Category Archives: games

Well this is exciting

I’ve been busy and quiet (well, not blogging – my Twitter feed is as full as ever) working on my PhD over the past six months or so. My faculty has a requirement that all PhD students complete two coursework subjects, so I spent my first semester getting through those, getting to know the University and my department, applying for Ethics (OK, getting my study design approved by the faculty’s Ethics review committee) and reading, reading, reading.

So far, time management has probably been my biggest challenge – I am a full time student, and I’m working a handful of hours a week at my old job, so technically I’m doing about 45 or 46 hours a week. I haven’t officially worked full time since before the Bigster was born. Fortunately, the stage I am at means that I can sit on the sofa reading articles, keeping Fraser company while he watches TV. Occasionally, he pauses and rewinds the program if he thinks there is something that will interest me – yes folks, I have outsourced my leisure time!

The reading reading reading and the getting to know people and things continues, but the Ethics application was approved and so I am gearing up to do my first study. (I’m looking for participants – there’s details on the page). Or see my call for participants on Boardgamegeek.

I’m also working on a conference paper submission and have some tentative plans about which conferences I want to target this year and what else I want to do while I am there. If I stretch, I can call that my own personal “publishing strategy”.

And I’ve already discovered that what I THOUGHT I wanted to research isn’t QUITE what I wanted to research. Stay tuned for more of those decisions.

It’s a brave new world, but I’m enjoying it – and when I sit at my desk and play the Puerto Rico Evolver or curl up on the sofa to read about games, I am confident that I’ve done the right thing in leaping into this research program.

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Posted by on January 14, 2015 in games, study



PAX Australia photos

I’ve uploaded photos from PAX Australia to Flickr – see my photo set here. They’re all Tabletop photos, as I rarely got out of tabletop except for when I was on a panel.

I’m really pleased with the way the show ran.There are some things we can do to improve Tabletop, but overall it was very successful. I think that my favourite part was the number of people who were there to try new games – or just to try games at all.


Posted by on November 4, 2014 in games, Uncategorized



The research game

Great article by my friend Jonathan. I’m working on a response using analogue analogies!

The Research Whisperer

World of Warcraft screencap by Natalie Ford ( World of Warcraft screencap by Natalie Ford (

People often say that research, and particularly research funding, is a bit of a game. It isn’t meant as a compliment.

When people say this, they are usually complaining about being excluded. They go on to talk about how you need to be ‘in the know’, about how people on funding bodies give money to their ‘mates’. Often they spend a fair amount of energy trying to work out how to game the system.

Not surprisingly, I don’t subscribe to those views.

I subscribe to the view that research funding agencies work hard to make sure that they are as fair as they can be. I believe that, while there are historical biases in most systems of funding, they do a very good job of channelling funds to the best researchers available. And that, in general, our funding models serve…

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Posted by on July 10, 2014 in games, research


A plea to game companies, designers, and gamers in general.

One of the highlights of our gaming year is BorderCon in Albury. It’s a small and intimate con, with around 100-120 people, that runs over the Queen’s Birthday Weekend in June in what must be one of the COLDEST lowland areas of the country, right in the depths of Winter. Seriously, it’s bitterly cold – which makes it the perfect time to play games.

I haven’t written much about this lately, mostly because there isn’t much to say about it except weep weep it’s awful, but our 14 year old Bigster is still extremely unwell with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At the end of Term 1, she dropped all but her five core subjects (her peers are taking nine subjects) of English, Maths, Science, Latin and German. Her Latin teacher isn’t sure that she can pass with her current attendance – even with the timetable affordances, she is still only getting to about 30% of her classes – so it’s on the critical list at the moment. She even dropped the history of warfare subject that she has been looking forward to since before she started high school. She’s dropped out of Saturday German as well, because she just can’t get there. The German name for this condition is Chronisches Erschöpfungssyndrom which translates literally as “chronic exhaustion syndrome” which seems a much better name to me – when you can’t get out of bed AT ALL some days, when you are a bookworm who is too exhausted to read, when you can’t wash your hair because you can’t actually stand up for the time it would take – that’s more than just fatigue.

The specialist tells us that she still has hope that Biggie may start to recover towards the end of the year. This is critical for us and we cling to that hope. Sadly, she’s not gaming much – the days when she played all (then) 12 Power Grid maps over one epic BorderCon weekend are behind us, at least for now.

The ME/CFS society of Australia offers support for people with this severely life-limiting condition (the 80% recovery rate for young people is much higher than that for adults) and funds research into it. There is no cure and no known cause.

Every year, BorderCon runs a raffle to aid a charity group, often raising over $1000. Donations are received from game companies within Australia as well as from attendees. This year, Neil has kindly agreed that the profits from the raffle will be donated to the ME/CFS Society of Australia.

I have a personal interest in making this the Biggest BorderCon Raffle Yet. So I am going out to game companies and to game designers to ask for your support. Can you donate a game? Can you donate a signed sticker that someone could paste inside their game box (or just put in there if they are a bit fussy about their boxes)? Maybe you have a piece of game artwork that could be included in the raffle? BorderCon is a small con with a big heart and any donation is always appreciated, even more so this year.


Posted by on May 2, 2013 in children, games, health


Packing time again

With school holidays looming, we’re headed off once more. The cat-sitter (and house-sitter) is booked, the rooms have been paid for. All that is left is to finish work, clean the car and pack. Oh, and write a 1500 word essay.

I have blogged before about trying to pack for game conventions. It’s fair to say, though, that that is the easiest of these tasks. Because when it comes down to it, we throw lots of clothes into a bag and then put games into the car until no more fit. And then trade them out until we have a decent set.

But to do that requires us to pack the car. And the car is still full of stuff I bought at IKEA a couple of months back, when I was going to clean out the Bigster’s bedroom. I got 60% of the work done, then stopped, and now it is around 20% more messy than it was, with 100% more floorspace covered. And I don’t want to move the new stuff in while the floor is still kinda incognito. So that’s a challenge, especially as the Bigster’s response to anyone going into her room while she is there is to go kind of Chuck Norris on them … and she’s there pretty close to 24/7 at the moment.

No-one cleans Chuck Norris's room


And before that can be done, there are several days’ worth of work to do (because going away just brings all of that week’s deadlines forward by a week) as well as a 1500 word essay on internet censorship to be written.

And I don’t think the meme generator can do either of those things for me, more’s the pity.

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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in decluttering, games, study, to-do, travel


For those who are interested in my course

I have just published my final assessment piece for this semester on YouTube.

It is a video called Playing with Absent Friends, about the history of gaming with known people in another location – and how that has been affected by digitisation and convergence.

I suspect that some of you will find it interesting, although I of course see only the things I wish I could have done better – it’s the first time I have tried to produce a video and if I were to do it again I would do a LOT of learning.

See for the embedded video or watch it directly at YouTube.

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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in games, study


Convergence in action

Writing Slashing and burning Editing my essay on convergence – or the way that our interests and hobbies flow across different types of media and formats – and I woke up to a great example.

This morning, a friend (who I know through a website about boardgames and through his podcast about boardgames) posted a Facebook post about a DVD about a boardgame. Under the Boardwalk: The MONOPOLY Story is an interesting (albeit at times over-long) documentary about the Monopoly (US) National championships and World championships. Actually, it’s more about the players, but that’s where the interest lies. Fraser and I watched it late last year.

Then one of the guys who is featured on the documentary replied to the Facebook post to promote his new book about Monopoly strategy. (Apparently, it features “secret game strategies and tactics previously known and practiced by only a handful of top competitive Monopoly tournament players and coaches“).

Whilst I am sceptical about how interesting the book would be to me personally, you have to love someone who bills himself as “the noted attorney, author, professional Monopoly player and movie star.” – I will have to invent my own awesome tagline, I think. And maybe print it on business cards which I could give to unsuspecting people.

ANYWAY. I digress, as usual. In this most excellent example, we have boardgames, a podcast, a documentary, a DVD (with extras), books and discussion. Of the docco, the DVD and the books. And ecommerce. And a quote from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which you may or may not have noticed me subtly sneak in there.

Shame my essay is still 700 words over the limit, really. I’m guessing you can see why.

Meanwhile, two family members have already said, “Oh, you should quote ME.” – because (WHO KNEW?) it turns out that academic writing is all about quoting the people with whom you share a bathroom. I nearly quoted my dad, because that would actually have been RELEVANT. My kid, not so much. (Although she is in my good books because she said Wow mum, your essay is really good, and then quoted some of it back to me. Wish it was being marked by a 13 yr old game fan!)

Posted by on July 6, 2012 in games, study


Not blogging, WRITING

I have not been blogging much this week, because I have been focusing all of my creative efforts on my essay.

OK, I lie. I have been juggling school holidays and parent stuff and work stuff AND my essay.

The essay is amusing me a lot. I do not, however, think that that is the primary purpose of an essay, or that my tutor would think that the essay as it currently stands is acceptable.

This is mostly because of that 1500 word thing. Because I think I probably TWEET about 1500 words in a week. Or possibly in a day, when I am writing an essay and being distracted by the AWESOME THINGS I COULD PUT INTO IT.

Things like:

  • a picture of me with Aldie and Reiner.
  • stuff about pervasive games
  • stuff about different content types on BGG
  • an analysis of why session reports, reviews and geeklists are really kinda sorta fanfiction
  • a study of the metagame in online Werewolf and how it transcends the individual games
  • that video of Otto doing the Order Up dance in Essen (actually I think this was lost)
  • stuff about how gamers are fans and analysis of the Superfan concept. I want to cast Derk as Harry Knowles in a movie.
  • a picture of a cat in a box.

Sadly, I suspect I am missing the point.

More than sadly, I think I have now written WELL OVER 1500 words ABOUT the essay. Which, for those who are counting, is currently sitting at around 3700 words, with more to add.

But lots of you have offered to proofread. So when I finish it, I might post some of the lost parts here. Because there is an audience for everything, and you guys are it.


Posted by on July 3, 2012 in be happy, games, not your earth logic, study


Decisions Decisions

So, let’s say someone – for the sake of argument, let’s call her Melissa – had three options. And a ticket to the most hotly-anticipated gaming event in Texas.

1. Be financially responsible and a good parent and stay in Melbourne with my her family.

2. Go to a conference in Boston. Which is directly relevant to my her work. And fly home with a stop in Dallas. Cost: About $5000. Some tax-deductible.

3. Stop mucking around and book the flights and hotel for BGGcon. Cost: About $2500. Plus shopping.

Hypothetically speaking, is there an optimal choice here?


Posted by on June 19, 2012 in games, travel


Drunken clowns? What F***ers!

Sitting around at Bordercon on Saturday afternoon, Iain asked me whether I wanted to try a new game he’d picked up. “It’ll only take about an hour,” he said, basing his estimate on the playing time of 45 minutes.

[As it turns out, this was the first of several mistakes we would make with this game.]

The game was Circus Train. It’s about running a circus out of Canada during the Prohibition era, and is based on Sara Gruen’s novel Water for Elephants (or think of the TV series Carnivale). Potentially an interesting theme.

1:42pm “This may well be the first time this game has been played in Australia” / “You start with one clown. ” #ClownTrain #Bordercon #qbgames

The version we played was produced by Victory Point Games. They’re a small, volunteer-based publishing company. As I understand it, the games they publish are often created by students of game design.

That makes a lot of sense in the context of the game. It had familiar mechanics drawn from a variety of games:

  • “Best Work” scoring, similar to Princes of Florence or Colosseum
  • Card-based actions (hand management), where you choose which card to play from your hand each turn, from a limited pool
  • Rounds and Uber-rounds (phases/stages/eras). And Uber Uber Rounds.
  • A modified pick-up-and-deliver component, that sort of lost half of the deliver part in that you kept the items you had collected
  • Multipliers for having multiple copies of a single item (more Princes of Florence here)
  • Random event cards that cannot be mitigated against (think Agricola X-Deck but even worse) (I can say that, I was one of the X-Deck designers)
  • End-of-round (end of week / end of month / end of 2 months / end of game) administration
  • Limited number of turns

1:46pm Early theory: #CircusTrain is the bastard child of #PrincesOfFlorence and #18xx – will see what @jryderau & @eclectics think #Bordercon

So far, that probably doesn’t sound so bad. And in fact I see that this game has some positive reviews on BGG. I am, however, at a loss to see why.

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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in games, rant