Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How "The Banner Saga" conveyes a sense of doom

It's really hard to tell stories of downfall and doom in a video game, since so many games revolve around fulfilling power fantasies, at best creating a sense of ludo-narrative dissonance when trying to reach for that feat. It's even harder to tell a story by gameplay mechanics as well as written dialogue. If all this succeeds, you get a product like "The Banner Saga", the first part of (currently) two tactical roleplaying games. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Boiled Leather Audio Hour #55

We’ve tackled the North and the lands of Essos. Now our popular series of podcasts predicting the events of The Winds of Winter returns with a look at what Northern partisans such as ourselves would call “the South” — aka the rest(eros) of Westeros! With our usual emphasis on thematic and narrative resonance — and our usual caveat that this is all just fun speculation — we’re offering our theories on the fates of every major player and region. What does Book Six hold in store for our POV characters Sansa Stark, Cersei Lannister, Jon Connington, Arianne Martell, Brienne of Tarth, Jaime Lannister, Areo Hotah (hey, blame George), Samwell Tarly, and Aeron “the Damphair” Greyjoy? What about key supporting cast members like Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, the Tyrells, the Faith Militant, Doran Martell, the Sand Snakes, (f)Aegon Targaryen, Varys, Catelyn “Lady Stoneheart” Stark, Brynden “the Blackfish” Tully, Tommen and Myrcella Lannister, Walder Frey, and so on? What fates will befall King’s Landing, Oldtown, Highgarden, Storm’s End, Sunspear, and Casterly Rock? And of course, where and when will the Others and the dragons strike first? We’re taking our best guesses. See what you think!

DOWNLOAD EPISODE 55

Additional links:
Forecasting The Winds of Winter, Part 1: The North
Forecasting The Winds of Winter, Part 2: Essos
Our Patreon page at patreon.com/boiledleatheraudiohour.
Our PayPal donation page (also accessible via boiledleather.com).
Our iTunes page.
Mirror.
Previous episodes.
Podcast RSS feed.
Sean’s blog.
Stefan’s blog.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 147

Thursday is court day!
Welcome to the Supreme Court of Westeros! Every week, three pressing questions from the community will be answered by the esteemed judges Stefan (from your very own Nerdstream Era) and Amin (from A Podcast of Ice and Fire). The rules are simple: we take three questions, and one of us writes a measured analysis. The other one writes a shorter opinion, either concurring or dissenting. The catch is that every week a third judge from the fandom will join us and also write a dissenting or concurring opinion. So if you think you're up to the task - write us an email to stefan_sasse@gmx.de, leave a comment in the post, ask in the APOIAF-forum or contact Amin at his tumblr. Discussion is by no means limited to the court itself, though - feel free to discuss our rulings in the commentary section and ask your own questions through the channels above.
One word on spoilers: we assume that you read all the books, including the Hedge Knight short stories, and watched the current TV episodes. We don't include the spoiler chapters from various sources in the discussion, with the notable exception of Theon I, which was supposed to be in "A Dance with Dragons" anyway.
Please note that our new ebook is up and available on Amazon, collecting the first 60 rulings and the best comments in one place. It's only 5,99$, so what are you waiting for? 
And now, up to ruling 147! Our guest judge this week is Rick Davids, a student of Linguistics from Berlin who currrently resides in Bielefeld. He's been a fan of the books for well over a decade now. He's honored to make his second appearance on the court.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Why I don't like Grimdark

On his tumblr, Steven Attewell was asked what he thought of Grimdark. His answer deserves being quoted in full: 
Let me just say at the outset, I used to LOVE grimdark. Huge fan of Warhammer (both 40k and Fantasy), read all of the “groundbreaking, adult” graphic novels of the late 80s/90s, bought as many of White Wolf’s RPG books as I could, even if I almost never got to play them, and so on and so forth. But, and I don’t mean this at all in a condescending way, I matured out of it. This stuff that had spoke to me when I was a teenager was less appealing now that I’m in my early 30s.
A lot of this of this comes from the way that my personality works. I’m fundamentally an academic and a policy wonk and a reformer, which means when I see a bad situation either in real life or in media, my mind immediately goes to how it could be fixed, how it can be improved - I look at Westeros and start thinking about economic development plans, after all. Grimdark, however, requires stasis in order to maintain mood and atmosphere and setting:
“Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be re-learned.  Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war.”
You can see the contradiction there. 
Another big part of this is my realization, after a while, that grimdark is ultimately just as as sterile and fomulaic and predictable as its opposite. If the universe is always doomed, if the bad guys are always going to win, then there’s no dramatic tension, no possibility of surprise or innovation beyond a point. 
One of the truths I feel I’ve stumbled across over the years is that the essence of good storytelling isn’t found in extremes, but in variation. No matter whether it’s grimdark or its opposite, too much of the same thing leads to habituation and a decrease in effectiveness. The result is either apathy or a constant arms-race of intensity that eventually becomes ridiculous.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 146

Thursday is court day!
Welcome to the Supreme Court of Westeros! Every week, three pressing questions from the community will be answered by the esteemed judges Stefan (from your very own Nerdstream Era) and Amin (from A Podcast of Ice and Fire). The rules are simple: we take three questions, and one of us writes a measured analysis. The other one writes a shorter opinion, either concurring or dissenting. The catch is that every week a third judge from the fandom will join us and also write a dissenting or concurring opinion. So if you think you're up to the task - write us an email to stefan_sasse@gmx.de, leave a comment in the post, ask in the APOIAF-forum or contact Amin at his tumblr. Discussion is by no means limited to the court itself, though - feel free to discuss our rulings in the commentary section and ask your own questions through the channels above.
One word on spoilers: we assume that you read all the books, including the Hedge Knight short stories, and watched the current TV episodes. We don't include the spoiler chapters from various sources in the discussion, with the notable exception of Theon I, which was supposed to be in "A Dance with Dragons" anyway.
Please note that our new ebook is up and available on Amazon, collecting the first 60 rulings and the best comments in one place. It's only 5,99$, so what are you waiting for? 
And now, up to ruling 146! Our guest judge this week is Bobby, who is a member of the community who occasionally posts about ASOIAF at whereoldgodsrule.tumblr.com.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 145

Thursday is court day!
Welcome to the Supreme Court of Westeros! Every week, three pressing questions from the community will be answered by the esteemed judges Stefan (from your very own Nerdstream Era) and Amin (from A Podcast of Ice and Fire). The rules are simple: we take three questions, and one of us writes a measured analysis. The other one writes a shorter opinion, either concurring or dissenting. The catch is that every week a third judge from the fandom will join us and also write a dissenting or concurring opinion. So if you think you're up to the task - write us an email to stefan_sasse@gmx.de, leave a comment in the post, ask in the APOIAF-forum or contact Amin at his tumblr. Discussion is by no means limited to the court itself, though - feel free to discuss our rulings in the commentary section and ask your own questions through the channels above.
One word on spoilers: we assume that you read all the books, including the Hedge Knight short stories, and watched the current TV episodes. We don't include the spoiler chapters from various sources in the discussion, with the notable exception of Theon I, which was supposed to be in "A Dance with Dragons" anyway.
Please note that our new ebook is up and available on Amazon, collecting the first 60 rulings and the best comments in one place. It's only 5,99$, so what are you waiting for? 
And now, up to ruling 144! Our guest judge this week is Johnny from Philadelphia. He began reading the series after the 1st season of Game of Thrones and began listening to BLAH and APOIAF shortly thereafter. He is on the forums at APOIAF as The Smiling Knight. This is his fourth time as a member of the Supreme Court of Westeros.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

What is bad dialogue?

I just finished watching the first season of "Jessica Jones", and I mostly kept going to get a full picture, not because it was an especially joyous ride, so you maybe shouldn't follow in my footsteps here. What really egged me about the show, beside some other points of course, was the baffingly bad dialogue. I wanted to share an example of that with you and explain why it is so bad and try to get a bit more into the question when dialogue is to be considered bad. If you want to watch "Jessica Jones" spoilerfree, you'll have to stop reading here, but what I tell you about the plot here is really very light on spoilers, so you might just go ahead anyway.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Boiled Leather Audio Hour #54

We’re turing the podcast Upside Down this episode with an in-depth discussion of Stranger Things, the hit summer thriller series from Netflix and the Duffer Brothers. Wearing its many, many genre influences on its sleeve so proudly that said sleeves might as well have had “STEVEN SPIELBERG” and “STEPHEN KING” directly embroidered on them, the show gave its fans an ‘80s nostalgia fix like few others. But is there more to the whole than the sum of its parts? Sean and Stefan explore that question at length, touching on related issues such as the nature of horror, the hegemony of nerd culture, the ever-increasing prominence of the ‘80s in contemporary entertainment, and of course the show’s similarities with and differences from the approach to genre taken by A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. Grab your D&D dice and roll for initiative with us!

DOWNLOAD EPISODE 54

Additional links:
Sean’s essay on Stranger Things for Vulture.
Emily Yoshida’s key tweet about the show.
Chris Ott’s Shallow Rewards podcast, featuring a two-parter with Sean.
Our Patreon page at patreon.com/boiledleatheraudiohour.
Our PayPal donation page (also accessible via boiledleather.com).
Our iTunes page.
Mirror.
Previous episodes.
Podcast RSS feed.
Sean’s blog.
Stefan’s blog.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What "Stellaris" told me about the dangers of technology

In case you never heard of "Stellaris", you're either living under a rock or really aren't that much into really complex and heavy strategy games that need real effort and time to learn. Damn, that came out wrong. So, I'll take it you don't know Stellaris. It's a game by renowned studio Paradox Interactive (Hearts of Iron, Europa Universalis, Skylines, among others) in the 4x genre, allowing you to guide a civilization from its earliest FTL days to a sprawling intergalactic empire. As you marrily colonize new planets, research new techs and observe strange phenomena, you're range of options grows and your empire gains in strength, eventually resulting into First Contact with other civilizations and even war. So far, so good. But the game also has some really interesting other features, among the "crisis". And that one's a real bitch.