All posts by Aaron Porter

You Have Died of Dysentery: Finding a Community in Gaming

My daughter loved to play Oregon Trail on the computer when she was young. I never quite understood the appeal, but she would laugh about the different ways she would die.  I think the whole point of the game for her was dying; I don’t recall her ever surviving the game.  I’m avoiding asking if that says more about her or me.

Last year, I was feeling a little nostalgic and I bought her the Oregon Trail card game for Christmas. I think she might have played it once.  Maybe if there were a VR version she would get excited about dying of cholera or a broken leg, once more (just don’t turn off the safety protocols).

I recently attended a technology conference in Las Vegas.  No, I did not skip any sessions to go play games at the casinos.  Those stakes are a little too high for me.  One of the conference sessions was about using simulations to validate that a system will work the way that it’s supposed to.  It was an unexpectedly fun session.  Afterward, it hit me:  it was just a big role-playing game.  I get paid to design and play games.  I can turn my projects into MUDs and be the DM, instead of the PM (Project Manager).  My job just got a little better.

Reality check.  I might get laughed at if I try to explain validation as a game, although having a dungeon might be useful, on occasion.  There’s probably a more effective story I can tell, and I want cooperation from people who have other commitments.  I need to find the right story to tell.  Isn’t that what we do?  We tell stories in games, books, and when we engage in conversation with others.  Isn’t that what this is – my stories told in attempt to connect and engage with you?

My wife jokes about how our linen closet is now a game closet.  At least I think she’s joking.  I have a few games, but it’s nothing compared to a friend at work.  He has more games in his cabinet at his desk than I have games, total, and he has even more games at home.  We usually play a game at lunch – board games, card games, dice games, games of strategy, games of chance, etc.  We tend to stick to games we can finish in an hour, but occasionally schedule time outside of work to play longer games.  I still haven’t figured out why my group of friends like Agricola.  Having to grow and feed your family is a pain.  No, my feelings toward Agricola are not an expression of hidden angst.  So there.

Most gamers have a favorite type of game (board games, cards, dice, emotions) and, depending upon whom you ask, you could be one of anywhere from four to twenty-seven types of gamer.  We play games for different reasons, too.  Some off us play for fun, others to feel like they belong or are in control, and some people just want to stomp the living daylights out of their opponents.  It can be cathartic.

Regardless of why you play, ultimately, you can create a community of friends, real and virtual.  That is what LTUE 2018 is all about.  Come play with us!