Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Games that Shaped Me

A little while ago, Frontline Gamer put out a charge to all of us, to think about the games that have shaped us, and talk about when, where, why and so on.

Well, I can't really let that Brit have all the fun, now can I?

I told him I had a lot, and I felt a post was probably a lot more appropriate than a quick reply over on his blog. So here we are at mine, with my ever so verbose thoughts.

After the jump, of course.

Champions 3rd Edition.

This was my very first experience with games of any kind. I was 12. My dad took me to his local game club, and some of the guys there were playing this. It looked cool to me, so I figured I would give it a try.

I'm not a comic book nerd. I don't really like video games. I am not a huge computer geek. I am famous for my general dislike of D&D as a rule. I generally fail hard on the nerd meter, but this game struck a chord with me- it really got me in all the right places.My general nerdity sprang from my love of books, my obsession with language, and my deep  and intense affection for hard work in school. Being a word nerd/bookworm with a small streak of "teacher's pet" did not help me as a socially awkward, very busty but clueless almost teen girl.

Champions changed that for me. It let me tell a story where I was changing the world, saving people from danger and battling bad guys. I was absolutely hooked on this game, because it gave 12 year old insecure me something awesome- HOPE- that things could get better.

In addition, I learned fractions, mastered telling time (really; I couldn't tell time until about a year after I started playing this game), conquered my fear of multiplication and division (yeah; I was at first grade level with mathematics until Champs). Best of all, I built the best, most loving, safe and downright wonderful friendships that are still strong to this day while growing up, a whole fucking lot.

Advanced Squad Leader.

This is a game my dad really loved, was into, and played until there were worn parts on the maps. While it wasn't one of my favorites, I learned a lot from setting up, watching him, or actually playing through a scenario. I was really, really terrible at the game- it's very granular, complicated, and has a million chits to keep track of. I got to the point of writing down what pieces were on what hexes because I couldn't remember what the heck was going on.

It was precisely because it was complicated, gritty and needed lots of concentration that it has so much of an effect on me. A lot of it had to do with how my dad treated it- he was (and is) a perfectionist with a tendency to be very loud about his opinions. He also thought (and still does) that he was right, so making decisions different from the way he would often taught me how to get yelled at. So, I tried to avoid that at all costs... I really don't like yells.

Blue Max.

It's the purely visual nature of this game that really appeals to me. And, it has airplanes. I love a game that has clear and easy to understand representations of what is happening, and this game is it. I was introduced to it by a friend from high school- his dad created the game, and the friend and I played the ever living daylights out of it with another Lord Of Chaos for a summer. I learned that seeing stuff happen really helps me think, and I attribute a lot of my tendencies towards spatial awareness thinking to how much I played this game. And, it has airplanes.

Dark Conspiracy.

If ever there was a game that exemplified the dark, gritty, modern day conspiracy us-against-them style that I love so much, this was it. There was so much MEAT to playing this, and being forced to think in new and innovative ways, really relying on a team to get through adventures... It was so intense and so fun, with the added bonus of atmosphere- playing in a musty, creepy basement did not hurt one bit.


This is the game that broke the mold. Instead of games with a purpose (find the treasure, rescue the princess, kill the orks for beer money, etc); this was a game with a STORY. Telling the story and creating an environment were much more the point than "is it dead yet"- at least to me. 

The style of the book was astounding. The quotes, the art, the layout- were all so completely new, innovative and different; that I knew I would never be the same. While the appeal of being undead was not as hot to me way back then as it is to me now (I did not understand the backbiting, doubledealing, scheming nature of vampires then; or I would have loved it even MORE), I loved the ambiance. The atmosphere was so thick and rich, it made writing characters, adventures and campaigns for the game positively exciting. 

I still haven't quite recovered from having been introduced to the "New Wave" of roleplaying, and I'm glad for it. 

Dream Park.

One of the few games based off a book or series I had any interest in whatsoever. This game of un-reality, dreams, fantasy, anything can happen with a larger than yourself mentality was truly a strong influence on me. I found myself reading the book over and over, trying to glean more ideas for future reference, and being really taken by how the game leant itself to anything I might want. Fully fleshed out or just barely there skeletal ideas, it really didn't matter; this game handled it well. I still look at the books now and then for ideas or reminders on how to unlock possibilities within myself and my mind. 


This "little card game" has taught me a lot. I was very competitive when I first started playing it (shortly after Beta) and really liked it because I could play it while my little one was little. Then he got bigger, and I dropped the game. The cost and the time investment were huge issues, but a rug rat munching on cards had a lot to do with it, too.

I've found that the cards and colors I like really says a lot about who I am as a person. I used to really be into black- when it was kill spells and reanimation. Stopping stuff in its tracks and then using whatever I had on hand to beat my opponent was very much who I was 17 or so years ago.

Today I play a lot of green and/or white when I do play, which is very rarely anymore. Green and white are very much about growth, renewal, buffs, joining forces, and other collaborative things. I'm big into pumping people up, using allies, being a good team player, and growing things (be it community or friendship). But as I said, I play very rarely. For a while I was convinced that I hate the game.

I'm much happier collecting. It took a very long time for me to connect that I don't hate the game; I just don't understand it. Order of operations and board wide effects drive me mental. Knowing that I have that weakness made me that much better as a person, and helped me get to a place where I am content with the cards.

The game as it stands now is a fun object of discussion and potential future study, and a source of pretty things. I'm ok with that.

Feng Shui.

Another game that "broke all the rules", mostly by letting the players write in their chances to be awesome. How? By strongly encouraging shenanigans- the more off the wall, Wuxia your move was, the more likely you were to succeed. Using the tropes and rich background of martial arts cinema as the feeding ground for your creativity allowed you insane amounts of power and win.

I loved the crazy blend of far future, way back machine and modern action all into a nutso smoothie of hock-sockey fun, powered directly by how amused, inspired or impressed TheDude was with your actions.

Watching TheDude run this game and seeing all the many adventures our group had taught me a lot about songwriting, as well as how to use drama, tension, pacing and wires.

Any Shane Lacy Helmsley game.

Weird settings. Crazy rules. Totally out there thinking. 'Nuff said.


"Play like you've got a pair!" The quote was an outright challenge for a long time; a "come get some" to GW. The original dedication to metal models with great sculpts and bad-ass imagery was a big deal at the time. It was also a directive to an entire generation of miniature players that were tired of being spoken down to, being told what to like and when, and expected to pay for bad rules and worse models. That directive was effectively; do something about it instead of complaining. 

I came in on Warmachine late- our crowd at the time had a good 15-20 players and everyone was settled into their factions and camps. I really liked the steam-fantasy feel and look of the models, but didn't want to play until I saw 2 buddies play with less than 20 models each and having a ton of fun. 

I have a Khador army and did actually play more than a few times. I discovered that Sorcha is not my style; I like a LOT MORE BLOOD and became a Butcher fan pretty quickly. Add in some Reavers and Fenris and BAM; instant death. I learned that I like up close and personal death-dealing with this game; an important lesson for me to to learn. 

I also learned that no matter what they think, GW is not infallible, and that the tide is shifting away from them. This was cool as a player, and positively illuminating as a store operator. 


This is the game that brought me back after ten years of being "on break". The game's flexibility and absolute insistence on story were the draws for me, a tried and true story/character driven player.

I mean, the game uses the STORYTELLER system. It's not for the grognards, I don't think. It's for artsy fartsy weirdos. And I happen to be one, so I am totally ok with that. I love what WOD offers and hope to explore it for a whole lot longer.

That's a big list! The thing is, I've been gaming a long time. I've tried a TON of games. A lot more games than I can list here have given me inspiration, ideas or challenged me in some way; but I wanted my post to be about something else. I wanted it to be about the TRULY special games. These are the games that I can point to, and say - I'm different and/or better for having played them. I think that's as close to what FLG wanted without being a total copy.

What about you?


  1. hrm. I could/possibly should write a Back40K post about my formative gaming years.

    Middle Earth Roleplaying by Iron Crown Enterprises is where I honestly got my start. I LOVE MERP and RoleMaster. You've got to be willing to let go of some of the rules, but there are rules for EVERYTHING. Just in case you need them. plus tables. Tables for every weapon and 20 armor classes.
    I also really loved the PIRATES! MERP/RM campaign setting. When someone couldn't make it, they were sick with scurvy.

    Dr. Who Roleplaying. Yup. We also noodled around a lot with Dr. Who. Usually the GM would be the Dr. or we had an 'automated' TARDIS. We would make interesting sidekicks, and have fun.

    Battletech - preferably inner sphere only. get out your cellophane coversheets, and grease pencils to mark off damage

    Starfleet Battles - hex based Star Trek space battles. Again, break out the coversheets and grease pencils.

    Vampire, MAGE, Changeling, Wraith - old WoD. Vampire changed a lot of stuff. Man it was cool. I was in some great, long-run campaigns. I still find it hard to part with those books.

    HERO system - I liked this system for doing Shadowrun a bit better than Shadowrun did. Also, was broad-based enough to accommodate anything you wanted to do.

    *sigh* sometimes I wish I had time and a good group to Roleplay with. eh. I still have dollies to play.

    1. I was never one for MERP, but we own the game and I've read it once or twice. Battletech was my brother's favorite. SFB- man, there was a HUGE contingency of guys who played this. It required a LOT more math than I like.

      As far as RP groups go, you can always G+ Hangout, or drive back our way and play with us once every two weeks =)

  2. Wow, let's see now. When I first started gaming it was strictly miniatures.

    Rally Round The Flag, ACW miniatures, the first game I ever played at the Conflict Simulation Society in the Illini Union. It has a special place in my heart because Greg Novak invited me to try it out.

    Command Decision, WWII, by Game Designers Workshop in Bloomington. I played the heck out of this game back in the day. I put together one of my favorite units, The Scots Guards tank regiment, and the Argyl & Sutherland Highlanders, in 1/72nd scale.

    Champions, my first try at role playing. I've been in and run some very memorable campaigns over the years, and I'd love to do so again.

    Space 1889/Soldiers Companion, playtested both of these. I have a soft spot for colonial era gaming.

    The Sword and the Flame, a real favorite. At one point the local gang had 100's of figures for this minatures game, from Zulus to Boers, to Chinese. We ran a very memorable campaign, "The Sun Never Sets".

    Shadowrun, I only played in one game but it was great. I have almost every miniature that was made for it.

    Blue Max, Like Loq, I know the guy who created the game, I even helped playtest it. We had a campaign going for over a year to test the rules and it was great fun.

    D6 Star Wars. What a fun role playing game! A simple set of rules which just worked great. I ran a game of this for several years.

    Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I've been running a campaign for 10 years now...does that tell you anything? My group started off as playtesters for the game, we even made a video of ourselves playing so the creators of the game could use it to show their people what roleplaying is all about.

    WOD, my latest obsession. It's partially Loqs fault that I am now involved with a really great group of players and storytellers.

    And many others too numerous to name. They have all had a place in making me the gamer that I am today.


  3. Replies
    1. there was something really fabulous about it, wasn't there?

    2. Every session always seemed to result in pure hilarity!

  4. Great post, we have many similarities but just as many departures as well. I may have to borrow this theme sometime in the future. Rock on...

  5. I think I've read nearly every blog posted (on the blogs I follow anyway) about games that shaped folks in their formative years. Not only has it been fascinating from a "get to know you" standpoint, it has been great being reminded of some fantastic games from the past.

    1. I'd second that Itchy. It's been splendid watching my idea go viral, and even better learning so much about where various Bloggers have come from, from a gaming point of view of course.

      It's even helped me better understand where some Bloggers are coming from with certain things in mind. I hope more and more Bloggers pick up my idea and run with it.


  6. Heya Lo,

    Glad you decided to tackle this one! As I said in the reply to Itchy above it's been great reading all the 'Games that defined me' articles my original inspired. And especially yours.

    Gives us a great idea and understanding of where you are coming from as a gamer and a Blogger. So thanks for sharing that with us, hopefully some of your readers will pick up on the idea and and keep the meme alive.


  7. I think I'm going to have to do a whole post for this one. It has the sneaking shape of something that'll exceed the proper length for a comment... but it does definitely have a 'getting to know you' use and value. I feel like I know more about Lo-as-was from reading this... and more about how you came to be who you are. Which was the point.

    (this message brought to you by the brainfrazzle of speed-writing a PhD proposal...)