Partisan Because We Have to Be

Just a quick thought here before I go to bed. It’s prompted by my (over?) reaction to something someone said on Twitter. He was admonishing partisans on the left and right who were using Bin Laden’s death to make political points. In so many words, he said they should grow up, that an historic event like this one isn’t the time or place. I took issue with that.

I have no stomach for laments over “petty politics” or the divisions that manifest themselves at important moments. In most cases, our differences are not petty. We are divided by deeply-held and opposed points of view. I have spent years listening to warnings about liberals’ “pre-9/11 mentality” and a GOP that insisted it was responsible for “keeping America safe” while rejecting criticism of misguided wars, failing strategies, and unconstitutional policies. The specter of 9/11 and Osamba Bin Laden were evoked again and again to justify or defend decisions that I and many other Americans found utterly repugnant. They were evoked to discredit alternate points of view, to defeat every effort to alter the broad outline of our national security strategy from the template established during the Bush administration.

So when Osama bin Laden is killed during a Democratic administration, the moment is already loaded with implicit partisanship. There is nothing beyond the cold comfort of a murderer’s death around which the country can come together. Every other aspect of this war has been defined by political conflicts that have had very real consequences here and around the world. The illusory unity produced by Bin Laden’s death cannot and should not change that.

Happy Hour – April 29

Following a busy week working on longer-term projects, I’m about to take the weekend to go recharge my batteries out at Julian Murdoch’s place. I’m not sure he’s prepared for the stack of board games I’m going to bring out. I’ve got the Panzer General card games, and the new BattleTech box set. I’m also debating bringing Tribune out with me, because that is long-overdue for a playthrough.

Also, I may require some Agricola during my visit. I know few people who are as devoted to that game as Julian, and MK and I are always happy to get a chance to play it. There are also rumors that he has converted his house to a pinball palace, which I’m eager to see.

With such good company, and a badly needed change of scene, I may not be doing much video gaming. That’ll just make it all the sweeter when I get back on Monday and get back to work.

In the meantime, check out this week’s 3MA, in which we have a legal expert on the show to talk about how far copyrighting can extend to elements of a game design.

Happy Hour – April 22

Having just submitted my last bit of work for the week, I turn my thoughts to how I will be spending this rare bachelor weekend. Certainly I will start it right by paying a visit to my friend J.P. Grant of Infinite Lag. There will be board gaming, but I think we’ll keep it light tonight. Some Pandemic and Formula D should do nicely. Perhaps some Weinhandler too?

There is some work I have to do this weekend. Duty compels me to play Revolution Under Siege, a wargame about the Bolshevik revolution and Russian Civil War. It’s a nifty setting, but I wonder if I’m tired of the AGEOD system. I hope not: Pride of Nations is coming soon.

To occupy my empty days, I may do a GP weekend in F1 2010, and spend the lonely nights with F.E.A.R. I also hope to get in some late-night strategy gaming with the likes of Company of Heroes or Men of War, but that depends on having friends who will stay up with me.

Man, I really need to stop indulging my passion for gaming antiquity. My stack is a mile high, and I’m playing a six year-old FPS.

Update: Oh, fuck it. Portal 2 can come, too.

Friday Debrief

A few people have requested in comments and in emails that I provide blog entries and links when I have new work going up, a sensible point when considering RSS readers. So we’ll see how a Friday round-up goes.

This week, you can find my reaction to Enslaved over at Gamers With Jobs. I do worry I came down a little harshly on it: the first half is really excellent, and justified my purchase. But ultimately it’s not just a story, but a videogame, and not a very good one.

I was also on the GWJ Conference Call to talk about Valve and a few of my recent gaming obsessions with Cory Banks, Sean Sands, and Allen Cook. I don’t know what it is about the Conference Call, but it makes me more argumentative and ornery than usual. Maybe it’s because someone else is hosting, and so I delight in throwing out conversational hand grenades. Ironically, back when I just listened to the show, I hated Cory for playing this role. When he was the only guy who thought Flower was overrated, I thought he was just being a contrarian dick. Then I played Flower, and saw the value of being the guy who sets the Hyperbole Theater on fire.

If you head down to you local newsstand, you may find the June issue of PC Gamer. It contains a review of Portal 2, but we don’t care about that here. We care about me. So go pick up the June issue for a new Tactical Advantage column on the state of RTS communities in the age of Starcraft II, a review of the lame APOX, and the excellent Men of War: Assault Squad. In retrospect, I probably should have just asked for more space for Men of War, as the word count was a little crowded for the angle I took. Still, you have to try different things.

Finally, on Three Moves Ahead, we talked about the Panzer General series and got into a whole dust-up over whether it’s even a good wargame, and how that series introduced players to a classic genre conventions.

The Columnist at Dawn

Since I’m up unusually early this morning with nothing to do, I may as well put this time to use by explaining why this blog is going dark so frequently. You know the outlines of it, of course. I’m busier than ever and am trying to accommodate a new pace of work. However, now that it’s in black and white, I should talk about my new life as a PC Gamer contributor.

When Troy paid the boatman to ferry him over to the PR side of the business, Dan Stapleton asked me if I would take over the strategy column and review work that Troy had been doing, since he already knew me from 3MA. Most of my work has yet to show up in print, because of the way schedules work, but if you hit the newstands now, you’ll find my inaugural column.

Honestly, if you like reading my work, you should really subscribe to PC Gamer, because I am doing an absolute ton of writing for the magazine right now. This week alone has me putting together a wargame review, a guide, a preview, and a column. Although I’m biased, I would also have to say the rest of the magazine is pretty damned good, too. It’s far better than what I remember from when I let my last subscription lapse several years ago. The columnists are great (Andy Mahood remains one of my favorite game writers) and I abs0lutely love how the previews get beyond the sale pitch and raise questions about the games under discussion. My editor didn’t bat an eye when I explained in a preview for the website why The Darkness II was as repulsive as it was enticing.

This is good, because writing for the magazine has me doing the kind of assignments I’d always thought I would prefer to avoid. I don’t know how I’d write a blandly positive preview about something I really didn’t care about, and fortunately I’ve not had to find out. The biggest challenge is writing to the low word-counts of a print magazine. At the start of this week, I had to distill a crummy week with a game to less than 300 words. That’s a totally different experience than the web pieces I’ve done to date.

But it does mean that my time is more limited than ever. Still, enough people have been prodding me about this blog, and in particular some projects I’ve left unfinished, that I will set aside some time to write some long-overdue pieces. In the meantime, however, I strongly suggest checking out the “Work” tab in the upper right of this page for links to my latest pieces, and subscribing to PC Gamer.

Three Moves Ahead PAX East Meet-Up

At 11 am on Sunday during PAX East, Julian and I will be hosting a little Three Moves Ahead Sunday Brunch, and I hope to meet many of you there. To that end, I have made a reservation at Lucky’s Lounge, which is near the convention center.

Now, I had a rough estimate of how many people would be there, but I am starting to suspect we might have more than that. So if you plan on coming, please let me know in this thread or by emailing me at zacnyr [at] gmail [dot] com. That way, I can tell the restaurant what to prepare for.

Here are the vital facts:

I hope to see you there.