That Ashley Madison thing…

ashleyflowersOh, that Ashley Madison thing is really something that got the Internet going. And this here, that is one of the very few  actually funny reactions. The rest is either

  • explaining how those cheaters got what they’ve had coming, or
  • gleefully looking up folks and saying „gee, look what they did!“

Neither of which is particularly mature or helpful. Actually, downright unhelpful and deathly dangerous, as the case of the Saudi shows. And then there was this interestingly altered quote:

They came for Ashley Madison, and I said nothing, because I didn’t have an account. Then they came for Fetlife, and I said nothing, because I used a fake name and no pictures of myself. Then they came for OKCupid, and I said nothing, because dudebros are jerks and they deserve what they get. And then they came for my inbox…

Which gets closer, but still misses the point. The point being: When we use any service, be it on the internet or elsewhere, that service will most probably need to gather and make use of potentially private information. Otherwise it probably simply won’t work. (Have fun building a social network without any personal data in there.) And where there’s data, there will be people who want to take a look at that data. For the lulz, national security, blackmailing, finding their enemies, the reasons for this are varied.

The thing is this: We should be mad about the Ashley Madison hack. Really mad. Not because this is about people cheating on their spouses, or because there might have been blackmail involved, or.. whatever.

We should be mad that this company that got entrusted with personal data didn’t put this data into a secure place. That is what you should take away from this:

  • If you handle other peoples data – make damn sure that only legitimate people can get at that data. Do everything in your power to ensure that even if you do get hacked, people won’t be able to make use of what they find.
  • If you want other people to handle your data – make them accountable for what happens with that data. If they won’t agree to that, won’t let you in on their precautions, be aware that you could just as well make that data public right now! Because they will get hacked at some point.

Playing ViewScream

As there weren’t enough players for Haralds planned bi-weekly Labyrinth Lord game, he decided to run ViewScream instead. ViewScream, which is just now running the Kickstarter for the 2nd Edition, is a game that is explicitly designed to be played via videochat.

Rafael Chandler is surely no „Indie Author“ anymore, although his RPG products probably get lumped into that category. But he is a brilliant horror game designer if you ask me – and ViewScream, which plays on the isolation and despair of people sitting alone somewhere, reaching out to their colleagues for help, is an even more brilliant idea. The general mechanic is this: Everyone is alone, connected to the others via videochat. And everyone has at least one, maybe even more dire Emergency at hand, that is threatening their lives, and that they cannot solve by themselves. Your only hope for rescue? Someone else has to use up one of their Solutions (basically one or two sentences of technobabble that the game providesto you) and apply that to your problem.

In our game, each of us had three Solutions and two Emergencies – the kicker being, that not all of those solutions would actually work! None of your fellow players know how many Solutions you actually have, nor which of those will be successful: There are small indicators next to every Solution, telling you if they would work or not. So you pick a solution, narrate how you’d apply them, and then, more often than not, let the other players know that, alas, they weren’t working for some reason or the other… or that they were saved, because the solution did work. But the game is actually rigged in a way, that there usually are more Emergencies than workable Solutions. Enter the haggling, backstabbing, pleading and outright begging!

Yesterday, Harald threw us into some cyberpunk world, where we were just returning from what was supposed to be an easy-in, easy-out hack into some virtual world. Except it went horribly wrong, we probably had a traitor in our midst, the enforcers were on our asses, our equipment sprouted the most disturbing bugs and the clock was ticking…

About halfway through the game (which took about an hour), I realized that my character wouldn’t make it. So I let the virtual ghost that was riding my system take over and scare the bejeebus out of my fellow players, who were so eager to sacrifice me for their own sakes…

(The girlfriend was reading in the room next to me and later stated that she was on the verge of calling an excorcist to get those demons out of me.)

In the end, this was the most fun I ever had in a Hangout RPG session. The game provides custom overlays that enhance the mood, and the game mechanics are as close to freeform as you can get – while still providing enough structure and crunch to make things interesting on that angle.

The different characters are described in a gender-neutral and just vague enough way that basically everyone can fill those roles. But they are also provided with hooks and connections to each other to keep the game running and interesting. ViewScream encourages you to never leave character during gameplay, and as you never need to grab some dice or do anything that isn’t covered by the narrative, things feel very natural.

The first edition (with slightly clunkier rules) is free on DriveThruRPG, and the 2nd Edition is 10 bucks well spent on Kickstarter. If you are even remotely interested in playing a Horror game or in playing over videochat, you want to try this out!

breaking in and stealing shit..

There is a special spot reserved in my heart for Heist and in extension Grifter movies. I’m not sure why this is, but people breaking in to places with skill and gumption fills me with a warm and fuzzy excitement (Even if it is done in a rather silly way, as with the Olsenbande).

So… Ant Man. This is a Heist movie thinly disguised as a superhero action flick.

As a superhero action flick, it works nicely. Of course there are is the mandatory climactic battle scene, and it is a good one. But in the end, there are really only two „battle scenes“ – the obligatory superheroes-meet-for-the-first-time one, and the big fight with the villain.

But, for a superhero flick, all that is a surprisingly small amount of fighting. Instead we get (apart from chase scenes) quite a few scenes that highlight Scott Langs skills as a burglar. And the staple of any heist movie: Training Montages (seriously, about half the „action scenes“ we see is how Scott learns how to wear the Ant Man suit, how to run with his new miniscule allies, etc.)  and Caper Planning.  The inclusion of Scotts wannabe partners in crime is not just used as a source of comic relief but also helps establishing the „Heist“ aspect of the movie even firmer.

And as a Heist/Caper movie, Ant Man really delivers. You have the planning, the training, the near-flawless execution, good music, the easy talk among the team, the surprising things that go wrong, a reveal from the villain, all the little bits that make this sort of movie fun.

If you haven’t seen it, check out your local theatres right now!


Warum ich immer noch Perry Rhodan lese…

Japp, genau, diese Schundheftchen, die es jede Woche am Kiosk gibt. Lese ich seit bestimmt 25 Jahren, wenn nicht schon länger. Klar, die Variationen der Handlung sind überschaubar, viele Figuren eher holzschnittartig. Und grob gesehen ist jeder Handlungsbogen gleich:

  • Eine neue Sorte Aliens taucht auf
  • diese Aliens überziehen die Galaxie mit einem Konflikt
  • Die Helden fliegen los um die Herkunft und Absichten der Aliens zu erkunden
  • Die Erkundung gelingt, allerdings nur haarscharf
  • Mit den Ergebnissen gelingt die Rettung der Menschheit oder gar des Universums in allerletzter Sekunde

Also, warum lese ich diesen „Schund“? Zum einen aus Gewohnheit. Das ist halt ein liebgewonnenes Ritual, und mein Vater freut sich immer, wenn ich ihm alle paar Monate den ausgelesenen Heftstapel gebe.

Zum anderen aber aus einem ganz anderen Grund: Diese Serie behandelt zwar oberflächlich gesehen immer wieder nur Alieninvasionen in unterschiedlichsten Varianten, darunter geht es aber um etwas anders: Ein Ringen um den, ich nenne es mal salopp „darwinistisch erfolgreichsten“ Gesellschaftsentwurf. Jeder neu auftretende oder wieder verwurstete Antagonist bringt stets eine eigene Philosophie mit.

Diese wird eigentlich immer auch aus der Innenansicht beschrieben, also sozusagen wohlwollend erklärt. Natürlich haben alle diese Invasoren auch immer etwas schurkenhaftes, schließlich soll Perry ja am Ende als strahlender Held dastehen. Aber so ganz schwarzweiß wird eben doch nicht gemalt. Und häufig genug werden Teile der Invasoren in die galaktische Gemeinschaft aufgenommen. Und diese Gemeinschaft ist äußerst vielschichtig und -seitig.

Dieser Wettstreit von Gesellschaftsentwürfen ist sicherlich nicht das Hauptthema der Serie. Aber er ist immer dabei, und das Ergebnis steht, abgesehen von einem die Serie durchdringenden Humanismus, nie so richtig fest. Es gibt wohlwollende Diktatoren, radikal-direkte Demokratien, parlamentarische Demokratien, Oligarchien, Meritokratien, Tyrannen, Völker in Symbiose, Schmarotzer, Einzelgänger, Anarchien, Gesellschaften, die auf dem Recht des Stärkeren beruhen, und und und.

Das ist es, was mich trotz aller Widrigkeiten (teilweise sind die Plots eben doch flacher als die norddeutsche Tiefebene) bei der Stange hält: Diese breite Palette an Utopien und Gesellschaftsentwürfen, gepaart mit einem humanistischen Optimismus, dass die Menschheit sich positiv weiterentwickeln kann und will.