10 March 2010

To mini or not to mini

In my first attempts at playing D&D, I had a piece of poster board gridded off in one-inch squares, dominos to serve as walls, and some of the official AD&D Grenadier minis that my dad had bought me. (Those still make up the bulk of my minis.)

My first groups almost never used minis, though. I remember looking through a friend’s collection, but I don’t actually remember using them.

Until I moved and joined a GURPS group. Its advanced combat system really begs to be used with minis and a hex grid. Since, I’ve used them off and on.

I really like the idea of having a bunch of minis of the proper scale and Dwarven Forge or Hirst Arts dungeons. Or just cardboard heroes, sparks, and cardstock dungeons.

I like the idea, but I don’t like the reality. A lot of stuff to buy, store, tote, and organize. I could probably list more cons as well. In any case, part of my “back to basics” tendencies in recent years has included eschewing minis.

I’ve been wondering though: While playing mini-less works fine for me, perhaps—for some players—the lack of such a visual aid is a significant disadvantage.

So, I’m thinking of giving it another try. Just battlemat and pawns, though, to keep things simple. Also, I don’t want to use them simply as visual aids rather than as a minis game. I still plan to run combat in a more free fashion.

Inspired by GROGNARDIA: Minis and Me

Addicting games & computer engineering

Cracked.com has an article on 5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted. I think this is a bit sensationalistic, but some interesting things to consider.

Now this may seem completely unrelated... From Google’s blog, Helping computers understand language:

An irony of computer science is that tasks humans struggle with can be performed easily by computer programs, but tasks humans can perform effortlessly remain difficult for computers.

I wouldn’t call this “irony”. Rather, I think I’d call it the fundamental truth of computer engineering. Our task as engineers is to enable human and computer to work together. The computer should be doing the parts of the task that computers are good at, and the human should be doing the parts of the task that humans are good at.

The thing that is odd to me: It seems like a lot of games are getting people to do exactly the sorts of tasks that I’ve dedicated my professional life to automating so that people don’t have to.