On the Subject of Gaming

I am a gamer, in this specific case I mean RPGs, Roleplaying Games, which have been my hobby and my primary creative outlet for almost as long as I can remember.  It is also how I met almost all my close friends.

Over the past couple of years some of my friends & I have been talking about what it means to be a gamer, how we talk about our hobby and what the pitfalls and perils of it are.

Now I am going to assume a level of knowledge and familiarity with the hobby here so if you are not a gamer and/or not interested in this kind of stuff then you may want to close your browser, I won’t be offended.

Firstly let’s talk about how we talk about gaming; there is the GNS theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNS_Theory) put forward by Ron Edwards, it basically says that games, players and GMs can be split into 3 distinct categories.  While this provides some interesting tools for identifying styles of play and types of game it is, to me anyway, far too limiting a framework for discussing a hobby a wide ranging as gaming.  I admit a reasonable part of this might be personal bias, in the past I’ve tried to discuss this and a few other topics on The Forge forums (run by Ron Edwards, although I think they may be closed now) and was met with a wall of arrogance and was told in a kind of round-about way that if I didn’t agree with them they weren’t interested in discussing anything with me.

Now, that doesn’t seem like a good approach to me, surely you can’t develop a theory if you’re only willing to listen to viewpoints that support your assumptions.

Anyway, GNS is not a great fit for me, it has some nice ideas but it seems to be trying too hard to be neutral and intellectual and just ends up coming off a bit snobby.

There is also the famous, in RPG circles anyway, gamer typing test.  This was a list of example actions and questions that did the rounds of gaming circles years ago (like in the 80’s), it split players into groups depending on the type of actions they took in a game.  Those groups were:

The Real Man – The tough macho type who walks up to the attacking dragon and orders it to leave before he gets hurt.

The Real Roleplayer – The intelligent cunning guy who tricks the constable into letting you all out of prison.

The Loonie – The guy who will do anything for a cheap laugh, including casting a fireball at ground zero.

The Munchkin – Need we say more?

Now obviously this was meant to be humours and to poke fun at the hobby and the participants.  But it does quite well at describing 4 broad groups, the problem being that 4 broad groups make for too many generalisations.

So, the question becomes how do we talk about gaming?  How do we discuss our hobby in a useful and constructive way using universally recognised language?

I think the answer to this is that we can’t.  Gaming is at its core a hobby for nerds and geeks, we form small tightly knit groups of friends and very rapidly develop our own lexicons and catch phrases and ways of talking about things.  This makes talking about the hobby at a higher level very difficult as none of us really share the same language.

Not to say that we shouldn’t talk but I think that we need to accept that the groups talk about different things in different ways and that when talking to people outside our immediate groups we should try and avoid in-references and recursive jokes that relate to our groups and players.  Treat it as an academic discussion, quote your references, don’t lose your temper when talking about games, avoid the ‘edition wars’ problem and keep in your mind this sage piece of wisdom:

“Wil says, don’t be a dick.”

Anyway, enough for now I’m going to talk more about gaming and my likes and loves in later posts but I thought I’d put down the groundwork for everyone to read, I can’t promise I won’t post in jokes or references that don’t make much sense outside of my group of friends, but I will try and explain it when I can.

Food – In this case Steve’s Lamb Stew

So I’ve been thinking about something other than the impending release of Mass Effect 3, which believe me took some effort.  “What have you been thinking of Steve?” I hear no one say, well I’ll tell you; food, in this case Stew, specifically my Moroccan influenced Lamb Stew and I have decided to share it with you all.

I have made this stew several times over the past few years and it always seem to go down well, there are so many ways you can tweak the recipe but in this case I’m going to go with the one I use most commonly.

You will need:

Meat – I use either diced lamb or mutton, depends on how strong a flavour you want from the meat.  Either is good.

A mix of veggies, you can use practically anything here, my recommendation is:

Sweet Potato
Butternut Squash
Swede or Turnips

Spices – Ground Smoked Paprika (the regular kind is ok but Smoked is much better if you can get it), Ground Cinnamon, Ground Cumin, fresh chopped garlic, Salt & Black Pepper.

Stock of your choice, I use a lamb or beef stock.

To begin there is a lot of chopping to do I’m afraid.  Start with the meat, trim the excess fat and make sure it is reasonably cubed then toss it quickly in a mixture of plain flour, black pepper and salt. Once this is done set it aside and move onto the veg.

Chop the celery and onions finely, everything else you can be a bit cavalier about and peel & roughly chop it however is easiest for you.

Once this is all done go back to the meat, dust it with the flour, salt & pepper again then get your big heavy based stew pot of choice and pour in a little light olive oil and heat.  When it’s hot throw the meat in and whizz it round until sealed.  Then take the meat out and rest it in a bowl somewhere.

Next, in the same stew pot without cleaning it, add a dash more oil and throw in the garlic, onions and celery, cook for a couple of minutes until the onions start to soften, then add the rest of the chopped veggies.  Cook for a further 5 minutes or so over a medium heat.  Then add the spices, start with (and these are rough measures used for when you are making enough stew for about 6 people) 2 teaspoons of Smoked Paprika, 2 teaspoons of Cinnamon and 1 of Cumin.  Stir the spices in and when the veggies are covered nicely add the meat (and all its juices) back to the pot, add another 1/1/0.5 teaspoons of the Smoked Paprika/Cinnamon/Cumin and stir round.

Pour in the stock until everything is covered, whack the heat to maximum until the pot starts to boil, then turn down to minimum and leave for at least 1.5 hours, longer is better.

If you want you can add suet dumplings, half an hour before you are going to serve make some suet dumpling mix:

100g suet, 200g self-rising flour, sprinkling of dried mixed herbs
Slowly add cold water and mix until you have a doughy lump of dumpling mix.  Separate & roll into small (about meatball sized) balls and then pop them in the stew directly, they will cook as the stew does and take about 30mins.

Finally I’d suggest making up some Couscous or Bulgur Wheat to serve with the stew and chop some fresh coriander to sprinkle over the top.

Serve with a nice glass of beer and enjoy the lovely smell that pours out of the kitchen while cooking this stew.