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Poem: "What I Love About Games" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "What I Love About Games"
This poem is spillover from the December 2, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] lynnoconnacht, [personal profile] redsixwing, [personal profile] dialecticdreamer, [personal profile] alexseanchai, [personal profile] siliconshaman, and LJ user Wyld_dandelyon. It also fills the "WILD CARD: Relative Values: Families" square in my 6-11-14 card for the [community profile] fanbingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Antimatter & Stalwart Stan thread of the Polychrome Heroics series, and is a direct sequel to "Bluff and Show."


"What I Love About Games"


After the Activity Scouts meeting,
Stan's father drove home with
Simon riding beside him, while
Lawrence sat in the back with Stan.

It was soothing in a way that Lawrence
didn't want to examine too closely,
the way he could just lean against Stan
and draw comfort from his presence
without being expected to speak up.

For an extrovert, Stan was oddly comfortable
with silence, and Lawrence was grateful for that.

When they arrived, Stan's sisters all came
pelting out of the house to see the new guest,
his mother following at a more sedate pace.

Stuart looked at the two steps leading
up to the front door and said, "Aw, nuts.
I'm sorry, Simon, I forgot about the steps
on the outside -- I thought it'd be fine
since the hide-a-bed is on the first floor."

"Forgiven," Simon said as he transferred
deftly into his wheelchair. "It happens a lot."

"We have boards in the garage," Sloane said.
"We could make a ramp? Like we did
to get the gold statue in the wagon?"

"Gold statue?" Simon echoed.

"We've been playing Kaverns & Krakens,"
Stuart explained with a chuckle.

"Great problem-solving practice," Simon agreed.
"I can walk a short distance, though."

"On level ground, sure. Up steps?" Stuart said,
shaking his head. "Tolli would skin us both."

"Point," Simon conceded.

"Or I could just give you a lift," Stan said.

"I appreciate the offer, son, but I think
I'm a bit heavy for you," Simon said.

Stan turned to Lawrence and raised an eyebrow.

"Go ahead," Lawrence said with a grin.
Stan cupped one hand around his hip
and lifted Lawrence lightly onto the porch.

"I stand corrected," Simon said.
"All right, you can be my elevator."

"Set your brakes," Stan advised,
and Simon flipped the lever that
locked the wheels in place.
Then Stan gripped both wheels
and hoisted Simon onto the porch,
chair and all, as if moving an empty box.

From there Simon was able to roll inside,
and the rest of the family trooped after.

"Sloane, Lawrence, a word if you please,"
Stuart murmured before they went in.
"Absolutely no pouncing on or
pranking Simon. Is that clear?"

"Clear," Lawrence said instantly.
"Yeah, okay," Sloane said.
She had jumped on Lawrence once,
and it had not ended very well;
they didn't need a repeat of that.

Inside, the house smelled richly
of beef stew and baking bread.

Stephanie's friend Vanessa
already had the gaming table
set up for Kaverns & Krakens.

There was no room for a wheelchair
to roll under the table, but Simon simply
plopped himself on a floor cushion instead.

Stan's mother Sharon took care of Susie,
who was too young to enjoy K&K yet.
The two of them laid out a game of Morff,
which had evolving rules and goals
that passed into and out of play
as cards moved along tracks.

Simon wavered between the two ends
of the gaming table. "What's this?"
he asked after a moment. "May I play?"

Sharon explained how Morff worked
as she dealt him in, then added,
"If you like it, we can play another
Merry Makers game after this one --
some of the mechanics carry over to
Time Knights, which has an actual storyline."

Meanwhile Stuart opened Kaverns & Krakens
by saying, "A mysterious portal has been
spitting out strange creatures. Your mission
is to determine which ones are friendly and
help them, or which ones are hostile and
stop them from doing any harm."

Lawrence promptly clapped Stan on the back
and said, "Right, that can be your job."

"But Stephanie is the one who can
cast Weigh the Stranger's Soul,"
Stan protested. "I'm just a paladin."

"You still know way more about people,"
Stephanie said. "I'm with Lawrence.
You decide whether we fight or not."

"Just point me at things to stab," said Vanessa.

"And remember how we goofed
with the first Kraken," Sloane added.

Between Stan's discernment
and Stephanie's spellcasting, they did
a pretty good job at sorting the encounters.

They fought off enemy pirates, a cursed artifact,
and an aspidochelone that tried to eat them.

They rescued a dancing bear in a tutu,
a gold dragonette, and the crew of the sloop John B.

At the far end of the table, Susie had
gotten engrossed in a puzzle cube while
Sharon taught Simon to play Time Knights.
The timeline guided them on their quest
as a medieval super-gizmologist sent them
to prevent the Dark Ages from happening.

Lawrence reached out and took the puzzle
from Susie just as she started to lose patience.
A quick tweak of electromagnetic physics
let him peek through the opaque walls.
"The ball isn't on level three, it's on four,"
Lawrence said, handing the cube back.

"Thanks," she said. "How come you
always know where it is?"

"Magic," he said with a wink. "I'm a mage."
Which was a particularly blended flavor of truth,
but it satisfied Susie so that was enough for him.

"That was nice of you," Stan said.

The next monster baffled both Stephanie
and Stan, but made Lawrence laugh
with recognition. "Did you seriously
just drop a ribbonfish into this game?"

"Bullseye," said Stuart, revealing
the magazine article that he had
hidden behind the gaming screen.
"You get bonus points for identifying it.
Now what do you want to do?"

"Let it swim past -- it's only a fish,"
Lawrence advised, and Stan agreed.

Just then, the Medieval Inquisition
managed to assassinate the grandfather
of Simon's character, erasing him from history.

He should have drawn a new character card.
Instead he told Sharon, "You win," and then
flicked his time knight down the table
into the Kaverns & Krakens field.
"I want to switch games."

"A strange knight in full plate mail falls
from the sky into the ocean beside your ship,"
Stuart said, "and immediately begins to sink."

"I did not think of that," Simon muttered.
"Help, help! I'm wearing fifty pounds of armor!"

"I'll save you," Vanessa said gallantly,
and jumped overboard to catch him.
Lawrence sent a magical rope after them
while Stan and Sloane let down the rope ladder.

Soon they had a time knight
dripping on the deck of their ship.
"Prithee, good folk, can you direct me
back to England?" asked Simon.

"What's an England?" Sloane deadpanned.

"It sounds like some exotic place,"
Lawrence said, flipping through
his gaming book to see if there
might be a suitable spell.

The gold dragonette wrapped herself
around Simon's armored leg and
refused to let go of him, even when
another pirate ship -- this one
flying with weird mechanical wings --
came through the portal to attack.

"Incoming!" Simon yelled.
"Tell me we have cannons!"

"We have all the cannons,"
Vanessa said gleefully.

Stan was more than willing to let
Simon direct the battle.

Lawrence found himself stationed
behind the cannons as a second line
of artillery with his battle spells.

The sky pirates really didn't stand a chance.

A timer buzzed in the kitchen.
"Ten-minute warning," Sharon said.
"Susie, come help me set the table for supper."

Quickly they mopped up the last of the pirates,
then Stuart handed out experience points while
the rest of them began packing up the games.

"I can't believe you just dove into the middle
like that," Stephanie said. "It's not in the rules."

"Life doesn't always follow rules," Simon said.
"A lot of times, you have to make it up
as you go along. That was some good
teamwork pulling me aboard, though."

"It's fun to have another grownup playing with us,"
Sloane said to him. "Most don't want to.
How come you still play games?"

"What I love about games," he said thoughtfully,
"is that they're social. You can get to know people
that way, and explore how they do things --
like how you suggested making a ramp earlier."

Lawrence recalled what Simon had said
that afternoon, too, about using games
to practice strategy for real life situations.
Simon had jumped into their roleplaying
to see how they'd handle a surprise.

"You were quick with the rope, too, Lawrence,"
said Simon. "Good teamwork all around.
You set a great example."

Simon was watching him again,
watching all of them fact, dancing his gaze
from one person to another so he could
see everything at the same time.

It seemed more admiring than alarming now.
"I think I learned more than I taught,"
Lawrence said quietly.

"Well, that's the funny thing about experience,"
Simon said as he hopped back into his wheelchair
with surprising grace. "Sometimes everyone
learns more than they teach, and it just
magically expands all your horizons."

They headed into the dining room for supper,
then, and Stuart gave up his customary place
at the head of the table so Simon would
have more room to avoid tangling
with anyone else's chair.

Lawrence settled next to Stan in what
had become their usual arrangement,
thinking about Simon and his partner.

Lawrence didn't actually know many gay men,
and Hefty was the only one he knew well.
Simon offered an interesting glimpse
into a possible future, much like
the time-tumbling knight he had played.

That was fine with Lawrence.
He liked shaking things up too.

* * *

Notes:

"Gaming has been a great way to get to know people. That's part of what I love about games, that they are social."
-- Rich Sommer

Wheelchair users need accessible homes. If you don't have a disability, though, it can be really difficult to spot all of the barriers in advance. When you miss one, apologize and move on to solving the problem, don't grovel. There are tips for interacting with people in wheelchairs.

The Woods don't have a guest room per se but do have a hide-a-bed couch in the "office" room.

Body autonomy is a huge issue for people with disabilities, but concerns everyone. The key is to start young, teaching about boundaries and respect. Here you can see that Stan knows not to manhandle someone's adaptive equipment without permission, that he and Lawrence have negotiated some rules about what kind of touching require permission, and that Stan cares about gaining consent. Plus Stuart knows how to buffer for a veteran's reflexes discreetly, without embarrassing anyone.

Tonight they're having beef stew and bread. Food smells like love and fellowship!

Family game night builds social skills and connections. Learn how to make it work.

Merry Makers is a Terramagne company (similar to our Looney Labs) that makes pocket games, primarily card games but also some board games that play on coasters and so forth. Morff is a card game (inspired by Fluxx) with ever-changing rules, where new ones are added onto a track and old ones shift out of play. The prizes, which are how you win the game, also shift into and out of use on a similar track. Time Knights is a Merry Makers game (inspired by Chrononauts) based on the premise of a super-gizmologist inventing time travel during the High Middle Ages and recruiting a group of knights to help save civilization. Essentially I took the mechanics of some favorite games and imagined how they might develop differently in another universe, so the core concepts remain the same but the themes and details vary.

Aspidochelone is the fancy name for a sea monster that resembles an island.

"The Sloop John B" is a song about a miserable trip at sea.  [personal profile] stardreamer has helpfully found this video of the song.

Explore the labyrinth puzzle cube.

Ribbonfish are deep-sea fish that grow very long.

The Medieval Inquisition hunted people who didn't fit in.

Plate armor is rigid and heavy. An expert can mount a horse in it, but forget about swimming.

It is vital to know when to bend the rules and how to deal with surprises. Simon and Stuart both use games to teach these essential life skills.

Everyone needs praise and encouragement, especially children. There are tips for different types. Notice that the adults are being specific in their positive feedback and covering actions as well as personality traits.

Gay teens need gay role models, especially older ones, to help them envision a happy future for themselves. Family acceptance matters a lot too. Stan and Lawrence are slowly building a support network, which they need right now because they have coupled up earlier than average. They're doing a lot of things now that most people don't do until college or later, but that's okay, because they are doing those things in a healthy order.  They've actually built up a lot of intimacy before doing anything particularly sexual.

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Comments
From: technoshaman Date: January 30th, 2015 04:48 am (UTC) (Link)
HA! I *did* recognise Fluxx!

We even go so far as to roleplay as a way of soothing each other, getting around scary things.

hee hee hee.... ♫ We looked for the Sloop John A, oh where could the John A be? ♪

Thank you for the quick bread recipe! It's not *quite* fast enough to do on a weeknight, but certainly for a Saturday or Sunday....

Me, I like beer bread... 3c self-rising flour, 3tbsp sugar, 12oz room-temp beer that resembles the bread you want (lager for light bread, dark ale for dark bread), mix gently, pour batter into greased/oiled loaf pan, bake 400F 20 minutes, brush with melted butter, return to oven for another 20. Dead simple, doesn't last long. :)

Ooooh, that stew recipe looks good too. Hafta put that one together on a Sunday evening for Monday dinner... Hmmmmmmmm. If dinner is in the crock pot, I might just have time for the bread.... :)

Did I mention I like the way you think? ;)




ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 30th, 2015 10:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> HA! I *did* recognise Fluxx! <<

Yep. The core concept is a card game with rules that change. I altered the nature of the changes by adding the "tracks" that the rules and prizes travel through. No reason you couldn't try those variations with a Fluxx deck.

>> We even go so far as to roleplay as a way of soothing each other, getting around scary things. <<

Good idea. I've done that too.

>> hee hee hee.... ♫ We looked for the Sloop John A, oh where could the John A be? ♪ <<

LOL

>> Thank you for the quick bread recipe! It's not *quite* fast enough to do on a weeknight, but certainly for a Saturday or Sunday.... <<

I wanted something simple and tasty, without too much fuss, but homemade bread does require a little effort.

>> Ooooh, that stew recipe looks good too. Hafta put that one together on a Sunday evening for Monday dinner... Hmmmmmmmm. If dinner is in the crock pot, I might just have time for the bread.... :) <<

Yay!

>> Did I mention I like the way you think? ;) <<

I squish you too.
eseme From: eseme Date: January 30th, 2015 04:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I spottedcboth Fluxx and Chrononaughts, as well as the Looney Labs games. I like game nights thanks!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 30th, 2015 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm happy to hear that.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 2nd, 2015 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yay! More Stan and Lawrence! *bounces*

The games were great fun. Also, I loved to see the little bits of interaction between Lawrence and Sloane and Lawrence and Susie that you snuck in. <3
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 2nd, 2015 08:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Yay! More Stan and Lawrence! *bounces* <<

I'm glad you liked this.

>> The games were great fun. Also, I loved to see the little bits of interaction between Lawrence and Sloane and Lawrence and Susie that you snuck in. <3 <<

The more time they spend together, the more the relationships build up, a little bit at a time. The girls may be peripheral just because Stan and Lawrence are the main characters here, but they are precious to Stan and important to Lawrence now too.
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