Autoethnography: My Understanding

Digital Asia

The concept of autoethnography makes me challenge almost every ideal I’ve been taught during my school years. As a journalism student, we are taught to avoid bias and remain as impartial to the research and ideas explored in every article we write. We have to, to the best of our ability, provide both sides of every story for audiences to make up their own mind. Autoethnography allows me to challenge that notion and explore how I perceive particular experiences and instances. As mentioned in Ellis’ Autoethnography: An Overview, authors often find it therapeutic to write personal stories as it helps to make sense of ourselves and our experiences (Ellis et al, 2011). By taking an auto ethnographic approach, authors are also able to question themselves to improve and understand relationships and promote change (Ellis et al, 2011).

The first time I saw the term autoethnographic, I was beyond confused…

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My First Godzilla Experience

Digital Asia

gojiraGojira (1954). Photo credit: The Focus Pull

I think this was the first black and white film, and first subtitled film I have ever watched from start to finish. Being a 21-year-old Australian, I tend to only watch films and television shows that originate in the US and Australia; sometimes ones from the UK sneak their way into the mix. Being exposed to a film that is as culturally diverse as Gojira, and as far from my comfort zone as can be, really opened my eyes.

While watching the film, I tweeted “what a cinematic masterpiece”… I’m not going to lie when I say I was being a little sarcastic at first but as the film went on and we were exposed to the film maker’s use of model work and post-film productions, such as the siren that alerted the city of Godzilla’s appearance, I really did start to…

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Let’s Play: The Plan

 

As someone who hardly plays video games, I thought I would begin this journey by playing the most basic of basic games – a game that claimed to be a short story game… One that took under 10 minutes to complete. I present to you: The Plan.

A fly ascends to the skies, pondering the pointlessness of its brief existence.

The Plan was developed by Krillbite Studio in 2012/13. The developers describe The Plan as a small side project but it has received a lot of positive attention throughout the years. They describe it as being a short, experimental game about self-discovery. I definitely noticed how calming it was to play.

The Plan offers players an eerie, yet stunning backdrop to fly along the path of life.  The game can be summed up as a simple yet striking metaphor about the circle of life. The picturesque scene is also accompanied with a slightly haunting score that was performed by Oslo Camerata.

Joseph Burnstein from Buzzfeed summed up the experience of The Plan to a tee. He commented “… Here are the emotions I experienced during the three minutes it took me to play The Plan…: confusion, frustration, boredom, fear, amusement, delight, joy, enchantment, and regret.”

Steam categorises The Plan as indie, atmospheric, short and casual. Basically four words that sum up this video game perfectly. Krillbite have developed this game for Windows, Mac and Linux.

As for the rules of this game; they’re as simple as you think. You control the fly with four little buttons. [W] to go up, [A] to fly to the left, [D] to fly to the right and [X] to go down. The objective? Just keep going up. You’ll see what happens. Mobility is a key mechanic in The Plan – the whole point of it is to move around and get through an obstacle or two.

The Plan received very little initial advertising. Krillbite notified the media with a brief mailer and sent a newsletter to their friends. The rest happened through the power of the internet. Let’s plays started popping up all over Youtube and sites like Eurogamer and indiegames started writing about it.

According to the Krillbite website, The Plan was named the 10th most important game of 2013 and has been downloaded just under 800, 000 times. I downloaded my copy from Steam in the ‘free to play’ section. It is also available as a free download from their website.

Screenshot from The Plan. Photo credit: Krillbite Studio

Reference:

Krillbite.com. (n.d.). Krillbite Studio Presskit – The Plan.

Krillbite Studio via steampowered.com (2015). The Plan, two year anniversary!

Game Designing (2017). The Beginner’s Guide to Game Mechanics.

The Safe Zone Prototyping

Play testing became an integral part of the game design process. The first couple of play tests focused on testing whether the rules I had decided on fit in with the game and the mechanics. The later play tests revolved more around testing out the finalised rules and design with different size groups.

Play test one & two

This was the first time I had anyone else play the game and look at the design. This play test was with the minimum people allowed to play (two). I still didn’t have a board that went with the game so I borrowed elements from board games that I have. In this first play test it was determined that thirty health was too much and that rolling the set of four dice up to three times was too many. We had both completed the game with health levels in the mid-twenties and the game was over in fifteen minutes.

Set up for play tests 1 & 2

Play test three

This game was again played with two people. I used this to test out what had been discussed in the previous play test. This time, three dice were used and we were only able to re-roll once.

Play test four & five

These two play tests took place during class time and were the first I had done with the maximum number of players (six). Play test number four was played with three dice and play test number five was played with two. Two dice worked much better with a larger group of players and the game lasted longer and players were able to move further on the board. During play test four, players were only able to get to the second or third column on the board, whereas players were able to complete the board during play test five.

Set up for play tests 4 & 5

Feedback during these two play tests was to have two different dice systems for the different number groups.

Two to three players:

  • Two action dice: these two dice both have numbers 1-3, an infectious attack, a direct attack and health on them.

Four to six players:

  • One action die: contains two infectious attacks, two direct attacks and two health sides.
  • Number die: numbers 1-6.

These different methods allow the game to take place similarly, even though the number of actions is different.

Play test six & seven

These two play tests were more about narrowing down the different dice methods for the different groups of players. This time three people were playing. The first play test took place with the number/ action dice. The second was with two action dice. Both methods worked for the smaller group but feedback showed that the two action dice was more enjoyable.

Set up for play tests 6 & 7

Main changes:

  • Being allowed to roll the dice up to 3x down to only rolling them once.
  • Introducing a safe area onto the board (black zones). Landing on this means that players aren’t impacted by the actions on their dice.
  • Rain symbol on dice impacts everyone in your column.
  • Lower health from 30 to 15.

The Safe Zone | A Game Pitch

The Safe Zone is a board game controlled by dice and chance cards that is inspired by I Am Legend (book or movie, you decide). The game combines my favourite elements of King of TokyoThe Safe Zone takes a lot of the mechanics that were displayed in King of Tokyo and expands on others. I knew that I wanted to design a game that was controlled by actions displayed on a set of dice, but thought that utilising an actual board would bring an interesting aspect to the overall board game.

Initial planning for The Safe Zone

Initial planning for The Safe Zone

Designing the technicals for this board game was the hardest. Coming up with names, symbols and rules took a lot of brainstorming that my 2am self didn’t appreciate. I’m still not 100% with everything that’s been chosen for the game so far, but with the remaining weeks between now and the due date for the project dossier, I’m sure pieces of the puzzle will fall together.

After researching game styles, I believe that The Safe Zone falls into ‘Euro-style’. Taken from a post on The Games JournalThe Safe Zone draws on many points that the author deems to be ‘Euro-style’.

  1. The game takes under an hour to finish
  2. Simple rules
  3. Player interaction without overt conflict
  4. Abstract enough that the theme isn’t entirely necessary.

The Safe Zone: A Board Game box artwork example

Overview:

An infectious disease has overtaken your hometown! The disease is spread by contact and a strange modified form of rain and has been reported to have infected towns all around the country. You and your remaining uninfected friends must work together to get across town to the bunker that was set up by the community before chaos happened.

Example of game board

In The Safe Zone you take on the role of one of six uninfected townspeople, whose main purpose is to make it safely across town to a bunker to wait out the infection. You will have four dice that will determine your move on the gameplay board. A player can roll the set of dice up to three separate times in a go to get your desired pairings. There’s health (to benefit you), attack from The Infected, attack from the infected rain and numbers 1, 2 and 3 to determine how far you move on the board. Certain tiles on the board allow you to pick up a chance card which will further the game on. The chance cards are split into two different categories; USE NOW and SAVE FOR LATER. The SAVE FOR LATER option allows players to either use the cards immediately or save them for a later strategic move. Each player will each start with 30 health on your points tile. If a player reaches zero health, they become one of The Infected and are out of the game. First person to the bunker, wins. The game could end there, or you can play on to see who else will make it to the bunker and who will become infected.

Example of chance cards

Each player will begin the game with the same level of health. The player with the most recent birthday will go first and then the game will proceed in a clockwise order. The rest of the game will be determined by chance, with strategic aspects present with SAVE FOR LATER cards.

What comes in the box:

  • The gameplay board
  • A deck of chance cards (approx. 70 cards)
  • Four dice
  • Illustrated boards to track health
  • Character tiles

Mechanisms: 

The Safe Zone is a combination of my favourite board game mechanics. The game will contain:

  • Card drafting;
  • Dice rolling;
  • Player elimination;
  • Turns;
  • Action points;
  • Movement; and
  • Risk and reward.

Design:

I had originally planned for the game design to be really green and lush. After playing around with painting the chance cards and trying to design a board, the designs didn’t really work together and the game was no longer cohesive. Instead, I have used Canva to design the images featured above to keep the design of the game simple, easy to navigate and cohesive.

Marketing:

As of yet, I haven’t done any play testing with The Safe Zone so it’s tricky to determine what age its target audience would be. I think the game would appeal to audience ages 12+ as there aren’t a lot of rules to follow and the idea behind it is so simple.

Five Tribes: The Djinns of Naqala Board Game Review

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t like this game when we started to play it but after I got the hang of things, it was actually really great. Five Tribes is very similar to the board game Splendor but I found it to be a bit more interesting.

Released in 2014 by Days of Wonder, designer Bruno Cathala created a game for the serious strategy gamer. Five Tribes is said to be Days of Wonder’s first gamer’s game, even though it’s a very easy one to play.

The game is aimed at players aged thirteen and up. The box recommends that the game will take between 40-80 minutes to complete. Our game with three first time players took around 60 minutes to complete.

Five Tribe retails for around $110 AUD.


Game Overview:

Five Tribes takes place in the fabled Sultanate of Naqala. Players move meeples that represent the five tribes, around the board of tiles to gain power and influence. Players have to remove all the meeples from a tile and distribute them, one at a time. At the end of the game, whoever has the most influence and wealth will become the new ruler of Naqala.

To set up the game, players have to randomly place the tiles to make a modular board in a 5×6 array. The game comes with 30 double-sided tiles — meaning no two games will be the same. The meeples are drawn randomly from the included cloth bag and three are placed on each tile. Starting on any tile, all of the meeples on that particular tile have to be picked up and placed in an orthogonal-only path with one meeple being placed on each tile you pass. For your move to be legal, the tile you end on must have a meeple of the same colour you have remaining on it. The player then collects all of the meeples of that colour from the board and trades it according to what it offers. If the tile is then empty, the player can place a camel on the tile to claim that area.

Nine resource cards are set up on one side of the board, which can be purchased with certain coloured meeples or victory coins. There’s also a display for Djinn cards — three are face up from a deck of 22. Each of these has a special ability that can be used if you acquire that card.

The game also comes with some wooden pieces, which represent camels, palm trees and palaces. The camels come in each player’s colour and are used to represent who has taken ownership over which tile. Instead of being made from cardboard like the victory coins are, these pieces and the bid markers are made from thick wood and painted to match the overall style of the game.

The game is played in a series of rounds, where the players have to bid in order to go first. If someone doesn’t want to bid, they take over one of the free spots on the turn order track. This has to be done every round.

Once all of the tiles have been claimed or there are no longer any moves available, the game is almost over. Players must collect all of their tiles and accompanying cards, meeples, palaces and palm trees and tally up the points on the score pad that comes with the game. The player with the most points wins the game.

We were quite impressed that our scores were on the higher side, as we didn’t really know what we were doing to begin with. The game was interesting in which there are many different ways to collect points. The tiles are worth points, as are your remaining coins, and any meeples you collected throughout the game.

The artwork on the box is quite beautiful and detailed and I found that the tiles, cards, etc. matched the story well. The mix of dull browns and bright colours was very aesthetically pleasing for a game about a caravan stopping in a town that needs a new ruler.

I’ve only played Five Tribes once, but I imagine each game would be better than the last. Just as you think you’ve developed a strategy, the tiles get shuffled and a new board is created. As no game is the same, strategies can’t really be transferred from game to game.

This is the one of the games that we played during class that I would actually consider buying. Although it’s a hard game to master, I can imagine it being a crowd pleaser.