Cubicle Snakes and Angry Bosses Beware!

Arena Screenshot

In this day and age, you can find almost anything to occupy your time.  Whether at work or home on the couch; social games, online gaming, MMORPGs, consoles, all can be accessed on phones, tablets, and laptops.  Most employers put in place firewalls to keep their drones focused on the tasks at hand, going so far as to block Facebook, sports websites, and other social media outlets.  Well, if you are one of those who can’t kill those zombies, save the princess, or defeat the big boss while you are stuck in your cubicle, have no fear.  An MBA student in Canada has saved the day.

Cary Walkin has created an amazing turn-based RPG for Windows Excel.  Though it is simple in commands (arrow keys to move, click the sword to attack, etc.), it is really quite fun to play.  You face all sorts of enemies from raccoons, to zombies, to dragons (and even a couch potato).

Growing up on Super Mario and other SNES games helped fuel Walkin’s passion for gaming.  Upon entry into his MBA program and after taking a course on advanced spreadsheet modeling during his studies, he quickly realized that he now had the technical skills to go along with his passion to make a great game.  He spent five months working on Arena before launching the game.  A few hours a night was all it took, and boom, he had his masterpiece.

Game play is simple.  All you have to do is open the program and it will ask if you want to play (kind of like Joshua from  “War Games”), you enter a name for your character and immediately you are hit with a scroll.  It’s from your lady (or knightly) friend, bringing you up to date on the story (why you are receiving the scroll and what the arena is) and how to play.  I asked Walkin where the idea for this came from, “I was influenced by George R. R. Martin, with the idea to have fleshed out characters with their own desires and motivations.It’s the only game where the player can have an emotional connection with a spreadsheet.”  What you get are fantastic pieces of the story, interwoven into the simple, yet engrossing game play.

In arena you have levels, you beat the enemy on that level, you get stuff (new weapons, healing potions, etc.)  After a few levels, you get a boss.  Beat the boss, you go higher and higher.  Throw in some wonderfully written scrolls throughout the game play and before you know it, you’ve wasted your morning on Arena when you should have been working on those TPS reports.

Check out Cary’s newest version of Arena, with new keyborad controls here

Secret Passages, Sleeping Dragons, and the Wonderful World of Fantasy

fantasy maproleplayingThe Iron Throne

Seattle is known for a lot of things…awesome coffee (although Portland would take umbridge), a great music scene (again, see Portland and throw in Austin), a lot of rain (though it’s not that bad, honest), some good and some not-so good sports teams, a bit of angst, some serious food issues (good and bad), and one of the best sci-fi/fantasy scenes in the country.  It touts more sci-fi books sold in the metro area than any other city in the country.  Throw in larp’ers, the ECCC, and some of the best table-top game stores I’ve ever been in, and I whole-heartedly agree, Seattle is king when it comes to science fiction.  I mean, come on, Shadowrun is based in Seattle!  While there are some awesome scenes in the Emerald City, the best place to come to see some amazing sci-fi memorabilia, other than Paul Allen’s basement, is the EMP.

The Experience Music Project & Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame (EMP/SFM) is located right downtown at Seattle Center, in one of the funkiest buiildings you’ve ever seen.  I took the monorail (a remnant from the World’s Fair) into Seattle Center and literally right through the EMP Museum.  How awesome is this museum?  As I write this, I’m sitting next to Kara Thrace’s (aka Starbuck) civilian clothing and am within arm’s reach of Yoda’s cane and Neo’s creepy flying cloak from The Matrix II.

When I heard that they were bringing the Fantasy:  Worlds of Myth and Magic exhibit to town, I knew I had to check it out.  The EMP is famous for fantastic exhibits on music, pop culture, and geeky goodness.  I have already been to the Avatar and Battlestar Gallactica exhibits, and only just recently saw the Icons of Science Fiction and The Lure of The Horror Film.  Those alone are reason enough to visit (and I will give the Icon exhibit its due in another post), but The Fantasy exhibit is breathtaking.

Just to give you a hint at what you can expect…The Iron Throne welcomes you to the exhibit hall and the docents are giving out Magic: The Gathering card packs.  I had to lean against the wall and calm myself.  The exhibit itself is based on the premise of twenty archetypes of fantasy: The Fool, The Anti-Hero, The Damsel, The Shade, etc.  Each exhibit piece focuses on an archetype, whether it’s Snow White’s prison dress from the Huntsman (Damsel)  or Xena’s battle gear (Warrior Woman), each piece give a great explanation.  You can even answer a few questions (Where were you born?  What drives you?) and an interactive film board will tell you what archetype you are.

archetypesThis exhibit cover all the bases;  dark ominous lighting, eerie sounds in the distance, pine needles on the floor, secret passages, Adalinda the sleeping dragon (pull her tail and she will wake up…no lie!!!), swords, costumes, and beautiful imagery, including a tree made of scale mail.

You want original concept art from comics like Fable and The Unwritten?  They got it.  Tolkien fan?  You can see his original timeline for The Lord of the Rings, broken down into three categories, Frodo/Samwise, Gandalf & The Others, and Orcs & Enemies.  There are pages of his original manuscript for The Hobbit, and even a sketch of the elven runes above the door to Moria.  They cover the authors, which include Tolkien and his Inkling compatriot C. S. Lewis, world building with George R. R. Martin and Terry Brooks, and you can even see costumes from The Wizard of Oz, The Princess Bride (Dread Pirate Roberts outfit and The five-fingered glove included), and even David Bowie’s most excellent Goblin King cod piece from Labyrinth.

There is beautiful artwork from WoW (Blizzard is an exhibit sponsor), Starbuck’s founder, Paul Allen’s personal collection (including a giant map of Middle Earth), and portraits of Danaerys Stormborn and the bastard Jon Snow.  You can even build your own map and pick up a copy on your way out (for the low, low price of $9).

My favorite(s)?  A tie between Connor MacLeod’s sword from Highlander and the most wonderful discovery that Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner put out an album called Spaced Out:  The Very Best of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner (I’m buying on Itunes if it’s available).  I had no idea.  The exhibit also covers all sorts of music inspired by fantasy; “Who Wants To Live Forever” by Queen, “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin, “Tale of Ulysses by Cream”, and the aforementioned album by James T. Kirk and Spock (which includes the “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”).

Nimoy & Shatnerthe goblin king

The greatest part of the exhibit is that it truly plays to all levels of imagination.  Whether you are a child, a fanboy, or discovering the genre for the first time, you will love this exhibit.  My only criticism is that it wasn’t nearly enough.  It left me aching for more, which is probably why they put the gift shop right outside the exhibit exit.  Three bumper stickers, two books, and a Firefly (shiny!) t-shirt later, and I am a happy fella.   Now, throw in the other exhibits:  The Art of Video Games, Icons of Pop Culture, Nirvana, The History of The Leather Jacket, and the always illuminating exhibits on Seattle’s favorite son, Jimi Hendrix, and you just had one of the most awesome geeked out days of your life.

For more information, please visit the EMP Museum at www.empmuseum.org

Swords of Highlander & Princess Bride

Structure is the key to Shiny

So, I’ve been working on several posts, but unsure as to how I should approach things around here.  To say the least, the amount of content that can be covered is staggering.  Just the things that I know I like, certain types of video games, movies, books, etc.  could fill up posts for months.  I am in the depths of sensory and content overload.

So, in an effort to maximize the content and what I cover, write about, etc., I have come up with 7-10 posts that I would like to do each month.  Here are my categories:

Artist of the Month – Cosplayer, costumer, photographer, artist, writer…if they create, I want to cover them.

Game of the Month – I have limited access to all types of games, but I do play computer, MMORPG, XBOX, and table games.  This will be a chance to cover the ones I love and also step out and experience a few that I’ve always wanted to check out but just haven’t.

Movie of the Month – I’m a Sci-Fi and Fantasy freak.  If they carry a sword, have beautiful (yet dangerous) female aliens, or just create storylines and awesome special effects, I’m in.

Book of the Month – Like I said, a freak.  I’ve started delving into older novels and short stories, focusing on some of the fathers (and mothers) of sci-fi and fantasy writing.  I’m into Philip Dick and Orson Scott Card at the moment, but have been known to devour some Walking Dead and other comics/graphic novels on a whim.

Television Show of the Month – So many to choose from!!!  Old school like the original Battlestar to Quantam Leap….toss in some Firefly and Highlander, and I can kill a beautiful Saturday with nothing but swords, six-shooters, and time travel.  I am obsessed with The Walking Dead, Revolution, and Defiance at the moment, but really want to start cracking into Stargate and Dr. Who.

Event or Place of the Month – Living in the Pacific Northwest affords some great opportunities to go to special events and experience some amazing places.  Whether it’s delving into conventions, cosplay events, or just checking out the newest play to let your proud geek flag fly, I want to check’em all out.

Miscellaneous of the Month – whether it’s a cool kickstarter, a funky app, or some weird or new way to play games, I’m gonna give it a shot.

Random thoughts, links, art, and humor – I love a good laugh, a thoughtful essay, or a new way to think or look at a universe, content, or storyline.  These will pop up more often than just one a month…there’s just too much geeky goodness out there not to bring it to folks’ attention.

So, this bring me to my question for anyone who might be reading this post…

What should I read, watch, check-out, experience in these categories?

What is something you’ve always wanted to know more about but didn’t know who to ask?

What game, genre, book, or movie do you think is mind-boggling fantastic, but nobody has ever seen or hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves?

Please, please, please let me know.  As a 30-something, freshly out of the fan boy closet, I need help, and I have the enthusiasm and energy to tackle just about anything out there.  There’s a lot I don’t know about, so please, enlighten this poor, pitiful mind of mine.

Would love to hear your comments!!!  Don’t forget to be a big damn hero today!

Ready Player One…

I am, or have been most of my life, a closet “fanboy”.  I’ve always been a gamer and loved comic books, but growing up in the south where football and sports were king, identifying as someone who’d rather spend their time slaying dragons or reading Lloyd Alexander, C.S. Lewis, and Madeline L’Engle books never seemed like the play to make if you wanted to survive the social jungle of High School.  Lately though, and I would have to say over the past fifteen years, I have started embracing my inner geek a bit more.  Mostly through my writing, which has fueled by my passions….video games, sci-fi and fantasy books and movies, and comic conventions and cosplay.  It started with comics and Star Wars figures.  GI Joe and He-Man were next, and I steamrolled into everything fantastical I could consume, though keeping my inner self a secret.  From there it was off to college, and my first foray into Dungeons & Dragons…which ultimately sent me over the edge.  And the funny thing is, I just happened into to it.  I joined a fraternity in college and one quiet night I was wandering the fraternity house and, per usual, knocked on a door and just went in.  What I found were four of my closest friends hunkered down around a table with notebooks, tiny figures, and a shitload of dice.  My best friend was cordoned off in a corner, looking like the others, but with stacks of books which I later learned were D&D Source manuals.  They greeted me with controlled suspicion, not realizing my secret.  I played dumb, asked what they were doing and if I could watch.  They told me, said yes, and so I sat on the edge of this fantastically created world, sipping cheap beer, and completely enthralled with the concept of dreams you have as a kid being played out in a dungeon on graph paper.  After that, I created my first character, Thanos Half-Elven (was reading Dragons of Autumn Twilight at the time and for some reason identified with Tanis), and I wandered the world with Klangedden Red-Beard and many other amazing characters, monsters, and villains.

That’s where it really started.  From there, with the invention of the Playstation, came obsessive video game play, more novels read (continuing with The Dragonlance Chronicles by Weiss & Hickman), and full immersion into role-playing games with my other fraternity brothers, who like me, were a bit hesitant about sharing their affinity for D&D.  After college I moved to Mississippi, another mecca for football, fried food, and no imagination.  However, two important things came into my life during this time; Tolkien and Harry Potter.  There was an old drive-in outside of town and I went to see a double feature one Friday night with a friend.  The first movie was Pearl Harbor starring Ben Affleck (wish I could get that three hours of my life back), but the second movie was The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.  I had never read Tolkien, nor had I really wanted to do so.  I was very much against anything people told me I “had to read” or “had to see”, so anytime someone pushed Tolkien on me, I pushed back.  But, I thought I could sit through the movie, at least.  Not only did I sit through the movie, I think I had a hard-on the entire time.  How had I missed this?  I was hooked.  I immediately went out and bought book upon book about Middle-Earth and have never really left.  Harry Potter came to me on vacation with my family.  My nephew had just finished the first book and I found it lying outside on the deck.  Again, I had pushed back against Harry and Muggles, and Voldemort, but I decided to take a look.  Again, hooked.    I read books 1-3 right there in the sand and after reading about Rowling’s story, was determined to be a writer again.

So, since then, I have reconnected with the G.I. Joe Team, The Avengers, The Walking Dead, galaxies far, far, away, Hobbits, Dark Lords, Final Fantasies, Mud-bloods, mutants, and the Browncoats of Serenity Valley.  I have crushes on Mara Jade, Selphie Tilmitt, Marvel Girl, and several wenches from Tamriel.  I’ve wasted countless hours immersing myself in games like Shadowrun (RP and Video Game), Skyrim, Shining Force, and Final Fantasy.  I’m writing again, and most of it is Sci-Fi and Fantasy.  I just finished Phillip Dick’s masterpiece Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and watched Bladerunner for the first (and definitely not the last) time.  And who do I have to thank for all of this?  Ernest Cline, the man who penned Ready Player One.  A fanboy himself, he has, in my opinion, captured my childhood in book form.  I plan on writing a review of the book in a later post, but thanks to Cline, I am now ready to drop the quarter in the game and hit player one.

So, what’s this all about?  Well, I plan on discovering all the things I’ve been scared to look for over the course of my life.  I’m in my 30s now and intend to make up for lost time.  So, if it resonates with the fanboy, geek, dork, nerd, indoor-kid in me, i’m gonna enjoy, immerse, and write about it.  Roleplaying games, video games, books, movies, art, cosplay, comicons, genres, and all the things that go with it…and more importantly, all the people and their stories that go along with it as well.  I also plan on revisiting all the things that I loved as a kid, books, movies, so on and so forth.  I’m particularly excited about seeing Willow for the first time in about twenty years.  So, read on, Player One.  And may the odds be ever in your favor.