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Phoenix Comicon 2016 coverage

All of our Phoenix Comicon 2016 coverage in one spot.

Phoenix Comicon 2016

 

 

Ep 02 – Phx Comicon Day 1 and Tabletop games

The TalesOfTheCon.com crew is out in full force for Phoenix Comicon 2016. In this episode we discuss Comicon and tabletop roleplaying games.

This episodes hosts: Fred, Mariano, Chris and Ian Ransom. Recorded 06.02.16 at Phoenix Comicon 2016.

The TOTC Podcast is always for mature audiences.

Ep 01 – Tales of the Con Podcast!

The premier episode of the TalesOfTheCon.com podcast. It’s the Sci-Fi arguecast! In this Episode we gathered around to discuss Movies, games, and Science Fiction. We discuss what SciFi means to us and what we personally define to be Sci-Fi.

This episode’s hosts: Fred, Sam, Chris and Mariano.  Recorded 05.23.16  Mature language and salty attitudes.

TOTC covers “What can DC learn from Sci-Fi?”

Tales of the Con’s Washington DC correspondent David Campbell was in attendance for a panel titled “What can DC learn from Sc-Fi?”.  Here is his coverage:

 

What Can DC Learn from Sci-Fi?” this was the name of the panel covered by Tales of the Con (TOTC) on May 24, 2016 in Washington, DC. This panel was comprised of Kevin Bankston, Director of the Open Technology Institute at New America, Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst & Editor at the Free Future blog, and bestselling science-fiction author Charles Stross.

Within the first few words of Kevin Bankston’s introductory remarks it became remarkably clear why this was an important panel for TOTC to cover. His opening statements hit the nail of TOTC spirit square on the head:

In a very real way, I do what I do – working in the public interest to ensure that every community benefits equitably from advances in digital technology – because of science-fiction. Science-fiction is one of the things that inspired me to dedicate my career to technology policy and reading new science-fiction is what helps keep me inspired… and I’m not alone”

This is exactly the spirit of TOTC and what we hope to coax out of others. Using the inspiration one finds in fantasy, science-fiction, and counter-culture to propel oneself forward in a positive way is what TOTC is about. For Kevin Bankston, he harnessed that inspiration and focused it towards a career dedicated to the public interest and advances in technology. For the TOTC crew, a platform for social connectedness and a sense of community was established. For others, the opportunities and directions are endless. Bankston continued his opening remarks in a similar fashion to the previous quote and explained that so many of the people he has met in DC, White House staffers, think-tankers, policy advocates, analysts, and many others all find the inspiration and creative drive to do what they do, in large part, because of their interest in science-fiction. This was the important take away from the evening and is what leads us to the meat and potatoes of the actual question… “What can DC Learn from Sci-fi?”

The answer to this question is multifaceted and complex but, at the same time, invariably simple… A LOT! Many of the topics covered by the panel – space exploration and colonization, defiant artificial intelligence and singularity, a variety of dystopian futures, and many others – are topics that policy makers and academics the world over are scrambling to address as they rapidly emerge from the abstraction of fiction to the crushing reality of non-fiction. Though, science-fiction, comic-book, and nerd cultures have been thinking about these topics for years… and in grotesque detail! In fact, as discussed by the panel, many of the great moments in recent history were either prophesied or closely worked out by the science fiction novels that predated them. As Charles Stross quite clearly stated during the panel, “space exploration has always been science fiction, until in 1969 when it wasn’t” and this isn’t the only example. Consider the innumerable sci-fi gadgets that have flooded the market in recent years and earlier. Drones, 3D printers, video calls, oculus rift, the list goes on and on. We can harness the energy from the sun to electrify our cities; we are on the verge of widespread driverless cars; we can access the world’s entire archive of human knowledge with the device in our pockets; and privately funded citizens are launching their own spaceships. These are all things that were dreamt up as science-fiction just a few short years ago but are now positioned firmly in our everyday reality. So how has the policy world responded to this ever-expanding bridge between science-fiction and reality? I personally believe the trend is for policy folk to claw their way through the murk and the mire of ambiguity, uncertainty, fear, and confusion until they decide they understand the changing pace of the world and pass laws to restrict its expansion. In terms of solar technology and the laws governing drone use, I think our current policy folk are underwater in terms of how we adjust today’s reality to function properly with yesterday’s science-fiction.

Having a personal affinity toward Dungeons & Dragons, I can attest to the level of meticulous detail, planning, and forethought that goes into developing a fantasy world. When developing policy in DC, as with developing policy in the fantasy realm, considerations have to be made in regard to people, the environment, political structure, international governmental relations, and the serious wide-reaching implications of every decision made at every level of policy development. The strange part is how untapped, disregarded, and seemingly disrespected the sci-fi, comic-book, and nerd communities are in the mainstream… regardless of how vibrantly creative and deeply thoughtful the individuals who occupy these spaces actually are. Instead of tapping into the creative wealth that this sub-culture has to offer in terms of its real life potential for policy research, development, and implementation what you see instead is disconnection, suppression, and discouragement. In reality, you see legions of young freshly accredited academics march into Washington with the intention of influencing policy. These legions carry with them degrees from highly respected institutions that they wield like swords to cut their way into the policy world and they are often successful in chopping down their competition. Unfortunately, and in large numbers, the creative edge of that sword has been dulled by their adherence to the structure and rigor of mainstream academic success. They often lack the imaginative depth that our evolving policy world so desperately needs. As technology advances and the far-future of science fiction becomes the not-so-distant future of reality our policy designers and DC decision makers will continue to scramble and paw their way towards answers unless they tap into the well of experience that nerd-culture has to offer.

The call-to-arms that I felt boiling out of the panel, as well as what I am trying to put across in this article, is that those science-fiction authors, comic-book nerds, and all those who occupy the spaces outside of the mundane who are currently shunned from the mainstream need to be recognized for what they have to offer in this changing world. As we move towards the Mad Max style dystopia that Charles Stross prophesied during the panel, who is better suited to tackle the changing political, social, and environmental challenges than those who have been obsessively scrutinizing every detail of that scenario since before the 1980’s? Nerd culture has a special set of tools at its disposal that those outside of it lack – they have been deeply considering, analyzing, and logically answering the questions that will be and are currently baffling our nation’s leaders. So, what can DC learn from Sci-fi? Well, from this sub-culture of incredible intellectuals who are well versed in answering the questions of tomorrow and solving the problems that those questions bring, again, I say A LOT!

For more details of the panel discussion please visit: https://www.newamerica.org/oti/events/what-can-dc-learn-sci-fi/

TOTC plays Super Combat Junior II (and more!)

Some of the TOTC crew got together and played games live on our twitch channel. We threw those broadcasts up on YouTube for your viewing disgust pleasure. Check them out below.

We started the evening with Super Combat Junior II, a local multiplayer indie game still in development. The devs approached us and asked if we would give it a playthrough and share our opinion.  We had a blast! It’s intense and fun local butt-on-couch multiplayer very reminiscent of the chaos of Zelda: Four swords. Please visit their site at https://interdimensional.itch.io Toss them a few bucks, grab some controllers, your friends, and kick some ass. (Don’t forget the beer!)

Later in the evening we screwed around with some N64 games. Mario Kart 64, Waverace 64, and a few others. We ended with Donkey Kong 64 at a viewer request. (We’ll continue that one at some point soon.)

 

 

 

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Tabletop gaming – Tales of the Con

What IS National Tabletop Day, and why should you care? Why should anyone care – it’s another marketing holiday set up by people who wanted to sell something. Does Nerd Culture really prevail over Late Capitalism every year and succeed in bringing disparate people together over cardboard armies and laser-printed anime art forever etched onto plastic slates? Or is our fascination with media built to create yet another isolated social group focused more on products than ideas.

We’re nerds so by default we have to buy things to take part in our hobbies. This is really no different from anything else that involves any sort of large fan culture – but Tabletop Day can offer a day a year for a great deal of us to take part in some hobbies we can’t normally afford to participate in. There is an unfortunate gatekeeper to this culture so many of us want to represent, and that’s economics.

As Video Games become largely focus on the realm outside of physical space, they of course also largely sacrifice the feeling of playing games next to someone. Though this criticism is not as weighty as it would be if I were writing this in say, 2008, but it is still worth speaking up about. While it’s true there’s a part of the videogame world meant for couch co-op, it has largely been replaced by online interactions.

Sooner or later the rise of tabletop games had to happen. Social interaction is always valued even in the digital era, and tabletop games give us something to interact over.  The scene seems to expand exponentially every year. Especially when you put Kickstarter on top of it and the popularity culture of nerdom, getting a tabletop game launched is easier than ever, so every week it seems like there’s a new avenue for playing games face to face with people.

That popularity culture that brings us together means our interests are always keenly the same: Star Wars, H.P Lovecraft, epic fantasy, grimdark doom, and murderin’ Space Marines. Boardgames also explore areas covered by videogames too: Economic Simulators, City Building, and Travel – and expound upon it with things like subterfuge roleplaying games that pit players against each other in battles of lies.

If it fits these things – or adapts a genre favorite like Steampunk into a realm that allows us to play with it, there’s a very good chance that players at large will be interested and soon there will be the latest Steampunk Zombie H.P Lovecraft game delivered to your doorstep (if you back it on Kickstarter)

Is that the sole reason Tabletop games become popular – or do they also additionally strike up a balance between the physicality of these kinds of games as the medium vs. how abstract our possession of other things we covet has become lately? Even most comic books, long considered a brick and mortar ran industry propagated mostly by small comic shops can be largely replaced by digital subscriptions and online-only offerings (see: The Private Eye, recently released physical)

If this sounds a little bit cynical, it’s because when you talk about something organized around products purely, it helps to be. What is more interesting about National Tabletop Day is ideas that bring people together. We went to Cab Comics in Flagstaff, Arizona this last weekend to support one of our local favorites, Tom Filsinger of Filsinger games. Not because his product appeals to us (it does!) but because we like the kind of dude Tom is and how he turned his hobby and love of wrestling into something he could share with other people.

That sharing of ideas – whether it’s stories, techniques or even simply the act of moving pieces on a board and having to wait patiently while your opponent judges the tactics you’re trying to represent, is what we at TOTC think draws people the ever burgeoning tabletop world.

As expansive and confusing as that world can sometimes be, what National Tabletop Day also represents is another chance for someone who may not have the necessary time to learn a game they can play with their friends in a dark room pouring over rulebooks, to participate and feel welcome in the hobby.  These games create stories that people can tell to each other after the fact, who the hell doesn’t like keeping a record of every brutal defeat or that time everyone pulled together to accomplish a goal. It’s just, y’know, sometimes that goal is defeating an eldritch horror without going stark raving mad.

CAB Comics in Flagstaff had staff on hand for just that – they were waiting by for us to pick a game while Tom Filsinger and The Chief ran Champions of the Galaxy for the folk curious about it right next to us.
Really – it didn’t matter if The Offender and I had ended up rolling a TOTC house roleplaying table or playing Machi koro (surprise: we did both).

What mattered was that eventually, people saw what we were playing and that there were open seats, and came to join us. So we played cardboard strategies with people we didn’t know and got the chance to meet a few new faces. Was it the joy of tabletop that brought them over, or something else entirely? I don’t know – even after working the holiday like we did.

What I do know is that in the back of my head the thought has been burning a hole – which maybe it’s not really the tabletop games or the culture that brings people together, but the simple celebration of ideas that comes from any hobby that requires participants and creators both be creative.