published by Matasano Security and the Over the Wire problems. “These types of wargames don't generally have a leaderboard or anything, but most people in the industry are familiar with them and they're a great way for folks to show some serious initiative and play some games at the same time.” While those exercises aren’t flashy and won’t win prestige in a public setting, they will teach valuable skills in a gamified format that will leave potential employers in cybersecurity eager to hire. While these initiatives are often aimed toward adults, some competitions are designed to educate the ever more technologically literate youth and offer scholarships to talented youngsters who excel. Programs like the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot aim to make cybersecurity problem-solving fun for kids grades K-12. Introducing the next generation to a world of competitions is framed as a long-term investment by the public and private interests sponsoring these initiatives. They seek to secure a steady stream of talent for years to come. The creative solutions to reach gamers have taken many forms over the last few years. Information security companies often make use of low-tech games that are meant to demonstrate skills such as codebreaking. Deja vu Security, for example, makes use of cards printed with different bite-sized challenges. McKeirnan explained that “puzzles like the cards are somewhat common in the industry, though certainly not ubiquitous. They provide excellent signals about how motivated and skilled candidates are before they even show up to an interview. Typically, if a candidate has completed or made significant progress through a challenge, they're an excellent fit.” These pocket-sized challenges can be easily distributed, and they offer a wide range of puzzles from simple codebreaking to deciphering elliptic curve cryptography. This makes them ideal for identifying competitive candidates in the wild at job fairs, though they aren’t the only options available. “Lately we've using an in-person ‘find the bug’ challenge instead [of the cards]. For that one, we post a sample of code at the booth with some known security vulnerabilities and direct anyone who's interested to ‘find the bug.’ This one is a big hit at career fairs.” McKeirnan said. “We consistently have crowds [of people] blocking off the whole area, just staring at the code until they think they've figured it out. Even recruiters from other companies usually come over near the end of the event to try and give it a go. We really like that type of challenge because it gives us a chance to talk over the problem with our potential candidates; we can see how they're thinking, and get to know them a bit better before we've even added their resume to the pile. Better still, many folks who wouldn't have submitted their answer online will come talk to us about it because we're right there.” This type of approach brings in new types of people with gamified challenges, though it operates on a small scale. Larger solutions loom on the horizon. If it’s difficult to train people up to dealing with the current level of complex technology, maybe it is possible to streamline complicated cybersecurity functions down to meet new talent on their own level with a game-like setting. In an announcement issued earlier this year, McAfee’s Chief Information Security Officer Grant Bourzikas stated, “With cybersecurity breaches being the norm for organizations, we have to create a workplace that empowers cybersecurity responders to do their best work. […] Keeping our workforce engaged, educated, and satisfied at work is critical to ensuring organizations do not increase complexity in the already high-stakes game against cybercrime.” Bourzikas makes a good point about streamlining the protection process on all fronts, and that includes recruitment. ProtectWise CEO Scott Chasin builds on that idea with the assumption that attracting new talent will be easier with a less daunting interface that feels more intuitive. What better way to do that than with a gamified digital environment to make the positions more attractive? To that end, Chasin’s company developed a tool called ProtectWise Grid, a UI overlay that creates a virtual city within which all devices connected to a given network appear. The software represents each device as a building that varies in size and shape depending on the kind of device, connection, and amount of data being used. Chasin believes his software holds at least part of the key to solving the cybersecurity shortage facing the industry by using a game-like model to lower the skill level necessary to enter the industry. The goal of the technology is to meet incoming talent in a manner they intuitively understand, skipping a lot of the technical know-how that traditional candidates require currently. "Level one analysts today require very advanced skillsets. In a UI like this, we can remove that," Chasin said. Given the ubiquity of gaming in the tech world, this could be a great help in bringing in entry level candidates. Of course, those who move up to leadership positions in cybersecurity will really have to know their stuff, but as Chasin notes, “You don't have to be a pilot to fly a drone.” By 2019, some organizations like Symantec, ISACA, and Cybersecurity Ventures predict a global shortage of over two million digital security specialists. However, the numerous gamified solutions to the ongoing cybersecurity shortage offer hope to those struggling on the frontlines against cybercriminals. An increasing emphasis on gamification techniques, both the tried-and-true methods of companies like Deja vu Security and the seemingly sci-fi solutions on the horizon, might just help us thwart the next big data theft or cyberattack. --- This piece has been cross-posted on the Deja vu Security blog. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  3. Gnomedic

    World of Warcraft - EL Raiders

    Hey folks! I was wondering if anyone that plays WoW would be interested in forming an Extra Life guild with me for the purpose of running raids or PVP on twitch/youtube/etc? I've lots of experience with PVE, but... not so much with PVP. I've recently found the game to be pretty boring without a guild, so I figured why not make something with other awesome ELers? If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, toss me a message on bnet: Gnomedic#1291. This would be for the Alliance side, someone else can form a Horde guild, but all my toons are Ally This would be casual, maybe one or two nights a week, non-mandatory, and we can pick a server, or just have an unofficial guild. Faction: Alliance Server: Zangarmarsh or Darkspear (or TBD!) Type: PVE/PVP
  4. For some of us, board games have been a staple of our households from the beginning. Who hasn’t found frustration playing Monopoly or ravenously devoured marbles in Hungry, Hungry Hippos? These games are absolutely everywhere, so it can be easy to forget that each of those games had to be made by someone or a team of someones. Everyone’s favorite tabletop games started out as a glimmer in a creative person’s eye. It begins with a vision, a dream of a game that might one day become a reality. However, in order to become a game, it takes the extra motivation to begin creating. Writing out playing cards on scraps of paper, drawing up a comprehensive list of rules, sketching out a rough game board on a piece of card stock, all of these are important moments in the creative process. However, when I reached out to an indie dev who designs games for fun in his spare time, there’s much more to it than that. Join me and tabletop game creator Kurtis Holme as we talk about how he found himself making board games in the digital age, the way he and his colleagues made Mario Kart into a working board game, and what it takes to finish a game of your own. You can listen to the audio interview or read a lightly edited version of it below. --- --- So, who is Kurtis Holme? What do you do? How did you get into making games? Okay, so I’m Kurtis Holme. I work in software […] and went to school for computer science. I guess, making games has been something that I have always kind of done, but I didn’t really realize it until later. How so? I think all kids kinda make up games; that’s not an abnormal thing, but maybe the extent to which I did it was? [laughs] Maybe abnormal wasn’t the right word, but at an early age I was very into games. I enjoyed playing them a lot. I would play them by myself; I would create tournaments. I would have, like, a dozen different Magic: The Gathering decks, and I’d play them against each other until there was a winner. I never played Monopoly by myself, that’s for the truly insane. [laughs] So, the earliest game that I remember where I was actually going about it with some sort fo active process in mind was with a game called MLB Showdown. I think this was in 1999 when MLB Showdown came out. This was Wizards of the Coast, and it was baseball cards, except you could play a game of baseball with the baseball cards. It was SO much fun. I loved it. Baseball is one of my hugest passions, and this was when I was playing baseball all the time, six days a week for multiple hours per day. Yeah, MLB Showdown, I love that game so much, I am sad they discontinued it. How does baseball work in card form? So you have the players and they have a couple of different statistics on their cards. They're split into hitters and pitches. The hitters have an on-base number and the pitchers have a control number. To simulate a player at bat, the pitcher rolls a d20 and take the result and add it to their control, the batter rolls a d20 and they take the result and add it to their on base number. Whoever wins that roll has advantage. So that simulates a pitching count where a hitter will be at an advantage in “the showdown.” They also have a chart where you have different results that can happen. So both hitters and pitchers have different charts and their charts will be better the better the player is. The chart has a roll result for your action at that at bat; strike out, ground ball, fly ball walk single, single plus double triple homer, for both the pitcher and hitter. So after you figure out who has the advantage, that player rolls the dice to see what happens for the at bat. If the pitcher wins, they roll the die, they take the result and look up on their chart what happens. So pitchers, everything below a 16 is usually an out; the really good pitchers, everything up to an 18 is an out. Whereas, if the hitter gets the advantage then it is usually 1-6 would be an out and 18 or higher is a homer. So you play out a game of baseball like that: Rolling a d20. That sounds like an RPG system! It is. It is an RPG system. It was actually my first introduction to an RPG system. I had never really played Dungeons & Dragons before that point. You fell in love with MLB Showdown, so how did that roll over into creating your own games? Right, so… Basically, I became so enthralled with this game that I wanted to do two things with it. One was that the rules didn’t encompass all of the intricacies of baseball like I wanted it to. It wasn’t just rolling dice, you also had a strategy deck and you would draw something like three cards per inning. The cards would be something like "steal a base" or "give a bonus to your swing if you have a lefty batting and a righty pitching," stuff like that. But because it was a deck, it was random. That didn’t make much sense to me. Like, if you are trying to play the advantage of having a lefty versus a righty, that’s something you plan in your lineup. It’s not a random thing that happens. I built out rules for a lot of these things that weren’t in there. I had a whole bunch of stuff, like I added in a chance for an error or- So you were modding this game, but in the tabletop sense rather than the digital one? Yep! [laughs] So then then next thing that happened was that the game was discontinued in... 2005, I think it was. Every year that the new set came out, I was always so excited that I would buy a whole booster box at a time to try to get all the players that I wanted. Not being able to do that made me so sad that I went online. I found forums dedicated to this game and people who had basically taken all of the stats for previous years and scienced that into the formula that Wizards of the Coast used to create these cards. I made some tweaks to that on my own for some of the stats. I went out and bought the baseball reference almanac. This thing is probably 8 inches thick, it’s basically a phonebook. It has every single player that has played the game of baseball, their entire career stat lines from 2005 to the 1850s. So, once I had my formulas, what I would do is every night before I went to bed I would just open to a random page and make that players card for at least players. [laughs] I guess that in and of itself it wasn’t very innovative, but… You were making your own game! You saw this game wasn’t being made anymore and decided to take matters into your own hands. That’s awesome! You went about making this game; did you wind up with a handmade, functional deck that you could use to continue playing MLB Showdown? So I just wrote them down on index cards, basically, so yeah I would play with the index cards when I had enough of my handmade cards to form a team. I never went so far as to try to print them out or get pictures of the players and put them on the cards. I know right now that you develop tabletop games in your spare time. That’s not a very common hobby. A lot more people these days seem more interested in developing video games. You hear about struggling indie devs, but that’s almost always in the digital sense. So how did you go from being a kid making your own MLB Showdown to someone who does this more seriously? Okay, so, I guess tabletop games are what I did growing up. We didn’t have video games in my house until… Dreamcast was my first gaming system. It was always board games and stuff first, that was what we did with family, you know? As I got older, I started shifting more toward video game stuff, especially when World of Warcraft came out. That was basically my life from 2004 until 2009. [laughs] When I went to college, I didn’t really have a solid idea of what I wanted to do. Up until that point, it had always been, “I’m going be a baseball player!” and when reality set in that that probably wasn’t actually going to be a thing that was going to happen, I had to take a step back and decide what I was actually going to do with my life. I really had no idea, I feel like I still don’t. We had to do this for a math class in high school. We had to pick out an engineering field that sounded interesting and do a presentation on it. The field I did was aerospace engineering and, yes, the list we were given was alphabetical. I pursued that my first year at college and didn’t really like it, so I was looking for something else to do instead. I had computer science classes in high school; I didn’t do as well in those as I did in my other classes, but I still enjoyed being on the computer. I liked typing at the bare minimum. So I figured, well, okay, I like video games; maybe I could make video games. I’d need a computer science degree to do that, so I decided to give that a shot. I liked it better than aerospace, but I didn’t like it so much… I always felt a little bit estranged from the rest of my classmates in C. Sci. because they always seemed to be really into the theory of computer science programming. Whereas for me, it was more of a means to an end rather than an actual passion. I was considering switching again until I took AI 1, AI turned out to be the thing that kept me in computer science because it was such a cool application. I was thinking that AI would be the path for me into making games. I applied for internships at Blizzard, Riot Games, a ton of places, but I never got any of those internships. That’s when I realized that I had picked something that is incredibly hard to get into. That all got put on the backburner when I got done with school and needed to figure out what to actually do with my life in the immediate sense to survive. That’s how I got the job I have now. While I was there, some of the people I was working with, we became good friends – they liked board games and stuff, too. I think I had brought Pandemic the board game to work, and we played it at work during lunch one day. [..] That got us talking a bit about games in general. They had been interested in making video games, as well. I don’t know how we got onto this, but we started talking about Mario Kart as a board game. I was just… I dunno, the lightbulb came on and I was like, “This is totally doable. We should make this!” That’s how it started. We just sat down at lunch with a deck of cards and started trying to figure out what that would look like. I really like thinking about those types of problems. Thinking about how something could be modeled as a game mechanic is really enjoyable to me. So taking Mario Kart and dissecting it to its smallest pieces and figuring out what that looks like on a tabletop – that’s basically how it began. How would items work as a game mechanic? Well, you could have decks of cards, maybe specific items, but then you start thinking about all the little things. Like, in Mario Kart, if you’re in last place you are going to get a better item than someone who is in first place. We kept solving all of those little problems and eventually we had something that was playable. That was when we actually printed out- we found a picture online of an aerial view of a Mario Kart track and printed that out on a piece of paper at work. Then we went to a local game store and bought a random bag of random assorted shapes for pieces. We gave each piece a role in Mario Kart, like this is a banana, this is Donkey Kong, etc. We made that, and it was a ton of fun. It was really fun to play. Eventually someone asked me, “What are you gonna do with this now?” And I was like, “Well, I don’t know. We were kind of just making it for fun, but it would be really cool if we could do this and make money off of it.” That’s when it became less academic and more what would it actually take to do this for real? That’s when I started getting more serious about it. Taking classes online, reading books, going to conventions, all that stuff. Did you ever try to pitch Nintendo the Mario Kart game? No, we did not. We never actually figured out how we should go about doing that from a legal standpoint. So it seems like you got into game design because of the problem solving aspect of it; how you go about making mechanics that reflect the core conceit of a given idea? Yes and board games in particular because I don’t love programming. As time has gone on, that’s become more and more true. Making a game, a video game, is such a large task. There are still some games that I would like to make that would be digital. However, ultimately one thing that I’ve realized is that board games can achieve something from a social aspect that I don’t think video games will ever be able to replicate. Maybe there’s a VR game in the future that can get there, but… it’s not the same experience. There are certainly things a board game can do that a video game can. I’ve found myself appreciating the social aspect of board gaming more as the differences between the two have become clearer to me. So what are some things socially that board games are better at than video games? Board games allow for a lot more creativity. It’s based a lot more on the people playing than the rule set. You can have the best crafted rule set and people will still tweak it to their own means, like I did. [laughs] That’s good and that’s fun. You can make it what you want to make it. Video games, just by the way code has to exist for a computer to run a program. It’s very, very difficult to get that same sort of dynamic environment. Just being able to house rule something – you can’t do that as easily in a video game as you can in a tabletop game. Right. What are some of the lessons you took away from building your own board games? The biggest takeaway is that the first 80% is easy and the last 20% is nigh on impossible. [laughs] That’s an exaggeration, but getting that last 20% completed, polished and functional, is very hard and takes a lot of time. By that do you mean the production end of things? Getting it a nice looking box and pieces, is that the hard part or are you still talking about the rules, mechanics, and systems? The rules, mechanics, and systems. To get something that other people will like, you need to playtest it a lot. You need to playtest it with a lot of different people. Everyone is going to have different opinions on it; I’m sure it’s true of video game development, as well. That’s something that we, as a group, have struggled with. We have never been short on ideas, but we have always had trouble taking something past iteration X. What becomes the major stumbling block? Part of it is the group of people that we have. We’re idea people, not get-it-done people. It’s hard to identify when something isn’t working- how do I describe this? When something isn’t working and you know it’s not working - a mechanic, a system, whatever. Is it an inherently flawed idea or does it just need tweaks? Because it if it is inherently flawed you should just scrap it and move on to the next idea or you just end up trying to iterate on this thing forever. We did the latter the first time through, where we just iterated on Mario Kart forever, but never actually solved the problems that we were having with games taking too long. For a lot of the other games, we might have been too quick to throw out ideas without iterating on it. It’s a hard balance to find. And it seems like it would be harder to playtest those problems outside of your development group without the resources of a publisher. It just seems like it is easier to find people to QA a game that’s digital. Yeah, you can just release the code and have thousands of people who will playtest it. Whereas with me I’m basically begging people to please play a board game with me for an hour. [laughs] What are a few of your other game projects you’ve been knocking around? The other one that we got the closest to comple- actually it was a completed game. Our working title was Death Train. It was basically a train race. We had this idea where it would be cool to have this mechanic where you have a train and you are racing against other trains on parallel tracks. The mechanic is that you are physically moving your train along this track back and forth by adjusting your speed and how you align with other players on the tracks is how you interact with them. We had this thing were you’re building cars as you’re going – we called it a train builder as opposed to a deck builder – you are building your train as you go. Your cars would be anything from an extra engine to a tesla coil that zaps adjacent train enemies. That one was actually really fun and it was pretty much working. The problems we ran into with that one were that we were trying to do a little bit too much. We didn’t want it to just be a race; we didn’t want it to be just a battle. We wanted there to be multiple paths to victory, kind of eurogame it. We added in victory points and all this other stuff that muddied the waters a bit too much. Do you just then leave that entire idea behind and move on? Or what happens when you hit that 80% mark? It goes on a shelf, basically. A lot of the things I’ve read in my pursuit of more knowledge of game design, I guess there are different schools of thought on it, but there are a number of people who like to have multiple games that they’re working on at the same time and advocate for that. […] The idea behind having a bunch of games that you’re working on at the same time is that you’d be working on Game C and you come across an idea that might be applicable to Games A, F, and G. Then maybe you can revisit those games and cycle along with it. I like that, but it’s a slow churn through that last 20% with that method. And the alternative is trying to brute force your way through the last 20% which is also grueling, just in a different way? Yes, exactly. You mentioned game design resources. In terms of books, lectures, forums, or whatever, what have you found to be the most helpful for designing tabletop games? There is a specialization track on Coursera from the California Institute for the Arts. I took that, it’s four courses, four weeks each. That got me a lot more insight than I had going in. I didn’t start doing this until after we finished Mario Kart and kind of when we started hitting the first roadblocks on Death Train. That’s the point where we got to where we needed to take a step back and figure out what it was we were doing instead of Wild Westing it or whatever. Coursera was one of the first places I went for that. I really enjoyed that specialization. It was really fun and I learned a lot from it. The next best was probably a book, “The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design” by Mike Selinker. The book, specifically, is more of a book of interviews with a bunch of different game designers and taking their opinions on a bunch of different things. It’s cool to see what Steve Jackson is thinking when he’s starting to make a game. That gives you some insight into what you’re doing well or what you’re not taking into account that you could be. Oh, and also, there’s a podcast that I also started listening to around the same time. That’s Designer Notes. Designer Notes was actually probably one of the most influential. It might also be one of the most accessible of the ones you mentioned. Yes. [laughs] So having done all of this, having gained experience in designing these games, what would you recommend people do if they want to get into designing a tabletop game? What are your first steps? Your first steps are to get something made and on a table in front of people to play it. The most progress that we as a group have actually made is just by actually doing. You learn so much more about what works and what doesn’t when you’re actually sitting at a table trying to play it. You can have what seem like the best ideas in the world, take it to the table, and they don’t work. Then you’re back to square one. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get something to a playable form as quickly as possible. Even if it is absolutely horrible, as long as you can play it, you’re learning something from it. You aren’t actually learning what you think you might be learning until you’re actually playing it. What does it mean to get something on the table when it is first draft of a tabletop game? I think some people struggle with that; how do you make a thing? It depends on the game, it depends on so many things. Taking an idea and seeing if the simplest form of that idea translates to a board game or a card game or what have you. It could be taking random scraps of paper and finding out, “What’s an interesting way to have these things move around a track?” You’re just sitting there, literally rolling dice and seeing what is fun. That’s what game design is: It’s engineering fun. What would you tell someone to do – they are getting their game past 80%, maybe they are even at 100% – how do you make this game into a sold-for-money board game? That’s a part that I haven’t got to, so take my advice with a grain of salt. There’s Kickstarter, but that has a whole bag of intricacies by itself. You could write to publishers.... These are more advanced steps. I guess it depends on how you got to that feeling of 100% done. Have you had a whole bunch of people playtest it? And when I say a whole bunch, I mean hundreds of people playtest it, not just friends, but random strangers, people who had the rules and people who don’t have the rules. If you haven’t playtested the game, then I don’t think you’re at 100% yet. So playtest, playtest, playtest. If you are truly at the point where it is as good as it can be and no more playtesting is going to help that, then I think your next steps are one of three things – at least things that I have been looking at doing myself. The first is conventions. Here in Minneapolis, that’s Con of the North. At pretty much any tabletop convention, there’s going to be a space for playtesting, games that are known to be in prototype phase. People sign up to play knowing it is not necessarily a completed game. This is a great way to get more playtesters and feedback, but it is also a good place to make contacts and maybe run into a publisher that you might be able to pitch an idea to, stuff like that. Speaking of publishers, pitching your idea to a publisher is an option. You have to do your research. You have to know what kinds of games the publisher has published in the past, what kinds of games they’re publishing now. It has to fit with their MO as a publisher and what they have in their pipeline already. Then the last one would be Kickstarter. Kickstarter is the one that will make you the most money if it’s successful.... Probably. All the caveats. Yeah, I can’t say that with certainty. At least you are controlling that entirely yourself. You’re not selling your idea to a publisher. There’s a lot of hoops to jump through with Kickstarter to get that to work and it’s risky. One of the things we have learned from conventions is that to produce a board game at scale is very expensive. If you’re talking a medium sized board game with some components and a board, you are looking at $60,000 to get that game produced. If you are going to Kickstarter, you’re going to have to ask for less than that, significantly less than that, as your goal. People have done all kinds of research as to what your goal value should be to get people to contribute to your Kickstarter and stuff like that. If you end up going that route and it’s unsuccessful and already footed the bill for $60,000 worth of production, then you are going to be in trouble. You have to know what you’re doing with the Kickstarter. Do you have any final words to add? That kind of ended on a downer note. I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom, “oh, this is so hard, expensive, and risky.” Ultimately, I think it’s worth it, no matter what. One of my favorite things that I’ve read in my perusal of these resources. If you make a game, that game is going to be at least one person’s favorite game. There is absolutely at least one person in the world who would consider your game their favorite. Just think about that and think about how happy you’re making at least that one person. There’s nothing quite like enjoying your favorite game. It’s even better when you can see other people enjoying something to that degree that you have made. Almost like you’re giving back to all the games that you enjoyed; putting your own little bit of that in the world. The world can be a pretty crappy place sometimes, so if you can make it even a little bit happier sometimes, then I feel like that’s worth it. --- Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  5. For some of us, board games have been a staple of our households from the beginning. Who hasn’t found frustration playing Monopoly or ravenously devoured marbles in Hungry, Hungry Hippos? These games are absolutely everywhere, so it can be easy to forget that each of those games had to be made by someone or a team of someones. Everyone’s favorite tabletop games started out as a glimmer in a creative person’s eye. It begins with a vision, a dream of a game that might one day become a reality. However, in order to become a game, it takes the extra motivation to begin creating. Writing out playing cards on scraps of paper, drawing up a comprehensive list of rules, sketching out a rough game board on a piece of card stock, all of these are important moments in the creative process. However, when I reached out to an indie dev who designs games for fun in his spare time, there’s much more to it than that. Join me and tabletop game creator Kurtis Holme as we talk about how he found himself making board games in the digital age, the way he and his colleagues made Mario Kart into a working board game, and what it takes to finish a game of your own. You can listen to the audio interview or read a lightly edited version of it below. --- --- So, who is Kurtis Holme? What do you do? How did you get into making games? Okay, so I’m Kurtis Holme. I work in software […] and went to school for computer science. I guess, making games has been something that I have always kind of done, but I didn’t really realize it until later. How so? I think all kids kinda make up games; that’s not an abnormal thing, but maybe the extent to which I did it was? [laughs] Maybe abnormal wasn’t the right word, but at an early age I was very into games. I enjoyed playing them a lot. I would play them by myself; I would create tournaments. I would have, like, a dozen different Magic: The Gathering decks, and I’d play them against each other until there was a winner. I never played Monopoly by myself, that’s for the truly insane. [laughs] So, the earliest game that I remember where I was actually going about it with some sort fo active process in mind was with a game called MLB Showdown. I think this was in 1999 when MLB Showdown came out. This was Wizards of the Coast, and it was baseball cards, except you could play a game of baseball with the baseball cards. It was SO much fun. I loved it. Baseball is one of my hugest passions, and this was when I was playing baseball all the time, six days a week for multiple hours per day. Yeah, MLB Showdown, I love that game so much, I am sad they discontinued it. How does baseball work in card form? So you have the players and they have a couple of different statistics on their cards. They're split into hitters and pitches. The hitters have an on-base number and the pitchers have a control number. To simulate a player at bat, the pitcher rolls a d20 and take the result and add it to their control, the batter rolls a d20 and they take the result and add it to their on base number. Whoever wins that roll has advantage. So that simulates a pitching count where a hitter will be at an advantage in “the showdown.” They also have a chart where you have different results that can happen. So both hitters and pitchers have different charts and their charts will be better the better the player is. The chart has a roll result for your action at that at bat; strike out, ground ball, fly ball walk single, single plus double triple homer, for both the pitcher and hitter. So after you figure out who has the advantage, that player rolls the dice to see what happens for the at bat. If the pitcher wins, they roll the die, they take the result and look up on their chart what happens. So pitchers, everything below a 16 is usually an out; the really good pitchers, everything up to an 18 is an out. Whereas, if the hitter gets the advantage then it is usually 1-6 would be an out and 18 or higher is a homer. So you play out a game of baseball like that: Rolling a d20. That sounds like an RPG system! It is. It is an RPG system. It was actually my first introduction to an RPG system. I had never really played Dungeons & Dragons before that point. You fell in love with MLB Showdown, so how did that roll over into creating your own games? Right, so… Basically, I became so enthralled with this game that I wanted to do two things with it. One was that the rules didn’t encompass all of the intricacies of baseball like I wanted it to. It wasn’t just rolling dice, you also had a strategy deck and you would draw something like three cards per inning. The cards would be something like "steal a base" or "give a bonus to your swing if you have a lefty batting and a righty pitching," stuff like that. But because it was a deck, it was random. That didn’t make much sense to me. Like, if you are trying to play the advantage of having a lefty versus a righty, that’s something you plan in your lineup. It’s not a random thing that happens. I built out rules for a lot of these things that weren’t in there. I had a whole bunch of stuff, like I added in a chance for an error or- So you were modding this game, but in the tabletop sense rather than the digital one? Yep! [laughs] So then then next thing that happened was that the game was discontinued in... 2005, I think it was. Every year that the new set came out, I was always so excited that I would buy a whole booster box at a time to try to get all the players that I wanted. Not being able to do that made me so sad that I went online. I found forums dedicated to this game and people who had basically taken all of the stats for previous years and scienced that into the formula that Wizards of the Coast used to create these cards. I made some tweaks to that on my own for some of the stats. I went out and bought the baseball reference almanac. This thing is probably 8 inches thick, it’s basically a phonebook. It has every single player that has played the game of baseball, their entire career stat lines from 2005 to the 1850s. So, once I had my formulas, what I would do is every night before I went to bed I would just open to a random page and make that players card for at least players. [laughs] I guess that in and of itself it wasn’t very innovative, but… You were making your own game! You saw this game wasn’t being made anymore and decided to take matters into your own hands. That’s awesome! You went about making this game; did you wind up with a handmade, functional deck that you could use to continue playing MLB Showdown? So I just wrote them down on index cards, basically, so yeah I would play with the index cards when I had enough of my handmade cards to form a team. I never went so far as to try to print them out or get pictures of the players and put them on the cards. I know right now that you develop tabletop games in your spare time. That’s not a very common hobby. A lot more people these days seem more interested in developing video games. You hear about struggling indie devs, but that’s almost always in the digital sense. So how did you go from being a kid making your own MLB Showdown to someone who does this more seriously? Okay, so, I guess tabletop games are what I did growing up. We didn’t have video games in my house until… Dreamcast was my first gaming system. It was always board games and stuff first, that was what we did with family, you know? As I got older, I started shifting more toward video game stuff, especially when World of Warcraft came out. That was basically my life from 2004 until 2009. [laughs] When I went to college, I didn’t really have a solid idea of what I wanted to do. Up until that point, it had always been, “I’m going be a baseball player!” and when reality set in that that probably wasn’t actually going to be a thing that was going to happen, I had to take a step back and decide what I was actually going to do with my life. I really had no idea, I feel like I still don’t. We had to do this for a math class in high school. We had to pick out an engineering field that sounded interesting and do a presentation on it. The field I did was aerospace engineering and, yes, the list we were given was alphabetical. I pursued that my first year at college and didn’t really like it, so I was looking for something else to do instead. I had computer science classes in high school; I didn’t do as well in those as I did in my other classes, but I still enjoyed being on the computer. I liked typing at the bare minimum. So I figured, well, okay, I like video games; maybe I could make video games. I’d need a computer science degree to do that, so I decided to give that a shot. I liked it better than aerospace, but I didn’t like it so much… I always felt a little bit estranged from the rest of my classmates in C. Sci. because they always seemed to be really into the theory of computer science programming. Whereas for me, it was more of a means to an end rather than an actual passion. I was considering switching again until I took AI 1, AI turned out to be the thing that kept me in computer science because it was such a cool application. I was thinking that AI would be the path for me into making games. I applied for internships at Blizzard, Riot Games, a ton of places, but I never got any of those internships. That’s when I realized that I had picked something that is incredibly hard to get into. That all got put on the backburner when I got done with school and needed to figure out what to actually do with my life in the immediate sense to survive. That’s how I got the job I have now. While I was there, some of the people I was working with, we became good friends – they liked board games and stuff, too. I think I had brought Pandemic the board game to work, and we played it at work during lunch one day. [..] That got us talking a bit about games in general. They had been interested in making video games, as well. I don’t know how we got onto this, but we started talking about Mario Kart as a board game. I was just… I dunno, the lightbulb came on and I was like, “This is totally doable. We should make this!” That’s how it started. We just sat down at lunch with a deck of cards and started trying to figure out what that would look like. I really like thinking about those types of problems. Thinking about how something could be modeled as a game mechanic is really enjoyable to me. So taking Mario Kart and dissecting it to its smallest pieces and figuring out what that looks like on a tabletop – that’s basically how it began. How would items work as a game mechanic? Well, you could have decks of cards, maybe specific items, but then you start thinking about all the little things. Like, in Mario Kart, if you’re in last place you are going to get a better item than someone who is in first place. We kept solving all of those little problems and eventually we had something that was playable. That was when we actually printed out- we found a picture online of an aerial view of a Mario Kart track and printed that out on a piece of paper at work. Then we went to a local game store and bought a random bag of random assorted shapes for pieces. We gave each piece a role in Mario Kart, like this is a banana, this is Donkey Kong, etc. We made that, and it was a ton of fun. It was really fun to play. Eventually someone asked me, “What are you gonna do with this now?” And I was like, “Well, I don’t know. We were kind of just making it for fun, but it would be really cool if we could do this and make money off of it.” That’s when it became less academic and more what would it actually take to do this for real? That’s when I started getting more serious about it. Taking classes online, reading books, going to conventions, all that stuff. Did you ever try to pitch Nintendo the Mario Kart game? No, we did not. We never actually figured out how we should go about doing that from a legal standpoint. So it seems like you got into game design because of the problem solving aspect of it; how you go about making mechanics that reflect the core conceit of a given idea? Yes and board games in particular because I don’t love programming. As time has gone on, that’s become more and more true. Making a game, a video game, is such a large task. There are still some games that I would like to make that would be digital. However, ultimately one thing that I’ve realized is that board games can achieve something from a social aspect that I don’t think video games will ever be able to replicate. Maybe there’s a VR game in the future that can get there, but… it’s not the same experience. There are certainly things a board game can do that a video game can. I’ve found myself appreciating the social aspect of board gaming more as the differences between the two have become clearer to me. So what are some things socially that board games are better at than video games? Board games allow for a lot more creativity. It’s based a lot more on the people playing than the rule set. You can have the best crafted rule set and people will still tweak it to their own means, like I did. [laughs] That’s good and that’s fun. You can make it what you want to make it. Video games, just by the way code has to exist for a computer to run a program. It’s very, very difficult to get that same sort of dynamic environment. Just being able to house rule something – you can’t do that as easily in a video game as you can in a tabletop game. Right. What are some of the lessons you took away from building your own board games? The biggest takeaway is that the first 80% is easy and the last 20% is nigh on impossible. [laughs] That’s an exaggeration, but getting that last 20% completed, polished and functional, is very hard and takes a lot of time. By that do you mean the production end of things? Getting it a nice looking box and pieces, is that the hard part or are you still talking about the rules, mechanics, and systems? The rules, mechanics, and systems. To get something that other people will like, you need to playtest it a lot. You need to playtest it with a lot of different people. Everyone is going to have different opinions on it; I’m sure it’s true of video game development, as well. That’s something that we, as a group, have struggled with. We have never been short on ideas, but we have always had trouble taking something past iteration X. What becomes the major stumbling block? Part of it is the group of people that we have. We’re idea people, not get-it-done people. It’s hard to identify when something isn’t working- how do I describe this? When something isn’t working and you know it’s not working - a mechanic, a system, whatever. Is it an inherently flawed idea or does it just need tweaks? Because it if it is inherently flawed you should just scrap it and move on to the next idea or you just end up trying to iterate on this thing forever. We did the latter the first time through, where we just iterated on Mario Kart forever, but never actually solved the problems that we were having with games taking too long. For a lot of the other games, we might have been too quick to throw out ideas without iterating on it. It’s a hard balance to find. And it seems like it would be harder to playtest those problems outside of your development group without the resources of a publisher. It just seems like it is easier to find people to QA a game that’s digital. Yeah, you can just release the code and have thousands of people who will playtest it. Whereas with me I’m basically begging people to please play a board game with me for an hour. [laughs] What are a few of your other game projects you’ve been knocking around? The other one that we got the closest to comple- actually it was a completed game. Our working title was Death Train. It was basically a train race. We had this idea where it would be cool to have this mechanic where you have a train and you are racing against other trains on parallel tracks. The mechanic is that you are physically moving your train along this track back and forth by adjusting your speed and how you align with other players on the tracks is how you interact with them. We had this thing were you’re building cars as you’re going – we called it a train builder as opposed to a deck builder – you are building your train as you go. Your cars would be anything from an extra engine to a tesla coil that zaps adjacent train enemies. That one was actually really fun and it was pretty much working. The problems we ran into with that one were that we were trying to do a little bit too much. We didn’t want it to just be a race; we didn’t want it to be just a battle. We wanted there to be multiple paths to victory, kind of eurogame it. We added in victory points and all this other stuff that muddied the waters a bit too much. Do you just then leave that entire idea behind and move on? Or what happens when you hit that 80% mark? It goes on a shelf, basically. A lot of the things I’ve read in my pursuit of more knowledge of game design, I guess there are different schools of thought on it, but there are a number of people who like to have multiple games that they’re working on at the same time and advocate for that. […] The idea behind having a bunch of games that you’re working on at the same time is that you’d be working on Game C and you come across an idea that might be applicable to Games A, F, and G. Then maybe you can revisit those games and cycle along with it. I like that, but it’s a slow churn through that last 20% with that method. And the alternative is trying to brute force your way through the last 20% which is also grueling, just in a different way? Yes, exactly. You mentioned game design resources. In terms of books, lectures, forums, or whatever, what have you found to be the most helpful for designing tabletop games? There is a specialization track on Coursera from the California Institute for the Arts. I took that, it’s four courses, four weeks each. That got me a lot more insight than I had going in. I didn’t start doing this until after we finished Mario Kart and kind of when we started hitting the first roadblocks on Death Train. That’s the point where we got to where we needed to take a step back and figure out what it was we were doing instead of Wild Westing it or whatever. Coursera was one of the first places I went for that. I really enjoyed that specialization. It was really fun and I learned a lot from it. The next best was probably a book, “The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design” by Mike Selinker. The book, specifically, is more of a book of interviews with a bunch of different game designers and taking their opinions on a bunch of different things. It’s cool to see what Steve Jackson is thinking when he’s starting to make a game. That gives you some insight into what you’re doing well or what you’re not taking into account that you could be. Oh, and also, there’s a podcast that I also started listening to around the same time. That’s Designer Notes. Designer Notes was actually probably one of the most influential. It might also be one of the most accessible of the ones you mentioned. Yes. [laughs] So having done all of this, having gained experience in designing these games, what would you recommend people do if they want to get into designing a tabletop game? What are your first steps? Your first steps are to get something made and on a table in front of people to play it. The most progress that we as a group have actually made is just by actually doing. You learn so much more about what works and what doesn’t when you’re actually sitting at a table trying to play it. You can have what seem like the best ideas in the world, take it to the table, and they don’t work. Then you’re back to square one. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get something to a playable form as quickly as possible. Even if it is absolutely horrible, as long as you can play it, you’re learning something from it. You aren’t actually learning what you think you might be learning until you’re actually playing it. What does it mean to get something on the table when it is first draft of a tabletop game? I think some people struggle with that; how do you make a thing? It depends on the game, it depends on so many things. Taking an idea and seeing if the simplest form of that idea translates to a board game or a card game or what have you. It could be taking random scraps of paper and finding out, “What’s an interesting way to have these things move around a track?” You’re just sitting there, literally rolling dice and seeing what is fun. That’s what game design is: It’s engineering fun. What would you tell someone to do – they are getting their game past 80%, maybe they are even at 100% – how do you make this game into a sold-for-money board game? That’s a part that I haven’t got to, so take my advice with a grain of salt. There’s Kickstarter, but that has a whole bag of intricacies by itself. You could write to publishers.... These are more advanced steps. I guess it depends on how you got to that feeling of 100% done. Have you had a whole bunch of people playtest it? And when I say a whole bunch, I mean hundreds of people playtest it, not just friends, but random strangers, people who had the rules and people who don’t have the rules. If you haven’t playtested the game, then I don’t think you’re at 100% yet. So playtest, playtest, playtest. If you are truly at the point where it is as good as it can be and no more playtesting is going to help that, then I think your next steps are one of three things – at least things that I have been looking at doing myself. The first is conventions. Here in Minneapolis, that’s Con of the North. At pretty much any tabletop convention, there’s going to be a space for playtesting, games that are known to be in prototype phase. People sign up to play knowing it is not necessarily a completed game. This is a great way to get more playtesters and feedback, but it is also a good place to make contacts and maybe run into a publisher that you might be able to pitch an idea to, stuff like that. Speaking of publishers, pitching your idea to a publisher is an option. You have to do your research. You have to know what kinds of games the publisher has published in the past, what kinds of games they’re publishing now. It has to fit with their MO as a publisher and what they have in their pipeline already. Then the last one would be Kickstarter. Kickstarter is the one that will make you the most money if it’s successful.... Probably. All the caveats. Yeah, I can’t say that with certainty. At least you are controlling that entirely yourself. You’re not selling your idea to a publisher. There’s a lot of hoops to jump through with Kickstarter to get that to work and it’s risky. One of the things we have learned from conventions is that to produce a board game at scale is very expensive. If you’re talking a medium sized board game with some components and a board, you are looking at $60,000 to get that game produced. If you are going to Kickstarter, you’re going to have to ask for less than that, significantly less than that, as your goal. People have done all kinds of research as to what your goal value should be to get people to contribute to your Kickstarter and stuff like that. If you end up going that route and it’s unsuccessful and already footed the bill for $60,000 worth of production, then you are going to be in trouble. You have to know what you’re doing with the Kickstarter. Do you have any final words to add? That kind of ended on a downer note. I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom, “oh, this is so hard, expensive, and risky.” Ultimately, I think it’s worth it, no matter what. One of my favorite things that I’ve read in my perusal of these resources. If you make a game, that game is going to be at least one person’s favorite game. There is absolutely at least one person in the world who would consider your game their favorite. Just think about that and think about how happy you’re making at least that one person. There’s nothing quite like enjoying your favorite game. It’s even better when you can see other people enjoying something to that degree that you have made. Almost like you’re giving back to all the games that you enjoyed; putting your own little bit of that in the world. The world can be a pretty crappy place sometimes, so if you can make it even a little bit happier sometimes, then I feel like that’s worth it. --- Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  6. Extra Life's annual Tabletop Appreciation Weekend has arrived! In honor of the weekend, we have put together a short campaign with Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition called Dragonguard. Join Naomi Lugo (Nomsooni the druid), Marcus Stewart (Scratch Mangy the ranger), and Kyle Gaddo (Barphus the bard) as they don the armor of the illustrious Dragonguard, sworn to defend and protect the realm of Alterra from the dragons at their doorstep. Jack Gardner serves as the Dungeon Master, guiding our heroes through their journey. The adventure begins with three newly trained members of the guard on the road to the small village of Verne where draconic activity has been sighted. Kobolds move far from their swampy homes, people have gone missing, and tensions are running high in the lead up to the queen's annual festival in honor of her coronation. A fell fog envelopes Verne every night... what machinations churn along in the misty dark? If you want to get a sense of how great a time tabletop roleplaying can be, you're invited to enjoy the adventure along with us. The initial plan was to play through this self-contained adventure in one sitting and post the entire campaign on Tabletop Appreciation Weekend. However, in true organic roleplaying fashion, that did not happen and it turned into so much more. This weekend will see the release of six episodes covering the adventures of the Dragonguard as they investigate signs of a possible dragon invasion. Intro and Outro music: "Furious Freak" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  7. Extra Life's annual Tabletop Appreciation Weekend has arrived! In honor of the weekend, we have put together a short campaign with Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition called Dragonguard. Join Naomi Lugo (Nomsooni the druid), Marcus Stewart (Scratch Mangy the ranger), and Kyle Gaddo (Barphus the bard) as they don the armor of the illustrious Dragonguard, sworn to defend and protect the realm of Alterra from the dragons at their doorstep. Jack Gardner serves as the Dungeon Master, guiding our heroes through their journey. The adventure begins with three newly trained members of the guard on the road to the small village of Verne where draconic activity has been sighted. Kobolds move far from their swampy homes, people have gone missing, and tensions are running high in the lead up to the queen's annual festival in honor of her coronation. A fell fog envelopes Verne every night... what machinations churn along in the misty dark? If you want to get a sense of how great a time tabletop roleplaying can be, you're invited to enjoy the adventure along with us. The initial plan was to play through this self-contained adventure in one sitting and post the entire campaign on Tabletop Appreciation Weekend. However, in true organic roleplaying fashion, that did not happen and it turned into so much more. This weekend will see the release of six episodes covering the adventures of the Dragonguard as they investigate signs of a possible dragon invasion. Intro and Outro music: "Furious Freak" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  8. natelink0700

    Disabled Gaming

    Hello, I am a Senior at Prairie Ridge High School, in the school's capstone Engineering class, Engineering Design and Development (PLTW). My group has chosen to work on a product for people that can't use or have trouble using standard controllers. Our first step in the engineering process is to validate the problem exists. Seeing as Extra Life is such a large organization for the niche we are looking into, we would like your help in getting a simple Google form out to the people this charity benefits. If anyone could share out this form to any gamers that are physically disabled, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Nate Link Link to Google form: https://goo.gl/forms/2TL2egC3kLSHE42O2
  9. Timothy Bumpus

    Summer Game Day 2018

    until
    Summer Game Day 2018!This is the Syracuse Extra Life Guild's inaugural FREE gaming event, taking place on Saturday, August 11th from 11AM-8PM at Play the Game, Read the Story's 689 North Clinton Street location (next to Spaghetti Warehouse). As usual, we'll be having a great time playing tabletop games and video games all day long, all for a great cause - 100% of proceeds from our charity raffles goes to Extra Life, which supports the Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital right here in Syracuse!Summer Game Day 2018 will feature:Hundreds of board games for free play - games for novices and tabletop veterans, and everything in between! Our host Play the Game, Read the Story will be offering a Buy 1, Get 1 50% Off sale on board games for attendees of Summer Game Day!Classic video game free playCharity raffles - tons of awesome games and merch up for grabs, raffle baskets with items donated from The Syracuse Extra Life Guild's amazing sponsors including Thundergryph Games, Geek Fever Games, Kinsoul Studios, Brotherwise Games, BlueOrange Games, Exploding Kittens, CMON, & Cheapass Games - Tickets are $1 each and 100% goes to Extra LifeA board game tournament - Iquazu! Iquazu is an easy to learn, super fun 4-player game by our friends at Haba with waterfalls, gems, and water dragons! Winner will take home a copy of the game! Kinsoul Studios, creators of Alkemia and Steepseers, will be present demoing their games Thundergryph Games and Geek Fever Games will be there, with Dead Man's Doubloons demosSnacks and beverages available for a small donation to Extra LifeThis is a very KID-FRIENDLY event and we'll have lots of kids games available.Remember - this event is FREE, and 100% of everything we raise goes to charity! Head over to Facebook and join the discussion there too: https://www.facebook.com/events/277869996298842/
  10. It's hard for people to game if they don't have reliable control over two hands. That very simple premise has given rise to various organizations like dedicated to hacking traditional controllers or even fabricating entirely new and specialized controllers on an individual basis for wounded veterans, people born with disabilities, and those who have been through traumatic accidents. These groups, like AbleGamers or Warfighter Engaged, have spent years working to find solutions for people who love gaming, but find it difficult or even impossible to use a traditional controller. Yesterday, Microsoft announced something amazing: The Xbox Adaptive Controller. This device will release later this year and can be customized to a very wide variety of specialized peripherals to create set ups that anyone can play with regardless of physical ability. The back of the controller has clearly labeled plug-ins for a variety of external buttons, switches, and joysticks that can then be physically placed anywhere for the most convenient use by the player. It can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC titles and supports button remapping. It can even save three different game profiles so that it can switch seamlessly between different game types on the fly. Solomon Romney, a retail learning specialist for Microsoft, has had months to test out the final build of the Adaptive Controller. "I can customize how I interface with the Xbox Adaptive Controller to whatever I want," he said. “If I want to play a game entirely with my feet, I can. I can make the controls fit my body, my desires, and I can change them anytime I want. You plug in whatever you want and go. It takes virtually no time to set it up and use it. It could not be simpler." Romney was born without fingers on his left hand, which makes operating a traditional controller difficult. "I get to redesign my controller every day and get to choose how I want to play. For me, that's the greatest thing ever." For Microsoft and the people who worked on the Adaptive Controller, this is the culmination of years of effort to justify the creation of a niche peripheral designed for an often under-served group of gamers. The journey began back in 2014 when Twitter, through a twist of fate, connected a Microsoft engineer with Warfighter Engaged, a nonprofit that works with wounded veterans to keep them gaming. The organization's founder, Ken Jones, was a mechanical engineer and struggled to create gaming equipment to meet the specific needs of all the veterans who came to Warfighter Engaged seeking help. That connection blossomed into an awareness at Microsoft for this underlying need in the game industry for accessible gaming equipment. The next year, Microsoft held its annual Ability Summit, an event dedicated to getting the company to consider accessibility in its devices and solutions. For a hackathon tournament, the winning entry was a device that was able to work with the Kinect to track movement and read those as button and joystick inputs on a traditional controller. Another team took that idea and refined it into a prototype device that could attach to an Xbox One controller and allow other input devices to be connected. Around the same time, Microsoft launched the Gaming for Everyone initiative with the goal of broadening the community of people who can play and enjoy games. Headed by Kris Hunter, the director of devices user research and hardware accessibility, and Bryce Johnson, a senior Xbox designer, the initiative worked quietly to make the Adaptive Controller a reality. What really solidified the idea of what the Adaptive Controller would eventually be was the launch of the Xbox One's Copilot feature in 2017. Copilot allows players to link two Xbox One controllers as if they were one device. The original idea was that it would allow players to play a single player game together without transferring a controller back and forth. However, they discovered it was also used by those with disabilities to game in creative ways Microsoft hadn't expected, such as using a head or foot to operate the second controller. That realization brought together all of the different ideas that Microsoft had been toying with since that chance 2014 Twitter encounter. Instead of using a device like that from the hackathon or the subsequent controller add-on, Copilot could be used to attach a device that allowed for more flexible gaming inputs that could cater to a wide variety of people. Making a device like that would allow for it to be sleek, elegant, even. It wouldn't be an afterthought, but a fully executed and produced device worthy of the Microsoft brand. Those pushing for the device to make it to retail apparently met with internal opposition to the idea, but advocates like Kris Hunter wouldn't let the idea die. "I had a passion for it and I didn't give up," she said. "I kept saying, 'This product is too important. [...] If we really want to be intentional and we really want to walk the walk versus just talk the talk, this is the product that will do it." Microsoft turned to the nonprofits who had helped bring this niche to light at the very beginning. Warfighter Engaged, AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, Craig Hospital, and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, came together to consult on how to best design a controller that would fit the needs of the people they worked with every day. Ideas like spreading out the 19 input jacks across the back of the device to make them easier to differentiate, a rectangular shape to make it comfortable in a gamer's lap, or threaded inserts to secure the controller to a standard wheelchair, lapboard, or desk all came about from conversations with these nonprofits. The The design process even led to something Microsoft is considering adding to all future products - a groove above each port to provide a tactile reference for where things are supposed to be plugged in. "One message heard clearly from the accessibility community was 'don't infantilize the device' — don't make it look like a Fisher-Price toy," said Bryce Johnson. "People often don't want to use adaptive technology because it looks like a toy." That became a guiding principal behind the design of the Adaptive Controller. First and foremost, Microsoft wanted the Adaptive Controller to be something proudly carrying the brand as a symbol; something that adults wouldn't feel embarrassed to use in front of friends or family. With a price of $100, the Adaptive Controller positions itself as the most affordable option for those looking for accessibility solutions in gaming. The price is an important to keep in mind for all of the hospitals and patients out there who previously needed to find a custom build for their particular needs or forgo gaming completely. If the work we're doing to raise money for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals through Extra Life can go toward helping kids rediscover their ability to game with the help of the Xbox Adaptive Controller... well, that's an incredibly exciting thing. The Xbox Adaptive Controller will release later this year and we will likely receive more details when E3 rolls around. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  11. It's hard for people to game if they don't have reliable control over two hands. That very simple premise has given rise to various organizations like dedicated to hacking traditional controllers or even fabricating entirely new and specialized controllers on an individual basis for wounded veterans, people born with disabilities, and those who have been through traumatic accidents. These groups, like AbleGamers or Warfighter Engaged, have spent years working to find solutions for people who love gaming, but find it difficult or even impossible to use a traditional controller. Yesterday, Microsoft announced something amazing: The Xbox Adaptive Controller. This device will release later this year and can be customized to a very wide variety of specialized peripherals to create set ups that anyone can play with regardless of physical ability. The back of the controller has clearly labeled plug-ins for a variety of external buttons, switches, and joysticks that can then be physically placed anywhere for the most convenient use by the player. It can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC titles and supports button remapping. It can even save three different game profiles so that it can switch seamlessly between different game types on the fly. Solomon Romney, a retail learning specialist for Microsoft, has had months to test out the final build of the Adaptive Controller. "I can customize how I interface with the Xbox Adaptive Controller to whatever I want," he said. “If I want to play a game entirely with my feet, I can. I can make the controls fit my body, my desires, and I can change them anytime I want. You plug in whatever you want and go. It takes virtually no time to set it up and use it. It could not be simpler." Romney was born without fingers on his left hand, which makes operating a traditional controller difficult. "I get to redesign my controller every day and get to choose how I want to play. For me, that's the greatest thing ever." For Microsoft and the people who worked on the Adaptive Controller, this is the culmination of years of effort to justify the creation of a niche peripheral designed for an often under-served group of gamers. The journey began back in 2014 when Twitter, through a twist of fate, connected a Microsoft engineer with Warfighter Engaged, a nonprofit that works with wounded veterans to keep them gaming. The organization's founder, Ken Jones, was a mechanical engineer and struggled to create gaming equipment to meet the specific needs of all the veterans who came to Warfighter Engaged seeking help. That connection blossomed into an awareness at Microsoft for this underlying need in the game industry for accessible gaming equipment. The next year, Microsoft held its annual Ability Summit, an event dedicated to getting the company to consider accessibility in its devices and solutions. For a hackathon tournament, the winning entry was a device that was able to work with the Kinect to track movement and read those as button and joystick inputs on a traditional controller. Another team took that idea and refined it into a prototype device that could attach to an Xbox One controller and allow other input devices to be connected. Around the same time, Microsoft launched the Gaming for Everyone initiative with the goal of broadening the community of people who can play and enjoy games. Headed by Kris Hunter, the director of devices user research and hardware accessibility, and Bryce Johnson, a senior Xbox designer, the initiative worked quietly to make the Adaptive Controller a reality. What really solidified the idea of what the Adaptive Controller would eventually be was the launch of the Xbox One's Copilot feature in 2017. Copilot allows players to link two Xbox One controllers as if they were one device. The original idea was that it would allow players to play a single player game together without transferring a controller back and forth. However, they discovered it was also used by those with disabilities to game in creative ways Microsoft hadn't expected, such as using a head or foot to operate the second controller. That realization brought together all of the different ideas that Microsoft had been toying with since that chance 2014 Twitter encounter. Instead of using a device like that from the hackathon or the subsequent controller add-on, Copilot could be used to attach a device that allowed for more flexible gaming inputs that could cater to a wide variety of people. Making a device like that would allow for it to be sleek, elegant, even. It wouldn't be an afterthought, but a fully executed and produced device worthy of the Microsoft brand. Those pushing for the device to make it to retail apparently met with internal opposition to the idea, but advocates like Kris Hunter wouldn't let the idea die. "I had a passion for it and I didn't give up," she said. "I kept saying, 'This product is too important. [...] If we really want to be intentional and we really want to walk the walk versus just talk the talk, this is the product that will do it." Microsoft turned to the nonprofits who had helped bring this niche to light at the very beginning. Warfighter Engaged, AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, Craig Hospital, and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, came together to consult on how to best design a controller that would fit the needs of the people they worked with every day. Ideas like spreading out the 19 input jacks across the back of the device to make them easier to differentiate, a rectangular shape to make it comfortable in a gamer's lap, or threaded inserts to secure the controller to a standard wheelchair, lapboard, or desk all came about from conversations with these nonprofits. The The design process even led to something Microsoft is considering adding to all future products - a groove above each port to provide a tactile reference for where things are supposed to be plugged in. "One message heard clearly from the accessibility community was 'don't infantilize the device' — don't make it look like a Fisher-Price toy," said Bryce Johnson. "People often don't want to use adaptive technology because it looks like a toy." That became a guiding principal behind the design of the Adaptive Controller. First and foremost, Microsoft wanted the Adaptive Controller to be something proudly carrying the brand as a symbol; something that adults wouldn't feel embarrassed to use in front of friends or family. With a price of $100, the Adaptive Controller positions itself as the most affordable option for those looking for accessibility solutions in gaming. The price is an important to keep in mind for all of the hospitals and patients out there who previously needed to find a custom build for their particular needs or forgo gaming completely. If the work we're doing to raise money for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals through Extra Life can go toward helping kids rediscover their ability to game with the help of the Xbox Adaptive Controller... well, that's an incredibly exciting thing. The Xbox Adaptive Controller will release later this year and we will likely receive more details when E3 rolls around. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  12. stodd.ELBoston

    Anime Boston 2018

    until
    Anime Boston ***Schedule Subject to Change*** Schedule for Anime Boston FRI Manager @stodd.ELBoston 11-6 PM @The Guat 11-6 PM @Anino 11-6 PM @alleenc 11-6 PM @Serolis SAT Manager @aradiadarling 9-2 David DiMare Messier 9-2 @alleenc 9-2 @DMo2TheMax 9-2 @Robop1g 1-6 @Serolis 1-6 @SassyJ 1-6 Taylor 1-6 @KriptiKFate 1-6 @FobWatch00 1-6 @JustSkoink SUN Manager @aradiadarling 9-2 @SassyJ 9-2 Taylor 9-2 @Serolis 9-2 @DMo2TheMax 1-6 @KriptiKFate 1-6 @thats_spinach 1-6 @Zander207 1-6 @EdFries
  13. 1d4con

    1d4Con 2018

    until
    1d4Con returns to the Northern Shenandoah Valley region for a 6th year to provide lots of gaming fun, happening April 13th through 15th, 2018. We will be at The Holiday Inn of Martinsburg, WV (again), which means there is a lot of space for tabletop RPGs, LARPs, board gaming, and miniatures gaming. D&D Adventurers league and Pathfinder Society are both planning to have a huge presence again this year, but we also have plenty of other traditional and indie rpgs for you to enjoy! This year we will also be providing a miniatures Paint & Take sponsored by FLGS, "Your Hobby Place". Our charity for this year is Extra Life and there are various ways that you can donate; including participation in our "Games of Charity" Boon tickets for designated games, playing Charity marked games that cost a couple dollars over the badge fee to play, as well as Charity Raffles with awesome gaming items donated by a variety of sources. Preregistration is open until March 31st through Tabletop.Events. Those who preregister have early access to sign up for all posted games and the ability to purchase shirts until March 15th. Join us for a fun-filled weekend of gaming greatness in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley! All badge sales are handled at Tabletop.Events: https://tabletop.events/conventions/1d4con-2018 Find out more at http://1d4con.com
  14. Sarah

    Guild Game Night (Online)

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    Join us in the Extra Life Baltimore Guild Discord channel on Friday, when we'll pick some random games to play and hang out as a team! We'll stream the event and get to know each other better. Games TBD, and anyone can suggest what they'd like to play!
  15. Sarah

    Super MAGFest

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    MAGFest is the most targeted event hosted in the Baltimore/D.C. Metro area, with 20-25,000 attendees - all of whom have a love for gaming! To read more about MAGFest, check out this article on Wikipedia or the MAGFest site for Super MAGFest. This is our first time participating with the MAGFest organization, but we're thrilled for the opportunity and hope we'll be included in future events! We have no idea what to expect from this event compared to our other major cons in the area, so please be patient as we're likely to encounter hiccups in the process this year. Further, many of us attend cons at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, but we have never volunteered an event there. We're likely to encounter some growing pains! MAGFest has graciously provided us with a free table and four free dealer badges in their Marketplace area. We have no way to anticipate the traffic we may get at this event, so it's possible the table may be slow, or overwhelming. MAGFest has some required staffing hours, but the Marketplace is open 24 hours during the event. For this first year, we plan to staff the table for the minimal hours and collect data for next year's event. PLEASE MAKE SURE TO READ THE SECTION ABOUT FOOD AND POTTY BREAKS - THE GAYLORD IS NOT AS CONVENIENT FOR FOOD AS THE BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER OR THE WALTER E. WHITE CONVENTION CENTER! COVERAGE As this is our first time at this event, it is CRITICAL that you are on-time for your shift, particularly since we are only covering the minimum hours. Please let @Sarah know immediately if you don't think you'll be on time for an opening shift. As-needed Break Coverage @LittleSith Wednesday Between 5:30 PM - Midnight - table setup only @Sarah Thursday 1:30 PM - 7:00 PM @Sarah @Ceraph1216 Friday 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM @Ceraph1216 @Aaron 1:00 PM - 7:00 PM @NodnarbDude Saturday 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM @Sarah 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM @Emokidcries Sunday 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM @Emokidcries 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM - breakdown/load out only @Ceraph1216 Setup and load-out instructions will be provided to volunteers working on these processes only. PARKING There is plentiful parking in the area within convenient walking distance. It is unlikely you will need to walk more than about 5 blocks. It is strongly recommended that you pre-purchase parking so it is not sold out prior to your volunteer shift. Parking can be purchased through National Harbor's parking reservation site here: https://nationalharbor.clickandpark.com/venue Parking will cost between $14 and $20 per day. Reserving your parking ensures you will have in/out privileges during the time you are parked. Volunteers who will be driving to the convention will incur out-of-pocket parking expenses. These parking expenses will not be reimbursed, however they can be written off at your end-of-year tax return as volunteer expenses. Please be sure to request a receipt if you use cash-paid event parking. Retain a copy of your receipts for your tax records. PUBLIC TRANSIT I was unable to locate useful Public Transit information for getting to National Harbor. It appears that shuttle services are available from Reagan National Airport. It may be best to travel as close as possible to the area via MARC train and hire an Uber/Lyft/Taxi to your final destination. ATTENDING PANELS, CONCERTS, EVENTS, AND EXPLORING THE CONVENTION At this time, we are not entirely sure if the industry badges provided by MAGFest will allow normal access to panels and events. This section will be updated with further information as it becomes available, or you may be notified via text message during the event. During your volunteer shift (especially since coverage is going to be minimal), you are not permitted to use your badge to attend events or panels. You are expected to be present at the table and actively recruiting future Extra Life participants. Before or after your volunteer shift, you are welcome to explore the convention. If you attend an event, please be sure to remove/conceal your Extra Life name badge. Before, during, and after your shift — especially every minute that you wear that convention badge — you are representing Extra Life, Johns Hopkins Children's Center, and the Extra Life Baltimore Guild (and in this area, Children's National as well). MAGFest has generously waived their fees for us in order to make it possible for us to attend and volunteer at this event. It is very important that we maintain a great relationship with the staff at MAGFest so that we can continue to attend. Remember, you are representing a children's charity. None of us would judge you for attending certain 18+ events, but you shouldn't be attending it using a badge donated for professional use. Use common sense, and check with @Sarah if you aren't sure if the panel or event you'd like to attend is appropriate. LUNCHES AND POTTY BREAKS If you need to take a quick bathroom break and you do not have backup coverage at the booth, please take any loose valuable items with you (i.e. laptops, tablets, cell phones). There will be a small lock box available in our booth as well. If you have backup coverage at the booth and need to leave to get food or take a bathroom break, please be courteous and let the other volunteer know that you are leaving the table. The Gaylord is notoriously expensive to purchase food at, the number of vendors inside the Convention Center is limited, and the lines are horrible. Seeking food offsite includes an inconvenient walk and even longer lines. If you don't bring food, you may not have an opportunity to eat. This is the number one issue with the Gaylord National Resort! Please be sure to pack snacks or a decent, fulfilling lunch and plenty of beverages. Better yet, bring a water bottle. You will have opportunities to refill it throughout the convention. SIGNING UP TO VOLUNTEER This event is currently fully staffed. We need one volunteer minimum per shift to start off with, however extra coverage during periods would be appreciated! For additional details, please message @Sarah, @NodnarbDude or @Ceraph1216. Volunteers will receive ongoing updates and instructions throughout the week and during the convention. Thanks so very much for donating your time and energy for the kids!
  16. Anyone else having fun playing this? Anyone interested in grouping up for said game?
  17. until
    We are the stream team MTG Brewers Spark. We specialize in Magic the Gathering content. We try and keep it clean so everyone can enjoy and watch. This is our first year working with Extra Life but have worked with other charities before. We will be doing a 2 part Event. First Saturday will be the online gaming portion. Were we will be on Magic Online playing user submitted decks and other fun things. We will be passing the down time with other fun games with users. Sunday will be our Live event. Like we do every Monday night we will be having a 12 hour+ live event. We will have many different variants of MTG being played. I hope everyone can come out hang out and spread the word! Our Stream is http://www.twitch.tv/mtgbrewersspark. See you there!
  18. aradiadarling

    Tag Your Gaming/SM Accounts!

    Hey Boston Guildies! We want to collect everyone's gamer tags and social media accounts in one location for future gaming and online shenanigans. If you want in on this list, leave a reply to this post with any and all accounts you want to tag. I'll pin it so it'll be easily accessible. Share your profiles! Add new friends! Play games! <3 - Angela, your fearless VP
  19. aBigScaryDino

    Miami Kick-off Event!

    Hey there everybody! I'm excited to announce that Nichlaus Children's Hospital, with the help from our local Microsoft Store, will be hosting an Extra Life kick-off event at the hospital this coming Monday, September 25th. This event will be a chance for the kids currently at the hospital to hang out, play video games and party along with the community as a way to raise awareness for Extra Life. This is a kid friendly event, happening from 5 to 7 pm, a perfect way to round out your Monday, get those after school jitters out, and have a fun time. You can see the Facebook event here! Feel free to message me if you have any questions! I'm really excited for this event, and I hope to see a great turn out! -Alex "aBigScaryDino"
  20. Nerdology5280

    Extra Life at Dreamhack

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    Yes you heard it right. Dreamhack one of the worlds largest gaming events is coming to Denver and Extra Life will be a part of it. We are still working out the details of this amazing event but in the meantime check out the links below for the sign up and more info. Stay tunedEvent Sign Up: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/10QrovuqUAIaSKgmPE7L9RPEohs6i_P4OHs55c_kcEt8/edit?usp=sharingDreahhack Denver: https://denver.dreamhack.com/17/
  21. The Nerd Stash Team presents our 2nd Marathon for Extra Life! Our MEGA stream of 36 Hours of Gaming begins tomorrow at 12 PM EST. A special pre-show starts at 9 AM EST, so come by show your support for the cause and help give back for a chance to win some awesome prizes! All Donations will support our hospital, The Kentucky Children's Hospital. Watch our Stream on https://www.twitch.tv/thenerdstash. Hope to see everyone drop in and if you would like to donate directly, visit http://bit.ly/ExtraLife2017. #forthekids
  22. I will be hosting a gaming marathon for 24 hours. A variety games will be played from Rocket League to PUBG. There will be giveways for anyone who donates money towards Charity event. Even with a $1 Donation to the event will get you entereed into a prize giveaway during the stream and you will have supported a great cause. We will be working together to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Every day CMNH treats kids with trauma, diabetes, cancer, surgeries and babies with NICU. Our donation goal will be $1000. The company I work for will also Match any donations we contribute the the event!! I hope everyone of you can add this into your calenders and tune in for some of the event. Thanks for you time and support everyone!!
  23. Has science gone too far? Last week, KFC India uploaded a teaser for their newest innovation: Gamers Box 2.0. This strangely compelling item is a boxed meal and drink combo with half of a gaming controller protruding from either end. Customers can make use of a slot on top of the box to fix their smart phone in place and have a ready-made gaming set up along with their food. Despite the name, I can't find any evidence of a Gamers Box 1.0 (the only search results are for a 2004 horror film called Gamerbox 1.0). The Gamers Box 2.0 operates wirelessly with bluetooth technology, so people who obtain it can use it right out of the... right beside the.... I guess just use the box period. There's no word on when or if the Gamers Box 2.0 will be coming to the west. Would you buy one if it did? I have to admit that I have a morbid curiosity to see what it would be like to try playing games with a box filled with chicken. I've done a lot of things in my life, but that hasn't been one of them... yet. View full article
  24. Has science gone too far? Last week, KFC India uploaded a teaser for their newest innovation: Gamers Box 2.0. This strangely compelling item is a boxed meal and drink combo with half of a gaming controller protruding from either end. Customers can make use of a slot on top of the box to fix their smart phone in place and have a ready-made gaming set up along with their food. Despite the name, I can't find any evidence of a Gamers Box 1.0 (the only search results are for a 2004 horror film called Gamerbox 1.0). The Gamers Box 2.0 operates wirelessly with bluetooth technology, so people who obtain it can use it right out of the... right beside the.... I guess just use the box period. There's no word on when or if the Gamers Box 2.0 will be coming to the west. Would you buy one if it did? I have to admit that I have a morbid curiosity to see what it would be like to try playing games with a box filled with chicken. I've done a lot of things in my life, but that hasn't been one of them... yet.
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