Gaming With A Cause: Ability 2016 & BrigadeCon 2016

I am awestruck with how much the gaming community has become actively more inclusive in recent years. It is because of charities like The AbleGamers Foundation and Child’s Play that gaming is spanning generations and breaking new ground in accessibility. This post is short notice, but I would be remised if I didn’t talk about some wonderful charity events that are happening in October.

Ability 2016:

This is a charity event put on by The AbleGamers Foundation and it’s TODAY, October 8th.

It’s a 24 hour streaming event sponsored through Twitch. You can go, register, and become a donor group. You can also donate directly on their website. You can start streaming a game via Twitch, and raise money for all the technological advancements that AbleGamers keeps delivering time and time again. The control scheme market wouldn’t have changed without their efforts, and I am proud to see how far they have come in recent years.

Ability_2016.jpg

I won’t be able to participate in streaming this year, but I urge you to check out what some awesome groups are doing today to raise money. I am sure you’ll find a game you’ll enjoy watching, or even a story that touches your heart. These players are phenomenal human beings. The thought that just one day of donations can get one accessible controller into a kid’s hands warms my heart.

Go support some amazing gamers and enhance the gaming community: Ability 2016

BrigadeCon 2016:

Now this charity is also one near and dear to my heart. I live, breathe, eat and sleep tabletop gaming these days. BrigadeCon was started back in 2014, and now it’s into it’s third inception and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this. The proceeds go straight towards Child’s Play, and it’s a charity that hits extremely close to home. I remember being that kid. I remember sitting in recovery rooms, having to find anything to occupy me while I recovered from surgery.

Gaming was my outlet. It was a way for me to connect with others in my worst moments.

We give back games, toys, movies, and interactive experiences to kids who are stuck in the hospital dealing with extremely trying, and emotional experiences. Child’s Play provides a sense of home, a sense of normalcy in a chaotic moment in a child’s life. I remember how much they did for me when I was growing up and I am so thankful for Seattle Children’s Hospital for starting such an amazing organization.

BrigadeCon 2016 is a 24 hour online gaming fundraising convention on October 29th.

All the games will be streamed via Youtube.

BrigadeCon 2016 aims to surpass everything we’ve done in recent years though, which is why you should be a part of it! You should care about it and get involved! If you love tabletop gaming as much as we do, I urge you to head over to: http://www.brigadecon.org; sign up, and register to be an attendant. You could run an event, play in a game, sit in on some EPIC panels – it’s all up to you!

Here is my buddy, Barker aka BeABetterGamemaster, to explain a bit about BrigadeCon:

I am going to be running a game and hosting a panel on voice acting this month.

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I hope to see you all there! Go out, game, and may that game make a difference in a life.

 

PNW RPG Research – RPG Therapy

In a previous blog post a few years ago, I mentioned the social and developmental benefits of roleplaying games.

Tabletop gaming has come a long way in terms of popularity, and I’ve found that there is research out there that supports the use of tabletop gaming as a form of therapy. I want to thank, Nate from WASD20, for bringing the following organization to my attention.

On January 29th, 2016 – PNWATRA comes to Portland, OR.

ATRA

The American Therapeutic Recreation Association specializes in providing rehabilitation and recreational therapy services to promote health and wellness in patients. I am fascinated by ATRA’s work, and I wish I could attend this year. Presenter, Hawke Robinson, will be presenting a discussion on RPG’s as a form of Modality Therapy.

It may not appeal to everyone, but I urge you to take a look at his former presentation, or even visit his seminar this year. He gives insight to how we can take the RPG community to a level where it goes from just a fun past time, to a meaningful, viable form of therapy for people with OT/PT/ST treatments.

The social interactions alone speak volumes and, I can say from personal perspective, that I would have loved to have RPG’s as a form of therapy in my youth. A patient dealing with modality complications can improve their confidence, social interactions, mobility, and interpersonal goals in recovery through RPG therapy.

The RPG community is vastly becoming viral, mobile, and inclusive via Facebook, Google+, and Youtube. If patients/players are wanting a more face to face interaction though, I highly recommend you check out this wonderful project being headed up near my own neck of the woods:

THE RPG TRAILER:  https://www.gofundme.com/rpgtrailer

This project is being headed by Robinson in Spokane, and unfortunately, he hasn’t seen enough traffic to make this happen. It’s been 7 months, and not much has changed. Hawke, I love what you’re doing sir and I want to see this come to life. RPGs offered so much for me as a child and, even now, as an adult.

It means so much to me that you’re passionate about this goal of inclusion and developmental research. I want to reach out and help promote this goal, because I know many more than myself could benefit from such a wonderful service. If you ever need a DM to help run games for this when the trailer is finally finished, please feel free to contact me.

God Bless you Hawke!

You make so many people’s lives better through this research.

It’d be a blessing and a joy to bring recreational enjoyment of RPG’s to others!

If there are others out there, who would love to experience 5E, Call of Cthulhu, or many other RPG’s and use it as a form of therapy, I recommend checking out the Tabletop RPG One-Shot Group or Absolute Tabletop, or – if you’re into Star Wars: The Tides of Change Roleplaying Game Club. All of these groups are highly inclusive and provide opportunities for online gaming experiences to all.

This loving, caring, fantastic group of individuals has really helped me open up socially, and I know that they’re willing to introduce and embrace others in the love of RPG’s.

Let’s help Hawke achieve his goal, and may your dice roll high!

 

Game of the Month: That Dragon, Cancer

Cancer.

It is a perplexing demon that seeps into the lives of even the most innocent. A tar-like dragon that rears its maw, and devours our hope. It attacks the ones we love the most, and it tears us from them, unceremoniously. In a year that’s already started off with many of our beloved musicians and actors succumbing to cancer, I wanted to take the time to share a game that truly evokes the challenges that cancer brings with it. I hope that the personal story of developers, Ryan and Amy Green, touches you and moves you to be inspired as it has me.

joel_1

I had been following the developers of That Dragon, Cancer since they started their Kickstarter campaign for the game back in 2014. I was immediately drawn to the personal story and emotional love letter that the Green family had created for their son. It tells the emotional journey of their family as they dealt with the devastating news that their son, Joel, was diagnosed with AT/RT. An aggressive form of brain tumor that would require tireless hours of care to try and combat, when he was only one.

joel_2

In March of 2014, Joel passed away. In the wake of this tragedy, The Green Family made it through with faith and hope. They decided that the best way to honor their son was to share with the world their personal journey: the joys, the falls, the faith, and the feels. It’s all present, and I can’t even begin to express how beautiful I think this game is. It’s not just a game, and so I can’t rate it as I would others.

This is a family’s journey.

A way to give hope to those who are also dealing with these ordeals in life.

A look at faith, family, and much more.

I could go on and discuss the game mechanically, visually – the surrealist artistry of how you take this journey through a series of emotional mini-games, but I won’t. I can’t say enough about this game. It’s breaking the boundaries of what we consider “classic” game motifs. That Dragon, Cancer, defies AAA titles and states that games can be far more evocative than developers had ever imagined. Ryan and Amy, I am honored to have played your game and it brought me to tears. Your devotion and faith is astounding and That Dragon, Cancer should be seen/played/heard by as many people as possible.

In an era where cancer is devouring, you are bringing faith and hope back to people. Your family is showing that, even in times of deep distress, faith can change anger into hope.

God Bless you Green Family!

I highly recommend you pick this game up. It was released on January 12th, which would have been Joel’s 7th birthday. It’s currently on Steam, PC, and Ouya for $14.99. It’s one of the most beautiful expressions of love, hope, and faith that I’ve ever seen in gaming and I hope that, through their testimonial, we’ll be able to finally shed light unto that Dragon’s lair – and end cancer, and it’s hoard, once and for all.

That Dragon, Cancer: http://www.thatdragoncancer.com/preorder/

Family: http://www.thatdragoncancer.com/our-family/

Blog: http://www.thatdragoncancer.com/thatdragoncancer/

 
Now, I’m going to eat pancakes in honor of Joel, as I wipe my tears from my face.

Inspirational Gamers: A Knight’s Tale

It is rare that we find aspects of our life that evoke so much passion for us on a daily basis. I recently read a series of articles written by blogger T.R. Knight and his wife, Angie. These articles were so moving and evoking of what I aim to shed light on in the gaming universe that I couldn’t hesitate to share them with you all. I hope you read through these articles and you share in the same joy, respect, and admiration that I have for this couple’s commitment to each other in gaming and in life.

T.R and Angie

T.R. Knight is a fellow blogger and gamer whose personal journey in gaming brought me to tears the first time I read his article. He and his wife, Angie, are living a gamer’s life and making it work even through the struggles of MS. Angie was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in July 1997, and yet, that hasn’t slowed down this couple’s love and drive for gaming. It is their passionate and loving story that I am so attached to. Tabletop gaming has become an outlet for them, as it helps fit within Angie’s current MS symptoms.

I will admit, as a writer and gamer, I never thought that tabletop gaming could be used in this fashion. A therapeutic, social interaction that allows for those with agility/mobility and memory issues to still be active within the gaming community. T.R. and Angie are sharing with me a whole new outlook on how to run games, what aspects to focus on, and what styles of gaming are most accommodating to patients with MS. I am blessed and honored to be sharing their story with you now.

T.R. has taken it upon himself to give a valuable resource of MS symptoms and how they have impacted Angie and their gaming life in his most recent blog. Angie has also taken to his blog and posted her personal perspective on what games appeal to her. I’m going to definitely take these aspects into account as I go forward and progress as a game designer. I hope, T.R. and Angie, that one of these days I’ll have helped a company build a game, or design my own, that both of you will be able to enjoy.

Please feel free to read through all their articles, as they are a joy to read and offer amazing insights into a side of the gaming universe I think many of us rarely see, or forget exists.

Freelancer and Care Giver: Freelancer and Caregiver

Accessibility in Game Design: Accessibility in Game Design

Angie’s Perspective: Angie’s Perspective

T.R., you are truly a knight among men sir. I am honored to be among your supporting guild, and will continue to share the knowledge you and Angie have to give the world. God bless you both on your path as family, loving companions, and exceptional gamers!

 

Accessibility for All. Happy gaming to you and your family!

Rolling Up Confidence: The Benefits of Tabletop Gaming

It was only a matter of time before I dusted off my old dice bag, poured out my set of multi-sided dice, and actually talked about a different venue of gaming – tabletop gaming. Tabletop gaming has been a part of my life for quite some time, but only recently have I come to admire and appreciate what tabletop gaming has done for me as a grown man.

I recently found some wonderful videos that details how Dungeons and Dragons can make you a more confident person. I felt like I should share them with my readers, because I feel like tabletop gaming can share so many benefits that video games just don’t provide a player.

PBS Idea Channel – How DnD Can Make You A Confident and Successful Person:

A Fistful of Dice Dungeons and Dragons – Satan’s Game [ A Misconception of Tabletop ]

Here’s a list of the positives, see if you disagree with me here:

  • Social Interaction
  • Problem-Solving Skills
  • Visualization and Innovation Techniques
  • Adaptability 
  • Stress Relief
  • Increased Confidence
  • Increased Sociability 
  • Increased Sense of Achievement
  • Increased Communication Skills

Now I know you’re probably all reading this and going –

“Seriously? How does rolling dice do all of this for me?

I thought DnD was for nerds only!”

– as if it was some exclusive club we were officially shunning folks from. In actuality it’s a pretty open format available to pretty much anyone who’s willing to open their evenings up to an evening filled with goblins, gnomes, and epic adventure stories that seem to be pulled straight from the pages of The Hobbit. The great thing about tabletop gaming is that, now, there are so many variations and styles of tabletop game – you’re kind of hard pressed to find something that you won’t like. Whether it’s the new-school Pathfinder, or the old-school DnD 1st Edition – you’ll find something to wet your creative imagination.

I started playing DnD – or variations of it – about 8 years ago. I got hooked on video games like Neverwinter Nights, Baldur’s Gate, and other RPG games. The one aspect I found most fascinating was the concept that I could play as anyone, or anything I wanted – within reason – and I could journey on these exquisite quests with lavish adventures with other characters that had lavish personalities. It was like a small oasis of sanity in a time in my life where I felt quite misunderstood and uncomfortable with who I was as a person.

I was never confident growing up, and those who perceived that I was must have massively failed a Will save at my Bluff skill. DnD and other roleplaying games helped me to define that portion of my life. It produced a sense of confidence in me, because nothing said I could take on the world more than the success of defeating a raid of orcs just before school – acquiring a date or two would have been too – but I digress…

I think that’s ultimately the point I’m trying to share here:

Tabletop games are fun for your soul. 

I know that sounds fleeting, but hear me out. In comparison to online FPS’s, RPG’s, etc. You are in a room with your fellow friends [ If they aren’t your friends, well then I hope they become them. ] so you’re already gaining social interaction. You’re gaining SELF-CONFIDENCE due to an increased feeling of endorphins from succeeding in a roll check or doing some epic feat in front of the entire party. You’re gaining REAL WORLD PROBLEM SKILLS as you search to find a way to defeat a band of rogues on a road – together – and now you’re learning COLLABORATION.

My final point is:

Roleplaying games provide social and individual acceptance.

Embrace it. Love it. Learn it. Go Play it. A Campaign can be ANYTHING you want.

Imaginations are only limited by the person, not the rules.

You’ll learn to love who you are as you roll along. Now get out there and roll some d20’s!

Gamification: Gaming from Youth to Adult

Gamification. If you’ve been around my blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that’s one of my favorite new definitions. I’ve been so intrigued by gamification, and one of my new favorite terms: Includification, that I decided to work on finding sites and activities that promote just those activities. If you’re a new viewer, or you have no idea what I’m talking about at this point, then let me give you a brief update what these terms mean.

Gamification:

1. The use of game design techniques, game thinking, & game mechanics to enhance non-gaming contexts.

Includification:

1. An ideology that content should include everyone, regardless of ability.

2. Design so that everyone can enjoy and appreciate the fruits of creative labor.

I started thinking if there were any places where these terms could be fully utilized, and I think I may have just found a couple of sites that are available to help do just that. Let’s start with the young ones first, because the earlier you can start a child’s education the more prepared they’ll be in the future. I’ll then go into detail about a wonderful site designed for adults to keep our minds sharp, focused, and energized.

For The Kids [ Preschool – Kindergarten ]: ABCMouse.com

If you’ve never read my article on gamification featuring Gabe Zichermann, he details in his lecture how gaming can actually make kids smarter. I couldn’t agree with him more and so, when I saw a commercial for ABCMouse.com, I knew I had to cover the site at some point. ABCMouse.com is an interactive hub for digital learning designed for early children’s learning. The curriculum is vast, so if you’re worried that it’s just a single subject site [ math, english, reading, etc. ] don’t worry – it has it all. I’ve looked over the site and it seems to be extremely accommodating to both children and parents alike.

Here’s a list of the possible curriculum that your child may see:

  • Reading
  • Math
  • Art
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Phonics

Each of these curriculum are presented in ways that make the educational process engaging, entertaining, and meaningful to the young student in training. Children will learn via online books, puzzles, games, and interactive printable materials that parents can use to continue your child’s education offline. The site is completely 100% child safe, and parents can even take part as an active participant in their child’s education.

Welcome to class kids! Get ready to learn!

The site utilizes personalization factors such as:

  • A personalized avatar for your child
  • A lesson builder so parents can control lesson plans
  • A progress tracker so parents can see how their child learns
  • A ticket and rewards system for children to reward them for success
  • Interactive learning activities that make learning feel personal
  • Recordable book options to make reading with your child a new experience.

A place of learning even a mother could love!

The site is backed by certified doctors and teachers and you can enroll today for either $7.95 per month, or $79.00 per year. You and your child will have a blast with these fun, easily accessible, and engaging new site. Now – as for you parents, don’t feel left out. If you find yourself feeling a little foggy after all of your time spent with your child’s education I think I’ve found a site for you too!

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Tech Talk: An Eye on the Ouya

Well, I took a vacation from posting – as some of you may have noticed. It’s the summer though, so you can’t blame me for getting out there in the ‘world‘ and living a little. Among the things I missed out on covering, one of the most thrilling pieces of news to come out of this was:

The Ouya

With a plethora of gaming consoles already on the market, and mobile gaming making nearly every phone in the world into a mobile gaming mecha, the prospect of new technology always intrigues me. Last week the Ouya was announced via a Kickstarter campaign, and it practically made my ears pop off with intrigue. If you’ve not heard of what the Ouya is I’ll detail it for you in brief, and I’ll include the nice shiny trailer video too:

Now what does this mean for the future of gaming? Well, in my opinion, it just means to make the gaming world more impressive. I don’t think the intention is to wipe out Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo. Those companies are megaliths of the industry, so I highly doubt it’ll put a dent in their revenue streams. The idea that the system is going to be using a ‘free-to-play’ and mobile business practice model is entirely up my alley!

I think I had a dream like this once… so glad it’s coming true!

I love hearing the word ‘developers’ used when discussing consoles. I think often times there’s so many hurdles to jump through to get a game onto a modern console these days. Developers feel intimidated by the high cost of publishing rights and the loss of artistic freedoms vs. company control.It’s no wonder that, in this day and age, mobile game development and the Android market system look so appealing.

The Ouya business model looks promising too:

The company will take a 30/70 percent split for any game you produce and want to port to console. This, to me, is fantastic. Here’s why. You get to craft and develop  a game for Android software, which is a highly accessible marketplace. As a developer, you’ll be pulling 70% back in revenue towards any sales of your game. This blows my mind folks!

Considering that there’s no manufacturing fees, no hardware fees, etc. because all of the games will be digital download/free to play streamed it makes so much more logical business sense from a development stance. If you cut out certain expenses, you can reduce the size of fees, and increase the productivity and quality of development. The specs don’t look remarkably fantastic, which is a bummer.

Sleek, refined, and shiny – seriously what else do I need?

If you’re a developer hoping for some Sony PS3 style next-gen graphics engine, then you’ll probably want to stand in line waiting for a publishing house to clear you. If you’re like me though, and a newbie developer, this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’ll give me a chance to bring designs into folks homes, rather than porting them to flash computer sites.

Here’s the Ouya’s specs:

  • Tegra 3 quad-core processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 GB Flash Storage
  • HDMI input that supports up to 1080p HD
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth LE 4.0
  • USB 2.0
  • Wireless Controller w/ standard controls + touchpad
  • Android 4.0 

Now while I’m infatuated with the idea, of course I’m still skeptical. Any new technology is going to make a person nervous before they can actually see it in action. I’ve been hearing rumors that Valve may be releasing their own Steam Box console for homes as well and, if that’s the case, we many have a battle on our hands. The Steam market is already highly prolific and loved by many gamers and devs alike – so Ouya is going to have to claw to prove that their product is superior early on. My biggest suggestion to the development team would be this:

Includification.

Mark Bartlet, President/Founder of the AbleGamers Foundation, coined this term two days ago in an article he wrote for their site. I couldn’t be more in agreement with his statements, and if you want to read the full article you can. Essentially, Barlet discusses the term of ‘accessibility’ and sometimes how that term can make development seem difficult, frustrating, and down right hard. He decided at a recent conference that he’d try and devise a different approach to how developers look at games and coined this term.

Includification means:

1. Making sure content includes everyone, regardless of ability. 

2. Design so that everyone can enjoy and appreciate the fruits of creative labor.

In the case of the Ouya, I see tons of potential here to be played with. The idea that the entire system is open to tweaking and hardware reconfiguration, peripherals can be toyed with, etc. It’s like a game developer’s LEGO set! I think if the Ouya staff, and future developers for the console, focus on the idea of includification the console will succeed. The games, and hardware, need to be versatile – flow with the accessible punches so that it doesn’t become an ‘exclusives’ war like the major console brands.

If I were designing for the Ouya, I’d be design for kids like him. Inspiring!

Gaming should be for everyone, and if developers and hardware designers can work together I don’t see why games can’t include ALL types of players. I can’t wait to see what comes of this system, and you’ll bet I’ll probably own one at some point. The price point is set at around $99.00 at the moment, and that’s a wonderful price for the plethora of games they wish to display near launch time. There seem to be tons of major developers in support of the project, and so I can only say I’m one of the indies waiting to get my hands dirty with this new IP.

Developer Profiles? Well that just makes it all the more impressive!

Here’s to you Ouya! You’re shaking up the status-quo and I hope that it brings game development to new levels! You’ve already raised up past $5 MILLION dollars with 3 WEEKS to go – so RUN with these funds and MAKE it happen! THIS DEVELOPER would love to see it in his living room – that’s for certain. If you believe that the Ouya is the future of in-home gaming – feel free to stop by their Kickstarter and dump a little love to their console dreams!

Sincerely,

Chad K. aka Gastrogamer