Transformative Experiences- Virtual Reality

It is interesting to have an experience so transformative as to give one the impression of seeing the future within the present. Usually, this involves seeing a part of the world in some profoundly different way than one is accustomed to seeing it. In the age of rapid incremental technological progress, oftentimes we forget what this kind of experience feels like. Today, every bit of progress feels like a half-step over what has come before, like a ‘Xeno’s Paradox’ of new phones, televisions, and video game systems constantly telling us that this half-step will be the one that gets us to the door.

Well, folks, in this analogy, virtual reality is the door, and I have spent the past week or so looking through it. I am pleased to say that the experience is sufficiently above and beyond any normal step forward in technology to be worth writing about, though it also comes with some caveats.

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Character Banter – Episode 1: Beginnings

Welcome to Character Banter, the second major podcast series from Opening Turn! For this series, I am joined by Adrian, Aria, and Karl as we discuss current topics in all forms of gaming as well as historical topics from all areas of our experience!

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The Games that Guide Us – Night in the Woods and Depression

Much like anxiety, depression as a mental health consideration has entered the public consciousness to a greater degree in the past couple of decades than it has in the more distant past. Also, similarly to anxiety, it is obvious that depression has existed in humans for much longer than we have had the words to describe it or the tools to diagnose and treat it. A somewhat common perception seems to be that anxiety and depression go hand in hand enough that they are often mentioned together in conversations regarding mental health. While there can be some degree of observable correlation there, the two conditions should be considered separately in terms of how they affect an individual’s perceptions of and reactions to reality.

The topic of how mental health affects how a person perceives and interacts with the world around them is one of the central concepts expressed in the game Night in the Woods. The plot of the game, written by Scott Benson and Bethany Hockenberry, revolves around Mae Borowski, a 20-year-old woman returning to her hometown of Possum Springs after dropping out of college for initially undisclosed reasons. During the course of the game’s narrative, Mae experiences a number of interconnected mental health issues that result in her version of reality being affected. While there are a number of games out there that also use altered mental states as a narrative tool, Night in the Woods uses a combination of the narrative representation of Mae’s mental state alongside adventure game exploration and platforming in order to allow the player to participate in the overarching depression that constantly layers atop Mae’s reality.

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Opening Turn Podcast – Episode 5: Months of Planning Followed by Eight Hours of Sheer Chaos

Hey everyone! Here is Episode 5 of the Opening Turn Podcast!

This is the final in a five-part series about the creation, writing, planning, and running of live action roleplaying events. In this episode, Riley Seaman and I bring together all the concepts we have been exploring in our previous installments and give a rundown of how they tie into the day of the event itself! As always, safety, adaptability, and player experience are key to making the event as fun and successful for everyone as possible.

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The Games that Guide Us – Impostor Syndrome

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. You’ve just started a new job, and it seems like all your training and schooling that you may have gone through before didn’t quite prepare you for the specific expectations that you are faced with in this new environment. Perhaps you’ve been working somewhere for awhile and either a new project or a new set of responsibilities makes you think that you really don’t have it quite as together as others think that you do. Perhaps you’ve felt like each test or trial that you go through in your life is accomplished through good luck, like you’ve managed to roll a natural 20 every time that it’s mattered. Whichever of these sorts of situations applies to you, there is something in common: the feeling that at some point, someone is going to figure out that you are not the person you’ve advertised yourself to be and that you really aren’t qualified to be doing the thing that you’re doing.

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Opening Turn Podcast – Episode 4: He Who Playtests His Own Game Has A Fool For A GM

Hey everyone! Here is the (slightly late) episode 4 of the Opening Turn podcast!

This is the fourth in a five (or more!) episode series over live-action roleplaying. Here, Riley Seaman and I talk about various game mechanics and how they support the overall feel of the game and the environment that the players are interacting with. We talk about existing game mechanics, levels of player interaction with the environment, safety, and, as always, making sure the players are having a good experience.

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The Games that Guide Us – Crisis Management and Anxiety

Anxiety has been something that I have had to deal with throughout my life. It was there even before I knew what anxiety was, or that it wasn’t something that everyone felt, or even what the full extent of my reactions to it could even be. I’ve written about it before, but I wanted to include it specifically in this series of articles and explore it in a different way than I have in the past. In my previous article about anxiety, I wrote about why games are a common coping mechanism for those who experience it. In this series, I wanted to approach things from a different point of view. Here, I will be examining how games can be used to show someone who has not experienced this kind of anxiety directly what goes into those feelings and thought processes, and how those of us who do experience it develop coping mechanisms and manage the things that happen in our lives.

It is no real secret that anxiety is becoming a greater and greater issue in modern society; yet it is something that not many people who haven’t experienced it are able to fully comprehend. It goes beyond simply being worried about something, and beyond even the idea of something bad happening in the future. Anxiety is a combination of mental and physical reactions that can make a person paralyzed in the face of a real or imagined crisis. Oftentimes, those of us who are experiencing extreme anxiety are faced with the difficult choice of dealing with what is going on in the present or stockpiling our resources (whether mental, physical, or emotional), to deal with whatever the next crisis will be. It doesn’t even matter if we are unaware what the next crisis is, we just know there is going to be one.

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Opening Turn Podcast – Episode 3: You Can’t Spell Community Without “Why? Oh.”

Hey everyone! Episode 3 of the Opening Turn Podcast is contained within!

This episode is part three of the five-part series over live action roleplaying. In this episode, Riley Seaman and I talk about building an accepting community, managing a project, and working with the people being brought on to a project to help with the logistics of running a game. We also talk about our personal experiences with community rules and enforcement policies.

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Opening Turn Podcast – Episode 2: Cow Tools

Hey everyone! Time for Opening Turn Podcast Episode 2: Cow Tools!

This is also the second episode in a series that my PAX South co-panelist, Riley Seaman, and I recorded regarding the ins and outs of getting started in Live Action Roleplaying. This episode focuses a bit more on generalized roleplaying and plotwriting concepts such as how to craft memorable characters, how to scope your characters for the world they exist in, what your actual real-world limitations will do to affect your characters, and how to craft a plot that your players will be engaged in.

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The Games that Guide Us – Persona and Empathy

It can be said that the stories that we experience are one of the primary things that allow us to grow as humans, because they let us experience things that are outside of our direct base of knowledge. This is the reason I think that video games can be a very important narrative tool. When playing a narrative-driven video game, not only is the player reading about an experience, that player is directly involved in interacting with the experience. The best games, then, are the ones that can craft a narrative that is personally and directly relevant to a subject and can give a player insight into other experiences and points of view.

It is fitting, then, that one of the first articles that I write about this is on the subject of empathy. It is widely theorized that people achieve a greater sense of empathy with others when they have read stories told from other viewpoints. Empathy, as a trait, can be defined in this sense as the ability to care what is happening to another person to such an extent as to be able to emotionally connect to that person and relate to what they are going through oneself. Empathy for others is a large part of how humans have connected to each other throughout history; if one individual can know even a part of the pain of another, that individual becomes more invested in the removal or prevention of that pain, after all.

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