Party Time in Oakland

EndGame Oakland is, simply put, one of the best game stores in the country. This isn’t just a matter of product selection or location. No, what makes EndGame a great store is that it is a center of community. Through its game space, mini cons, and knowledgeable staff, EndGame became a true destination store and one that pulled gamers together. These days it’s fashionable for many gamerati to scoff at retailers and ask what they can possibly provide that competes with discounts on the internet? EndGame and stores like it are an answer to that question. They promote the hobby, bring enthusiasts together, and put gaming out in front of people who have never heard of a 12-sided die or a zone of control. Doing this day after day, year after year is not an easy task so we must pause from time to time and recognize them for their good works.

August 1 is one of those times. EndGame is celebrating its 8th anniversary with a day long event. It’s also a bit of a going away party for founder Aaron Lawn, who is leaving his baby for new endeavors. I will be flying down to the Bay Area for this event and I’m bringing some fun prizes from Green Ronin. Come join me and raise a glass to EndGame Oakland for 8 great years. Now more than ever, we need stores like it to show how gaming retail can be important and vibrant. See you there!

Kate Rocks Out

A couple of years ago Nicole and I took Kate to see a documentary called Girls Rock. It’s about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, which started in Portland in 2001. Kate loved it and was totally inspired. She wanted to go but didn’t have much experience with music at the time. Through the video game Rock Band, however, we discovered that she had a talent for drumming. Nicole took her down to the Seattle Drum School in Georgetown and signed her up for some lessons. Last year she did a day camp there but it was mostly boys and there were less than ten kids. She did really well and her teachers down there started tossing around the phrase “drum prodigy.”

So last month Nicole and Kate spent a week in Portland so Kate could go to Rock ‘n’ Camp for Girls. She had a great time. During the camp the girls form into bands, and each band writes and rehearses a song. They also take workshops on screen printing, zine making, self-defense and other useful arts. The week culminates with a big show, held this year the Bagdad Theater.

I worked during the week but on Friday night Ray and I drove down to Portland so we could see the show Saturday. Kate was nervous because she was going to be playing in front of 700 people. And indeed it was quite a scene. There were sixteen girls bands to play and another that was made up of older camp volunteers. The bands had great names like the Bionic Poodles and the Thunder Bats. Kate’s band, Employees Only, was the last of the girls bands to play, and the other bands took over two hours to do their songs. Some of them were fun and energetic, others sort of fell apart onstage, but all of them had spirit and it was pretty awesome to see them rocking out at such a young age. My favorite of them was Vent, who did a song called, “It Came from the Vent.”

Finally Employees Only hit the stage. It then became clear why they had the last slot. They were tighter than many of the other bands and the song was catchy and speedy. Kate fuckin’ rocked the drums. She was really awesome and we were ridiculously proud of her. I remember thinking that Kate was clearly the best drummer of the girls bands, and then realizing this was a totally dad thing to assert. I stand behind it though; Kate has mad skills for a 13 year old.

After the show we took Kate out for a celebratory sushi dinner. She was jazzed by the whole experience and wants to go back with her friend Gloria next year. Big thumbs up to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls. They are doing something truly cool there and tomorrow’s music scene will be better for it.

Make My Character!

When I first started going to GenCon, I got to play games wall to wall for four days and it was awesome. These days I spend most of my time working the Green Ronin booth or in meetings. I always try to get in at least one game though, because it wouldn’t be GenCon without it. Oftentimes, it’s a chance to get together with friends from my college game group. This year former Green Ronin developer Rob Schwalb is going to run a 4th edition D&D; game and I need to bring my own character.

Rob is never a man to take the easy way out, so he’s running the game for 21st level characters. One night I finally cracked open Player’s Handbook II to check out the options there but looking through the powers of the different classes just made my eyes glaze over. I realized then that I did not have the time to dedicate to make a proper character of that level.

So I’m running a contest. Here’s how it works:

* Make me a level 21 character you think will be fun to play.

* Magic items of level 22, level 21, level 20, and 225,000 gold pieces.

* Use the character builder or similar to make a character sheet. Pre-figured power cards are a big plus.

* Print the character and mail to the following address:
Green Ronin Publishing
Attn: Chris Pramas
3815 S. Othello St. Suite 100, #304
Seattle, WA 98108

* Characters must be received by August 1, 2009. I will then judge the entries and pick a winner.

* The winner will receive $35 worth of Green Ronin product. This can be print or PDF if you are in the USA, or PDF if you are in another country.

That’s it. So what are you waiting for? Make my character!

Jingoism is not Patriotism

I have always been reluctant to embrace the word patriotism. It’s not that I have a problem with having some pride in where you are from or the impulse to make your country better. I just think it’s a short step from patriotism to jingoism and people often conflate the two. Witness this recent quote from Liz Cheney:

“…I would say one of the things that is troubling to Americans, I think, is extent to which this administration is focused on the president’s popularity overseas. We’ve now seen several different occasions when he’s been on the international trips, where he’s not willing to say, flat out, ‘I believe in American exceptionalism. I believe unequivocally, unapologetically, America is the best nation that ever existed in history, and clearly that exists today.’ Instead we’ve seen him do what we saw him do in the speech in Cairo, which is sort of, ‘on one hand this, on the other hand that,’ and then attempt to put himself sort of above it all. I think that troubles people.”

For people like Cheney, it isn’t enough to say, “I love my country.” They must also assert, “And it’s better than yours!” This may sound harmless enough at a summer BBQ, but jingoism and the whole idea of American exceptionalism are dangerous. When you take it for granted that your country is the best and that you are thus better than anyone from a different country, it has a toxic effect on the politics of the nation. It enables the sort of rank hypocrisy that has made America so despised in many parts of the world. It led to the “Bush Doctrine” of preventative war. It fuels the neoconservatives who believe that American diplomacy should be a dick swinging contest instead of a meaningful engagement with other nations. And it flies in the face of Thomas Jefferson’s words, “All men are created equal.”

Jingoism is not patriotism. On today of all days, let’s remember that.