A blog that sometimes exists and sometimes doesn't, by Mike Selinker.

1st August 2014

Video with 20 notes

MARIAN CALL SINGS MY “TOM LEHRER’S THE ELEMENTS II”

We did this song at w00tstock. It’s something I wrote as a companion piece to Marian’s Marian Call Sings the Classics project. For everyone who asked, here are the annotated lyrics.

TOM LEHRER’S THE ELEMENTS II

by Mike Selinker and Marian Call

Now, if I may digress momentarily from the main stream of this evening’s symposium, I’d like to sing a song which is based on Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements.” I did find it a bit restrictive that Mr. Lehrer limited himself to substances that actually exist. Here’s a version of that song, but with a slightly different set of substances.

There’s isogen and necrogen and mithril and vibranium,
And arcanite and kryptonite and also unobtanium,
Latinum, gundanium, jumbonium, chelonium,

And carbonite and corbomite and scrith and wonderflonium,

Energon and metatron and flubber and shazamium,

Naquadria and claudia and also adamantium,

Vizorium, rodinium, sakuradite, and nucleon,
Stealth ore, ghost rock, Rearden metal, dragonbane, and phlogiston.
Dilithium, trilithium, phazon, and amazonium,
Bombastium, pizzazium, melange, and randomonium,
Illudium Q-Thirty Six, ice nine, and thiotimoline,
Oxium and octogen and polarite and soylent green.
 
Mike: Technically, Marian, soylent green is not an element. It’s a compound made of something else.
Marian: Oh, what’s it made of, Mike?
Mike: Soylent green is people.
Marian: Ick.
 
There’s liquid schwartz and ruby-quartz and oxypheromalkahyde,
Eridium, turbidium, darksteel, and meta-cyanide,
Balthazate, bendezium, byzantium, and magicite,
Protonite and grimacite  and phostlite and there’s solaranite,
Froonium, bazoolium, bolognium, and beerium.
Infernium, nuridium, and slood and atmosphereum,
There’s Caesiumfrancolithicmyxialobidium-
rixydixydoxidexidroxhide, and obsidium.
There’s mordite, morphite, nethicite, uru, and monopasium,

And tylium and trinium and xen and upsidaisium.
Jerktonium, afraidium, red rain, and raritanium,
Cuendillar, celestial bronze, plasteel, and dalekanium.

And then there’s “love”… the one that saved the world in The Fifth Element.
But the 5th is really boron if you’re wondering what the hell I meant.

21st July 2014

Post

Why Wil Wheaton and I are making a cool thing

Let me tell you a story about this Maze of Games audiobook thing we’re launching now on Kickstarter. It’s cool.

It was 2 pm on a Monday just like this one, and my developer Gaby was shouting “Hit the button! Hit the button!” So I hit the big green button, intending to launch The Maze of Games on Kickstarter. We had no idea what would happen, certainly not that thousands of backers would validate our crazy notions of a “solve your own adventure” puzzle novel. All we knew is that we told folks we’d launch the book at exactly 2 pm, and that a few people might be online waiting for it to launch.

It turns out that when you hit the button, there’s a long and involved agreement that you have to click through to get your campaign live. At least I think there is, since I clicked everything in sight without reading it. My phone and twitter blew up with “Where is our tribute, Selinker?” When we launched at 2:02 pm, over a hundred people—presumably hitting the refresh button over and over—backed in the first 10 minutes.

Backer Number Three was actor and author Wil Wheaton. I hadn’t mentioned the project to him specifically, but he was there, online, ready to support us. This 2:05 pm tweet, just three minutes after launch, was the first I heard about it:

image

“Well, that’s neat,” I said to Gaby, and proceeded to fall down the Kickstarter rabbit hole for a month and a half. In the middle, Gaby despaired that because of the pages-are-in-the-wrong-order nature of the book, there could never be an audiobook of The Maze of Games. That would be Insanity Wolf-level insane.image

But I figured it could be done. So at some point I shared this insanity with Wil, and he said, “That sounds awesome, we should do it, and we should get my friends at Skyboat.” Skyboat Media’s Gabrielle de Cuir and Stefan Rudnicki have recorded Wil on many occasions, and they make the coolest audiobooks. I didn’t think they’d have time for my little project, but they jumped on board with enthusiasm.

Wil, Gabrielle, and Stefan started laying down some basic tracks. Instantly I realized this was not like me and my campaign manager Liz recording in my basement. Wil brought to life over 50 characters, with different voices for each one. It tested the mettle of even the most veteran audiobook narrator.

image

What started to blow me away was Wil’s pacing and modulation, where he would portray some hopped-up animated character in a frenzy and then drop to the even-keel narration of the third-person text. He’s just simply the best at this sort of thing. 

Wil’s first takes were so good, I decided to press my luck. I asked award-winning composer Austin Wintory to help out with some music. Austin had already agreed to do The Maze of Games’s soundtrack, and he would certainly not have time to add an additional project to his schedule. Instead, he jumped at the chance to add his touch to the audiobook. Then I further pressed my luck, and asked nerd rockers Marian Call, Kirby Krackle, and Paul and Storm to do their interpretations of some of the songs in the book. They all said yes too, so we’re making a mini-album called Songs in the Key of Maze that ships with the audiobook files.

Pressing my luck even further, I’m going to ask the internet to help me fund this nutball thing. Because we had such a humbling groundswell on Kickstarter last time, we’re bringing the audiobook to Kickstarter too, starting right now. As we did last time, there will be puzzles throughout the campaign. And the first 100 backers of the audiobook will get a special audio puzzle that no one else gets.

I hear there’s a spot open for Backer Number Three.

Mike

26th May 2014

Post with 13 notes

Mansplaining #YesAllWomen to Elliot Rodger in Hell

Sit down, Elliot, and listen up. Since you’ll be here for a while, I’m going to try to explain something to you. I know you think you understand women, but I’ve been around women for a lot longer than you have. Actually, I’ve been around everything a lot longer than you have, and, based on recent events, that looks to continue. But while I have your undivided attention, I’ll try, carefully and slowly, to explain why #YesAllWomen should matter to you.

#YesAllWomen is a Twitter hashtag that you inspired. Well, not exactly. The phrase “Not all men” inspired it. It was in vogue for the last few months, as thoughtful creatives like Matt Lubchansky and John Scalzi excoriated the phrase on the interweb. (Many others had done so earlier, but most of them were women, and I’m sticking to things you might understand, Elliot.) “Not all men” is a shorthand for the common derailment defense—hold on, I should explain derailment. Derailment is what you do when you don’t want a conversation to continue but you do want to keep talking. I do this all the damn time. It’s an awful trait of my personality, and I can only take solace in the fact that a lot of people I know—mostly men, but some women—do it too. My friend Max tried to do it to me on Friday, and then I very effectively did it to him, and things went sour fast. But we realized what was happening, and we fixed it. Because that’s what what reasonable people do.

Wait, I just derailed my own conversation with you, Elliot. I did that to show you how it works. I told that story about Max not to confess anything or to show how much I can improve in life, but to show you how easily you can lose a thread in a pointless sideshow. Derailment is a trick, Elliot. It makes you more important than us. And “Not all men” is like that. When someone says “Not all men are sexist” or “Not all men discriminate” or “Not all men shoot up a sorority in a twisted haze of self-righteousness,” what they mean is “You shouldn’t feel what you feel, honey.” If a women is afraid that she will get assaulted or shouted down or crushed by a glass ceiling solely because she is a woman, she didn’t come up with that idea on her own. It wasn’t a cabal of females working to infect an otherwise tolerant environment with fabricated monsters. It’s because every woman, at some point and probably often, has felt the inviolable fear that being around some men creates. And we men all have to redouble our efforts to make women feel comfortable in our presence, because so many of our brethren have chosen a less savory road.

Max and I were discussing “Not all men” with our friends Trin and Ben on Thursday, just a day before you stabbed three men in your apartment, and then uncorked your firearms—how exactly did you get so many, out of curiosity?—upon the Alpha Phi sorority house at UCSB, killing two women, then continued in a scattershot rampage that killed another man and led you, amid the crooked glass of your vehicle, to ventilate your own skull. You probably liked that description; my only regret is that I didn’t get the word “annihilate” in there, because then I know you’d be listening to me. Stick with me here, because you’re about to become more important than you ever imagined.

On the night of May 24, while your soul began its inevitable passage down here, a woman named Kaye came up with the hashtag #YesAllWomen to reflect the belief that each and every woman has dealt with something horrific from one or more of us men in her lifetime. She’s still got the story. She will tell it only when she feels comfortable, which might not be often, or maybe keeps it bottled so that no man will think she’s weak or shrill or vengeful or something else that isn’t her fault anyway. But on the night of May 24, you gave her a reason to share. You created a video that justified your insanity in a fusillade of self-denial, where women who rejected you for now painstakingly obvious reasons somehow forced you to slay as many of them as you could.

If one is honest, Elliot, you weren’t that impressive in your final appearances. Your videos look like poorly scripted audition tapes for your father’s films; especially, your fake laugh is rehearsed, stilted, and eminently mockable. You don’t have it. You’re ineffective. And in some sense, that’s where it all went wrong for you. It’s hard to imagine a worse delivery for someone who thinks he’s the “perfect guy.” I think even you would have trouble maintaining the belief in that perfection now.

But clumsy as it was, that video had quite an effect. When all the women of the world saw it, and placed it alongside the haphazard terror you inflicted on Santa Barbara, they knew it was time to tell everyone. #YesAllWomen became a rallying point for every woman who was fed up with men like you expecting them to serve your needs. And every man who treated women as equals did it too, not because we’re the perfect guys, but because we’re aware of our own imperfections.

You did this, Elliot. You made the most important hashtag in history happen. We took all of your hate and made it our hate. We turned it on you, and everyone like you. We’re done with your kind. Yes, all women have something they can all despise, thanks to you.

And now you sit here, in this special circle of Hell, forced to watch an endless stream of #YesAllWomen tweets parade on the inside of your permanently attached Google Glasses. It’s your own hand-crafted punishment, especially designed for you by the head demon down here.

I’m sure she’s delighted you dropped in.

Mike

6th May 2014

Post with 7 notes

Tabletop

image

It is not a stretch to say that TableTop is one of the three most important cultural forces to hit the board gaming world in the last decade. (The other two: Kickstarter and Cards Against Humanity.) It is also intensely important to me, because my friends Wil Wheaton, Boyan Radakovich, and the crew at Geek & Sundry have produced the first show ever to make board game designers feel like their careers matter. It is serious business to have celebrities playing your game on TableTop: Not only does it have an appreciable effect on sales, but it legitimates a game’s place in the landscape. If a game is on TableTop, it’s a game people know and care about for a long time thereafter.

I have been fortunate enough to have five episodes devoted to four games I’ve co-designed: Unspeakable Words, 12 Days, Lords of Vegas, and a Betrayal at House on the Hill two-parter. But it’s more than that. I know just about everyone who’s designed games that have been on the show, and I know a large number of the celebrities that have been on the show playing those games. Which means that TableTop is a crux point of my life. This strange group of people, from the Penny Arcade guys to Mars robot engineer Bobak Ferdowsi to author Patrick Rothfuss, is all family, and we game designers give the family a reason to gather and enjoy our times together. That’s what Wil and company have given us.

TableTop was funded by YouTube for its first two seasons. Now, its third season is up on Indiegogo. They’ve raised a million dollars, which is great, and because I’d like to see them raise a million more, I’m writing a metagame for TableTop which all backers will get. It’s called TableTop: The TableTop Game You Play with Your TableTop Games on Your TableTop. James Ernest is helping me out with that, naturally. If you’d like a game which allows you to play a game like Felicia Day or John Scalzi might, you can get it by contributing a mere dollar to the TableTop Indiegogo campaign. Surely you’d like that?

Till then, as Wil says, play more games!

Mike

P.S. Here’s a little song about TableTop by the Doubleclicks, in which my games and I appear.

5th April 2014

Post with 4 notes

On Kurt Cobain’s restlessness

Eleven years ago, I began a campaign to get Kurt Cobain a burial site in the Seattle area. I wrote a letter to every council member and the parks department requesting that they consider turning one of their newly mothballed parks into a memorial and burial site for Kurt Cobain. Courtney Love had said that she couldn’t get Cobain buried in the county, because cemeteries feared similar problems to that of Jimi Hendrix’s often-vandalized gravesite. With the county forced to close 44 parks due to budgetary issues, I proposed that a soon-to-be-decommissioned park become Cobain’s shrine and home to Cobain’s ashes.

I got a very positive response from councilmembers and the parks department, and the concept was brought up in county parks task force meetings. It stalled out, but it was an idea with real economic and legal challenges, so I’m not too bummed out. I got serious, thoughtful, and positive responses from Councilmembers Carolyn Edmonds, Dwight Pelz, Larry Phillips, Rob McKenna (now our Attorney General), and current King County Executive Dow Constantine (who shared my proposal with Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic). They seem to buy my analysis of state cemetery law, and saw an opportunity to at least spark some minds.

If I’d had Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr then, I think I could have gotten a bit farther with this. But maybe today, the 20th anniversary of Cobain’s suicide. If you’d like to see Kurt Cobain have a gravesite in Seattle, feel free to share this. I’d like to see it, anyway.

Peace.

image

9th March 2014

Photo with 2 notes

This has been a rough week for my friends’ pets. I’ve seen close friends lose at least five beloved pets just in the last few days. It’s made me sad, so I want to tell you a story about my dog Guybrush and my developer Gaby Weidling. I don’t know if it will help those afflicted, but it helps me.
On Thursday, it was gorgeous out, so I took Guybrush for a walk to the park nearby. As we got to the edge of the park, he saw a rabbit. A big one. Coming from good terrier stock, Guybrush has declared himself the mortal enemy of rabbits. He about snapped my wrist trying to get at the bunny, who stood still knowing Guybrush was restrained. But it didn’t work. My dog got free and chased after the rabbit, who hightailed it into the brushes.

The next few minutes were like a Scooby-Doo cartoon. Guybrush would appear, dash back into the brush, and sure enough the rabbit would hop out just at that point. It was comical, so I wasn’t too concerned.
And then they both just stopped. The rabbit was gone, and there was no sign of Guybrush. The last point I saw him was heading under a set of brambles. So I called for him, and called for him, and called for him.
If you know my dog, you know he doesn’t bark unless (a) you step on him, or (b) you’re a rabbit, cat, or squirrel. So I started getting really worried. I walked all around a very large set of overgrowth calling his name, and heard nothing back. The rain morphed from a drizzle to a downpour. I called Evon but she was in a meeting, so in a panic I called Gaby. She said she’d head over to the park right away.
And then I heard a low whimper, right from the point where Guybrush had disappeared. Looking deep into the brush, I could see that he was trapped under the growth, with his leash wrapped around some brambles. He was not getting out on his own, and he was now whimpering something fierce. As Gaby arrived, I had gone from panicked to resolute. I was going to go back to my house, get my hedge cutters, and lay waste to the park in an attempt to free my dog. I left her behind to keep Guybrush calm.
As Gaby tells it, after I left, Guybrush’s attitude changed. No longer being able to communicate with me, now he decided to see if he could deal with his own problem by going further into the growth. That’s when Gaby made an amazing decision. She decided to go in after him. This meant crawling under ten feet of thick blackberry brambles, scratching up her skin rather impressively. But she got him. She unhooked his leash, and restrained him until I got back from with the now useless hedge cutters. He was terrified, constantly shaking in my arms.
I took my trembling dog home while Gaby went home to clean up. One dog-bath later, Guybrush was back to his old playful and happy self.
For the next three days, Guybrush beelined to the park to find that dastardly old rabbit. I clutched the leash tight.

This has been a rough week for my friends’ pets. I’ve seen close friends lose at least five beloved pets just in the last few days. It’s made me sad, so I want to tell you a story about my dog Guybrush and my developer Gaby Weidling. I don’t know if it will help those afflicted, but it helps me.

On Thursday, it was gorgeous out, so I took Guybrush for a walk to the park nearby. As we got to the edge of the park, he saw a rabbit. A big one. Coming from good terrier stock, Guybrush has declared himself the mortal enemy of rabbits. He about snapped my wrist trying to get at the bunny, who stood still knowing Guybrush was restrained. But it didn’t work. My dog got free and chased after the rabbit, who hightailed it into the brushes.

The next few minutes were like a Scooby-Doo cartoon. Guybrush would appear, dash back into the brush, and sure enough the rabbit would hop out just at that point. It was comical, so I wasn’t too concerned.

And then they both just stopped. The rabbit was gone, and there was no sign of Guybrush. The last point I saw him was heading under a set of brambles. So I called for him, and called for him, and called for him.

If you know my dog, you know he doesn’t bark unless (a) you step on him, or (b) you’re a rabbit, cat, or squirrel. So I started getting really worried. I walked all around a very large set of overgrowth calling his name, and heard nothing back. The rain morphed from a drizzle to a downpour. I called Evon but she was in a meeting, so in a panic I called Gaby. She said she’d head over to the park right away.

And then I heard a low whimper, right from the point where Guybrush had disappeared. Looking deep into the brush, I could see that he was trapped under the growth, with his leash wrapped around some brambles. He was not getting out on his own, and he was now whimpering something fierce. As Gaby arrived, I had gone from panicked to resolute. I was going to go back to my house, get my hedge cutters, and lay waste to the park in an attempt to free my dog. I left her behind to keep Guybrush calm.

As Gaby tells it, after I left, Guybrush’s attitude changed. No longer being able to communicate with me, now he decided to see if he could deal with his own problem by going further into the growth. That’s when Gaby made an amazing decision. She decided to go in after him. This meant crawling under ten feet of thick blackberry brambles, scratching up her skin rather impressively. But she got him. She unhooked his leash, and restrained him until I got back from with the now useless hedge cutters. He was terrified, constantly shaking in my arms.

I took my trembling dog home while Gaby went home to clean up. One dog-bath later, Guybrush was back to his old playful and happy self.

For the next three days, Guybrush beelined to the park to find that dastardly old rabbit. I clutched the leash tight.

3rd March 2014

Post with 1 note

20 questions: What is the United States’ interest in Canada?

I had trouble understanding the current situation in Ukraine, so I changed many of the nouns in a CNN “explainer” to ones that made it make sense to me. YMMV.

(CNN) — The United States of America approved the use of military force in Canada on Saturday, despite warnings of consequences from France, and Canada responded by saying any invasion into its territory would be illegitimate.

The French president has gone so far as to say that an American invasion would mean war and an end to his country’s relationship with the U.S.

But there are so many questions as to how Canada arrived at this point: Why is the U.S. so interested in happenings there? Why does France want to prevent American intervention? How did we get here? Why have thousands of protesters staked their lives, seemingly, on their desire for political change? And why has the government resisted their calls so vehemently?

image

Let’s take a look:

1. Why has the U.S. gotten so involved?

Eastern Canada and Quebec have closer ties to France, while Western Canada is more friendly with the United States. Many Eastern Canadians still speak French, and the 2011 federal elections divided the country with Western Canada voting heavily in favor of pro-American Prime Minister Stephen Harper. On Saturday, the White House issued a statement that U.S. President Barack Obama told the French President François Hollande that the U.S. approved military action in Canada because it “reserves the right to defend its interests and the English-speaking people who live there.”

2. Hasn’t Harper stepped down?

The Canadian Parliament voted him out of power and he has fled to the U.S. However, in a press conference Friday, the former Prime Minister said — in English rather than French — that he was not overthrown. He politely insisted he was still the boss and that he wants nothing more than to lead his country to peace, harmony and prosperity. While it’s unclear if he could return to power, the U.S.’s ambassador to the United Nations blamed members of the European Union for the bloody demonstrations that led to Harper’s ouster.

image

3. What will happen in Canada if the U.S. sends troops there?

Top Canadian officials, including the acting prime minister, have said they are prepared to defend the country. They’ve also said that any invasion would be illegitimate, a response echoed by France, which has told the U.S. to respect Canada’s sovereignty.

4. Would there be international backlash to an American incursion?

The United Nations has warned the U.S. against military action, while Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Obama “dialogue must be the only tool in ending the crisis.” International leaders have also denounced the prospect of the U.S. involvement, while Hollande has warned there would be consequences if the U.S. acted militarily.

5. What sort of consequences?

Hollande hasn’t been specific other than to say the U.S. could face “greater political and economic isolation” and that France “will suspend upcoming participation in preparatory meetings for the G-8” in Sochi. Several Socialist leaders in the National Assembly have called on the President to take a tougher stand.

6. What are Hollande’s options?

Sanctions, of course, top the list of options, but France will need to prepare for the backlash. Former presidential adviser Jean-David Levitte says Obama would consider any sanctions “small potatoes” compared to keeping control of Quebec, while Obama could pull his support for Hollande’s initiative to reduce nuclear threats in the world, including in Iran. Levitte, a former French ambassador to the United States, says imposing sanctions also raises the risk of alienating a superpower. “That means 20 years of trying to work with the U.S. down the drain,” he said.

image

7. What started the turmoil in Canada?

Protests initially erupted over a trade pact. For a year, Harper insisted he was intent on signing a historical political and trade agreement with the European Union. But on November 21, he decided to suspend talks with the EU.

8. What would the pact have done?

The deal, the EU’s “Western Partnership,” would have created closer political ties and generated economic growth. It would have opened borders to trade and set the stage for modernization and inclusion, supporters of the pact said.

9. Why did Harper backpedal?

He had his reasons. Chief among them was the U.S.’s opposition to it. The U.S. threatened its much larger neighbor with blocking the Keystone XL pipeline if Canada forged ahead. If Canada didn’t, and instead joined a Paris-led Customs Union, it would give Europe deep discounts on natural gas, the U.S. said.

10. Were there any other reasons?

Yes, a more personal one. Harper also was facing a key EU demand that he was unwilling to meet: Free former Prime Minister Paul Martin, his bitter political opponent. Two years ago, he was found guilty of abuse of office in blocking the U.S. gas deal and sentenced to seven years in prison, in a case widely seen as politically motivated. His supporters say he needs to travel abroad for medical treatment.

11. What happened next?

Many Canadians were outraged. They took to the streets, demanding that Harper sign the EU deal. Their numbers swelled. The demonstrations drew parallels to Canada’s 2003 demonstrations against the Iraq War, opposition to which elevated Harper to the prime minister’s office.

12. Who’s heading the opposition?

It’s not just one figure, but a coalition. The best known figure is Steve Nash. He’s a basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers. Nash heads the Canadian Democratic Alliance for Reforms party. But the opposition bloc goes well beyond Nash and the CDAR. There’s also Pierre Duchesne, the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec.

image

13. How did Harper react?

In a way that inflamed passions further. He flew to Washington, where he and Obama announced the U.S. would buy $150 billion in Canadian debt and slash the price Washington pays for its gas. And then, when the demonstrations showed no signs of dying down, he adopted a sweepting anti-protest law.

14. What did the anti-protest law say?

The law barred people from wearing goalie masks to rallies and from setting up tents or sound equipment without prior police permission. This sparked concerns it could be used to put down demonstrations and deny people the right to free speech — and clashes soon escalated. The demonstrators took over Montreal City Hall for the better part of three months.

15. But wasn’t the law repealed?

Yes, ultimately it was. Amid intense pressure, MPs loyal to Harper backtracked and overturned it. But by then, the protests had become about something much bigger: constitutional reform.

16. What change in the constitution did they want to see?

The protesters want to see a change in the government’s overall power structure. They feel that too much power rests with Harper and not enough with parliament.

17. What did the government do?

In late January, the Prime Minister offered a package of concessions under which Duchesne, the opposition leader, would have become the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and, under the Prime Minister’s offer, been able to dismiss the government. He also offered Nash the largely ceremonial post of President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada. He also agreed to a working group looking at changes to the constitution. But the opposition refused.

18. Why did the opposition pass on the offer?

The concessions weren’t enough to satisfy them. They said Harper had hardly loosened his grip on the government, nor had he seemingly reined in authorities’ approach to protesters. “We’re finishing what we started,” Nash said.

image

19. Who was to blame for the clashes?

Depends on whom you ask. The government pointed the finger at protesters. The opposition, in turn, blamed the government.

20. What’s the takeaway here?

Street protests that started in November over a trade pact swelled into something much bigger — resulting in the former Prime Minister fleeing to the U.S. for safety while still claiming to be the official leader of the country. With U.S. troops rumored to be preparing for hostilities in Quebec, the future of the region and the resulting effect on French-American relations appears shaky.

17th February 2014

Video with 6 notes

ABOUT MY SHIRT IN THE DOUBLECLICKS’ “TABLETOP GAMES” VIDEO

This is a story of how the Doubleclicks saved the world.

Undoubtedly, if you are a connoisseur of the hip and the now, you have seen the Doubleclicks’ finest video, “TableTop Games.” It features Aubrey’s killer cello hook, the sisters’ most sublime harmonies to date, and an axon-imploding bridge rap by Adam WarRock. It also features a cast of the cube root of thousands, including singer Molly Lewis and game designers Paul Peterson, Keith Baker, and James Ernest.

It also features, in a number of distressing dance scenes, my “B: FRODO” shirt.

This is not a joke most folks will get, so please allow me to introduce itself. 

This shirt is depicts me in the most infuriated state I have ever been. It recalls the events of November 19, 1999, at which time I was at home watching the new megahit game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? This was shortly before the show inevitably descended into self-parody—that is, seconds before. The contestant du jour was a Tulsan statistician named Toby Moore, a former champion who was returning in an all-star trivi-off. He had just blown through his $250,000 question, and now was poised to take a run at half a mil. And this was his question, which you can watch on the YouTubes.

Which of the following characters is not considered a “Pokémon”?

A: Jigglypuff    B: Frodo     C: Squirtle      D: Pikachu

To which Mr. Moore replied, “I gotta use my 50/50 now, Regis.”

WAT

Dude, even if you’re one of the five people in 1999 somehow unaware of the Pokémon invasion, YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHO FRODO IS. 

And this is where I thank heaven I still had a cathode ray tube in my television, because my shoe bounced squarely off the screen without incident. I have never thrown a shoe before or since. Mr. Moore inspired that sort of rage within me.

Reege called for the lifeline to be cast, and now Mr. Moore faced but two choices:

A: Jigglypuff    B: Frodo

I must now note, in Mr. Moore’s defense, that Jigglypuff is hardly one of the Big Four. He did not see the name of Pikachu, Squirtle, Charmander, or Bulbasaur before him. You could forgive him if Jigglypuff was sitting next to, say, Battlecat. But it wasn’t.

I screamed at the TV: “FRODO, I CHOOSE YOU!”

This to no avail. Mr. Moore slunk off into the darkness, unwilling to gamble on what for him was a $250,000 coin flip. And Geek Nation wept as one.

It’s funny how time will change things. For fourteen years, despite Mr. Moore’s undoubted good nature and contribution to society, I kept this rage seething inside me. And then my friends Phil and Calye, owners of the JBM Press T-shirt company, gave that rage an outlet. Graciously allowing me to preview their site one day, Phil steered me toward the jokes he thought I would get. The Walking Dead? Never seen it. Larry Niven? Never read him. But then I saw this one.

Turns out Calye had basically thrown a shoe at Toby Moore too. But unlike me, she had the courage to do something about it. She made a T-shirt. And I had to be the first to own one.

Some months later, the Clicks’ Angela called and asked me to be in their video, because I am Some Sort of Game Designer™. I dutifully signed on for their hijinks, and I wore the shirt. Now, when you struggle to scrub the image of me dancing from your forebrain, you will see the shirt.

You will know the answer is B: FRODO.

You can never forget.

And that is how the Doubleclicks saved the world.

Mike

P.S. You have only 24 hours to back their Kickstarter. They are nice people.

26th January 2014

Post with 48 notes

a love letter to Dungeons & Dragons

I can list the most powerful creative influences on my life thusly:

  1. My parents
  2. Dungeons & Dragons

There is nothing else in the cultural landscape that has had as powerful an effect on my life. Star Wars, comics, Games magazine, the Beatles, Watership Down, the NFL, Fantasia—so much else has permeated the creative I have become. But Dungeons & Dragons stands alone, on top, reinventing everything that passes through my mind.

Because of D&D, I no longer view the world passively. There is nothing I see that I cannot imagine being inside of, controlling, shaping into my own creation. You may look at D&D and see elves and wizards and things with claws. I see none of those things. I see worlds.

Because of D&D, I have confidence. I know how people think. I know how to work a room. I know why people need other people’s help. I know how teams function. I know when and why to split the party.

Because of D&D, I understand how words work. I devour history. I know how probability functions. I know every mythology and religion under the sun. I can create languages. I have read about everything. I know which way north is on a map.

Because of D&D, I know what is right for one person is not right for everyone. I know evil is real, but can be moderated by law. I know power corrupts. I know people just want to be good. I know that working hard at something makes you higher level.

Because of D&D, I know that violence can be abstracted. I know that trying to acquire things is a temporary high. I know that portraying evil is not the same as being evil yourself. I know that there are people who are unclear about these things.

Because of D&D, I can tell stories. Really good ones. I know that when I write them down, other people can tell them too. And they can make even better stories out of my stories. And so we create our folklore.

Because of D&D, I have made hundreds of great friends. I have met movie stars and musicians and novelists and directors and millionaires and artists and game designers and ordinary, extraordinary people, all inspired to do what they do by D&D. This week, I sat in the house of one such person and taught him to play one of my games, and it felt like we’d been playing D&D together all our lives.

Because of D&D, I have a career. I have written for and about Dungeons & Dragons many times. I helped creatively direct an edition of it. I made puzzles for it. I made a thirty-foot Player’s Handbook cover descend from the heavens. I wrote an adventure card game highly influenced by it. I spoke in front of thousands about how it matters. I spread the virus. I helped give meaning to their lives, the way other D&D creatives helped give meaning to mine.

Because of D&D, I have an audience. I write blogs that people read. I make silly videos, and ones that matter. I stand on stage and entertain. I write songs and books and screeds to politicians. I rally people around charities and crowdfunded creations and games they’d never see otherwise. I treat the world as if I am behind a screen, and everyone else is in a 10x10 room of my invention. That room grows a little larger every day.

Because of D&D, I have an awesome wife whom I met across a table at a roleplaying game convention. We got married at another game convention, in front of hundreds of people who entered my life because of D&D. Because of D&D, Tim Schafer made Monkey Island, and now my dog is named Guybrush.

Because of D&D, I am who I am. I can neither hypothesize nor fathom my life without it. Dungeons & Dragons is 40 years old today. From the point at which my mom’s boyfriend gave me a copy of the blue box in 1978, D&D and I have been close friends. I sometimes take it for granted; I haven’t played a regular campaign for almost a decade, but I aim to change that soon.

I’ve told Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson how I feel, but I’ve never talked directly to the game itself. So, Dungeons & Dragons: I just want you to know I love you, and thank you for making me into me.

Mike

1st January 2014

Photo

Lots of Game of the Year mentions for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game today: GeekDad, GeekMom, Game Informer, All Us Geeks, Maximum Pixellation.
Those are nice, but the above award is all I need. (Yes, Guybrush is wearing a leftover Cards Against Humanity medal. My dog CAN’T READ.)

Lots of Game of the Year mentions for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game today: GeekDad, GeekMom, Game Informer, All Us Geeks, Maximum Pixellation.

Those are nice, but the above award is all I need. (Yes, Guybrush is wearing a leftover Cards Against Humanity medal. My dog CAN’T READ.)