In which anticipation for the Avengers pays off

The Avengers has come and gone for me. Color me disappointed. Not in the film itself,it was everything I wanted it to be. The banter was there, the characterizations were there and the spectacle, oh the spectacle, was there. But what’s disappointing is that now it’s over, I’ve seen it and wonder, what’s next.

The Avengers movie was a dream in the waiting for me. Sure, I’m 45 now, but I distinctly remember as a kid wanting to see real live superheroes. Those old Marvel cartoons and Super Friends were great, but as a little kid I just knew superheroes were out there. Growing up, wanted to go to New York City so bad. Why? Just to catch a glimpse of Spider-Man swinging through the city. I knew he was there and if I could just get my Dad to take me, it would be the highlight moment of my young life. Alas, it never happened and a dream was deferred.

Later, there were some live action TV shows featuring superheroes. There was Spider-Man. Good show, not great. But Spidey’s webs in that show, classic. Those weren’t webs baby, they were some serious ropes. And I don’t recall it clearly but I don’t think we ever saw webswinging in those shows. Wall crawling, sure. But no swinging. There was, of course, the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Hulk series. While I remember the Lou Ferrigno Hulk stuff in that show what always stood out to me was how very sad David (huh?) Banner’s life was. Not much superheroics when you’re all weepy at the end of the show. There were more: Thor, Daredevil, Captain America, etc. But none of these were really great. I guess the technology of the era wasn’t up to the challenge. So again, a dream deferred. (And yes, I know I’m not talking about Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman – buy hey, I’m a Marvel guy).

But then, in 2002 everything changed. Spider-Man was brought to the big screen and they let a geek do it. Spider-Man was everything I wanted to see when I was a kid. I had to wait until I was 36 to see it but there it was. Wall crawling and web swinging! And everything kind of spiraled out from there. So it was all good (well not Daredevil or Elektra but still, progress). Then someone at Marvel remembered the two things that made Marvel Comics so good back in the sixties. Real characters and a shared continuity. Iron Man hinted at this in 2008 with a small clip at the end of the credits when Nick Fury tells Iron Man about the Avengers Initiative. Be still my geeky heart. Were they really going to try this? Were they really going to make an ensemble superhero movie? And every movie Marvel made subsequently held out that promise.

I won’t lie, I have been looking forward to seeing The Avengers, not since 2008 but since about 1978. That small, quiet kid who so desperately wanted to be something more, to be special, wanted to see that opportunity for superheroics held out to him. He wanted to know it was possible for superheroes to exist. And Marvel finally provided that, 30 years later.

But, as with all things so eagerly anticipated, they eventually arrive. Sometimes those things are everything you hoped they would be, and sometimes they are not. But either way, they have occurred. And that, it seems to me is the real problem with anticipation. Be it for superhero movies or life changes eventually that moment will come. And then you have that “now what do I do moment?”. Personally, I’m facing that “what do you do now” moment with my career. I think the correct response is to live in the moment and know you’ll make the right decisions that will ultimately take care of the future. Hopefully I’ll be as successful as Joss Whedon and Marvel as I make my decisions.


In Which I Ponder the Future of Dungeons and Dragons

Twice a month I play in a Savage Worlds Rippers Campaign. I rarely play Role-Playing Games (RPGs) outside of D&D so this is a pretty new experience. (For the curious I play a Victorian Banker by Day and monster fighter by night named Silas Barclay.) What makes it work is the DM (who I’ve spoken about before) a good group of players and lots of imagination.

After a good night of role-playing (the only fight we had was with an animated feather, seriously). We discussed the latest news, rumors and innuendo about DND Next (i.e. the next edition of the Dungeons and Dragons game). You can search the web for all the juicy bits, but the point of the discussion is what we want from the next release. As I sit here as a MidLife Geek with two kids, a wife, church commitments, work commitments and a whole bunch of other stuff going on, what I want is simplicity and support.

So what does that mean exactly? Well, for me, what I’d like to see is a fairly simple rule set and play. Right now I run a game for a group of friends. We get together once a month to play for about 6 hours. During that time we get to play maybe 4 encounters. Why? The pace of the battles is just slow. Lot of powers, lots of effects and lots of decisions drags things out. Is it fun? Absolutely. Do I wish we could do more? Absolutely. From what I’ve read, the designers of the next edition share my goal for simplicity and straightforward play. I really hope so. My players get more battles and role play opportunity. They level faster (maybe?). And they get to do a lot more in the brief time we have together each month.

Beyond simplicity, what else do I want? I want content. As much as I want to create worlds and adventures I just don’t have time. So what I need to enjoy the game from my side of the screen is content. And by content, I mean adventures. It seems to me (and I really came on with 4e) that Wizards has generated tons of content that is useless to me. As a DM, what I want is the ability to plug and play. I want adventures, encounters, maps and minis all packaged up and ready for me to go. I’d pay willingly for this stuff. I can customize and what I need from a pre-established base but give me a world and things to do in it.

We also discussed something which I think is very important for Wizards of the Coast (owner of Dungeons and Dragons for the uninitiated). Once you get D&D Next released, stop making new editions and rule sets. Seriously, just stop. I get that you have a business that requires a new product to be released to generate profits. But after D&D next you have at least 5 editions of the game out there. Why don’t you build your business around generating content for those editions? You can grow your market by reducing the barriers to entry for the new player and new. Make it fast and easy to jump in at any point with any group. Develop more content; envision the worlds that not all of us can. Develop tools to make it easier and quicker to DM and play. That’s how you open things up. I think a lot of people just get turned off by the level of work they need to do to prepare.

It’s just my two cents, but it’s the two cents of a guy who desperately wants to play within the confines of a life that doesn’t allow for it.

In Which Geeks Save the World

Last week’s post generated more views and more comments than anything else I’ve written thus far. Since it’s posting, I’ve thought a bit about a particular comment and my response. In it, I tried to discuss why we, as geeks, should have a lot more openness to each other. Specifically, what I said was:

I wish there were more discussion. I think each of us have a tendency to sit in our groups (Atheists, Gays, Christians, Democrats, Republicans, whatever) and believe that the absolute worst of the other group represents reality. It doesn’t. That’s why I love being in the geek community too because I think our mutual love of things geek can overcome that mistrust and allow us to associate with each other.

Diversity of opinion is a great and wonderful thing. But as I see more and more name calling and the lessening of civility in our culture, I’ve come to believe that we Geeks can really save the world. Not in the sense of Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day but in the sense of coming together and appreciating the diversity of our culture. Some Star Trek novel I read said Vulcans value IDIC – Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. That’s what we have in our culture today and Geeks are uniquely positioned to show how to embrace that diversity and work towards a common goal.

As a geek you really begin to appreciate the diversity of people. Every week in my Comic Book store or in-game sessions I see people from a variety of backgrounds and I end up talking to all of them. And the beauty of it is once you get to know the people, you realize it’s pretty hard to pigeon-hole them, much less demonize them, because their beliefs or politics differ from yours. Can you still disparage them? Can you still make overbroad statements like “all people who believe/do whatever are all scumsucking morons.” It’s pretty hard. At the least, you have to say, “except for this one girl I know, she seems OK.”

We’ve never been in a better position to save the world than we are now. Geek is chic. Big Bang Theory is the top rated show in America. Comic Book movies are blowing the doors off the theaters. Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are hugely popular TV shows (I know it’s reached saturation because my Mother watches Game of Thrones. Trust me, society is all in.) President Obama even threw out a Vulcan salute recently.

So let’s use our power for good. Let’s show people how to come together. Invite your friends over for a game. Bring your Christian friend together with your Atheist friend and roll some dice. Show your Republican friend and Democratic friend how to settle Catan. Teach your jock buddies why you should never pick up a duck in a Dungeon. We can do this and we can do it one friend at a time.

Who’s with me?