Saturday, October 28, 2017

Big Bad Con 2017 - Sunday, Dialect, and Selfies

FYI, Some of my photos are a little shaky. I was in the middle of an allergic reaction for half of it, and honestly, no tripod when I'm not feeling well makes it lousy. I tried though!

This is, I think, the last installment about my experience at Big Bad Con 2017!

Gif of selfies and friends <3 (featuring Tanya DePass, Misha Bushyager, and Nathan Black
My experience on Sunday at Big Bad Con was really great. I had a lot of positive experiences, and some really good emotional ones. The morning was mostly socializing - Tanya picked up some Jack in the Box for me, I visited people and talked about all sorts of stuff, and in the afternoon, I got to play games! (I know, gaming at a gaming con, who would have thought?

The first game I played was from my upcoming collection, Let Me Take a Selfie. The game is called Who Made Me Smile? and I played with Tanya DePass, Nathan Black, and Misha Bushyager. It was so fun! The general play is that we each write some three-sentence stories with different mood themes, and then take selfies after we read a selection of them. 

Our stories and some selfies. :D
After that, we talk about it, and take a "neutral" selfie. The most fun part for me is after that, when we look at other players' selfies and the stories they read to guess which story was associated with which selfie. It's fun to see how my friends express their emotions! 

Google made this.
After that, you match up who guessed which selfie right, and everyone gets the chance to take selfies or write more stories. We didn't have any need to write more stories, which you do if anyone doesn't match anything right with another player, so instead we just took selfies together! I loved it so much. 

It's important to note that none of us see each other outside of the internet very much, so being able to share these stories and see the emotions people expressed in their selfies - including people who don't normally take selfies - was such a great experience! I think everyone else had fun, and it's something I really enjoyed. Also, it was so cool seeing people play my game!

LOTS more here, including Dialect!>>>

I got to play Dialect in the afternoon with Hakan Seyalioglu running, alongside Vivian Paul, Vera Vartanian, and Kristine Hassell. I honestly can't get over how amazing this game was. Vera cried a hecka lot, in a positive feelsy way, so we must have been doing okay. :) Dialect is a game about language, specifically the death of it, and to make that happen, you need to build it. It is fascinating to me how integrated the language is with the cultural and emotional development of the characters, honestly.

Dialect table setup.

We played a group of artificially intelligent robots left behind after humans departed from earth known as EIPS (Earth Inter-Planetary Surveillance, "eeps"). The general vibe ended up being that the planet was One Hot Mess and environmentally trash. So our job, we decided, was to do surveillance on the planet so that the humans could someday return. We were there a while, and as time passed, we got better at our jobs, so we ended up with idle time to do less rote things. One of the first words we made was a filler word - ona - that we often said while thinking, interrupting our own speech, and so on. We also developed friendship. These three things are the aspects in the game that we would go on to tie words and explanations to, as well as ourselves.

To me, Friendship was the most important aspect of the story. It came up constantly because our relationships were really deep. EIPS took friendship seriously, and were grateful for those they connected with. Initially, the connections were for maintenance - the EIPS bots would repair each other by linking to each other and doing updates and repairs. During that, they learned about each other, about compassion, and about caring. This is where they made friends - synckeeps. Their synckeeps were bots they really cared for - and our bots were all synckeeps.

I mean, seriously, just thinking about the game has me tearing up, jeez.

In Dialect, you have a character of your own which a card that guides the character's identity. I was the Explorer, and I associated myself with Friendship - in the game, I tried to explore the breadth of human emotion with my limited artificial intelligence, and got quite far, I think. I played 244-L, known as Leon. Leon was a "life emulator" designed to replicate human existence with the safety of robotic structure. He looked ...approximately human, and had human-like skin that could regenerate from pretty much any chemical or environmental exposure. He was the canary in the coal mine, so to speak. Leon's creator had loved the idea of Ponce de León's Fountain of Youth, and Leon was the realization of that - his body would keep regenerating, regardless of what happened. That was the plan, anyway.

Kristine played Jesse, the Jester, who was initially a data entry module. I think Jesse was associated with the surveillance of earth aspect. She was connected to data points all over the place until, as time passed, each one shut down and she was left alone with just us other models. While the settlement of bots was in the thousands, she was just herself. Because of this, she had learned sarcasm, which was her way of dealing with stress and isolation. She reviewed our daily reports for errors, and for so many years they had been static - eventually she started to copy and paste.

Next, there was the heart of our group - Spinner. AMZ013 was played by Vivian, who did a spectacular job making a lot of us feel really squishy. Spinner was a utility bot who had a broken wheel and so, obviously, Spinner spun and wobbled instead of going straight. Spinner was an incredibly interesting character who kept us on track, oddly enough, when the story got more challenging. Spinner was one of us who had a lot to do with how we spent our idle time (see later, "Uplink."

Finally, Vera played IONI, ECR1147-C, a satellite who was never actually launched. IONI was our technical hub, kind of "in charge" of the situation - her archetype was the Ruler. She monitored all of the goings on, and made a lot of the big decisions. IONI, like Jesse, was pretty much the only one. We found out that IONI had been saying she received contact from the humans, but it turned out that for far too long she had been getting radio silence - what we knew as commfail, the word that described our sadness.

The first big event we had was that Jesse uncovered a discrepancy - a variance - in her reports. She couldn't just copy and paste. She reported it to IONI, and IONI decided to investigate it with an expedition. As Leon was an explorer both emotionally and on the ground, he would go out on the expeditions with other EIPS units to test the environment. It beat him up pretty bad, and there was always a worry he wouldn't come back. Because of this, we developed a way to say "good luck."

When an EIPS unit says goodbye to someone, they send a datapacket to them with silly pictures and cute animals (cute cats, otters, etc.). While EIPS don't entirely understand the point of all of it, the humans who made them were cheered by them, and they learned to enjoy them over time. Along with this, however, we needed an indication of them doing it, so we came through with ❤. The bots with LED screens could simply flash the hearts, while those who were more anatomically human used their hands to make the heart (see picture). 

This pic is super old but it demonstrates the point, yo.
(This was actually inspired by RPG_Dante (Bryant Stone) who I met at CONlorado. He signals ❤ to me when we part ways. I may have made everyone tear up with this because of how cute and sweet it is, which is a rare thing for a Brie.)

After Leon came back, it was determined that there was nothing evident in the outside that would explain the variance. We moved forward an age. Each age, you take one aspect and move it into the next circle set up on the table that represents the ages in the game. We chose Idle Time, which was changed into Overtime - we were working past our limits, longer than we had planned with no response from the humans, and running out of glint (our fuel). We were working overtime.

Kristine broke my heart with her character's story and how she dealt with the loneliness and commfail that the characters experienced, as well as how she brought levity to the table. She was the first of us to express worry - known to us as 404. Her 404 was often founded, as Leon and Spinner got into a mess. There was a holiday known as "Uplink" where we would all power down and just socialize and be calm during a big storm that passed over our compound, and it took a lot of time and energy to give this space to us.

After the Uplink, Leon found Spinner. They hid in a closet and - in one of the most dick moves I've ever done in a game - Leon suggested that they might save glint if they put some of the others... out of commission. "Not everyone is necessary all of the time" is I think what was said, and the interaction was so painful, but Spinner agreed that it wasn't an unreasonable plan. They planned to keep it secret, and had hid out of the range of IONIs base sensors, but they couldn't get away from Jesse.

Jesse showed up and asked what was up, and in the process of trying to hide their discussion, Leon offered Jesse a can of "Pork nnnn beeens?" (Spinner noted it's only $2.49) while trying to demonstrate that they were just getting rid of old cans. It didn't work, and they spilled the (not pork and) beans. Jesse demanded answers in her 404, and Leon and Spinner responded. One of the biggest issues was that they suggested powering IONI down, even though she was their synckeep, and things got very complicated. After getting support from other EIPS, they gathered their courage and reported their thoughts to IONI, presenting themselves as in favor of Eco-Mode (which was a label for their faction, including those who agreed with them). IONI wasn't happy, but was eventually convinced.

The age turned, and they began putting people into Eco-Mode. The first versions - periods of time where they disabled groups and later reenabled them - went okay, but over a lot of time, they ran into an event that made it harder to move forward: The Wipe. A huge sector of EIPS units were powered down, but when they were meant to go back online, there was nothing there. Their AI had been fully wiped. Unrecoverable. The commfail was immense. Going forward, the synckeeps struggled to stay together and powered on, but as those who had pursued Eco-Mode, some of them felt obligated to version.

Spinner was the first to get boxed up - literally - but was so well loved that the entire community came to wish him ❤ as he went into Eco-Mode, heavy with 404 that he might not return, and experiencing commfail at not having him near. This hit Jesse especially hard. Still, as Spinner left, he repeated our unity saying, "We are still here." 

Our aspect for Surveillance of Earth, in the last age, was changed to Survival.

Leon continued to do expeditions, and Jesse found another variance, so he pushed out one day to find out what was there. He was walking along with guidance and wishes of ❤ from Jesse and IONI because there were no other life emulators with him, just bots without AI doing utility tasks. There was a lot of interference, and he struggled to hear them while his vision was overwhelmed with environmental waste. His last messages repeated until it cut off - "404. 404. IONI? Jesse? 404. 404--"

IONI and Jesse struggled with the loss of their synckeeps, upset they couldn't recover Leon because of the environment and their limited abilities. Eventually, they were the only ones powered on. In an act filled with commfail, IONI had Jesse power her down and send her last message out to the humans with the full archive. It was truly heartbeaking, honestly, I swear we were all near tears. Jesse, hugging her pork nnnn beeens, was alone.

After time, utility bots who had been surveying the landscape came across the body of Leon, who - after his skin had been burned away by sulfur waves - was now healed, but still deactivated. Jesse had him brought into IONI's hangar, and then she brought in Spinner and set him up. She arranged little monitors for IONI, Leon, and Spinner, and played ❤ messages and videos. We faded to black.

In the dark, a message blinked on IONI's status monitor.

"Archive received."

Final table.


This is one of the best game sessions, and games, I have ever played in my entire life. I'm still crying just thinking about it. It was an amazing experience. Great players, great facilitator, great game. I would love to play Dialect like 8 billion more times. SO good. *dies*

Afterwards, I hung out with the aforementioned Dante and had dinner. I told him about being the messenger of ❤ in our game, which I think he liked. We also discussed my new mechanic for Script Change, frame-by-frame, and his own project that sounds like a lot of fun. After Dante left, I talked with Kristine, Tomer Gurantz, and a few other people about Brooklyn 99 and The Good Place and it was a great way to finish out. My flight was early and I stayed up late but it was well worth it.

I can't wait to go back to Big Bad Con! I had such a good time and it was really amazing.

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