Announcing Games Collector, a tabletop game management plugin for WordPress

I’ve been quietly building something under the radar for a couple weeks. It’s been really just a passion project that came out of a conversation after the holidays.

Basically, we own a lot of games. Blame Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop for some of it, but, really, we’re frequently finding excuses to get new games. In fact, getting a new game for the family has become an annual tradition. We have so many games that it’s sometimes hard for other people to keep track of what we have and what we don’t have. And that’s where the nugget of an idea for a plugin for WordPress came in.

It started off as just a way to list the games that we own. But as I was thinking of ways to display the games, I started thinking about the user experience a bit more. Lists aren’t fun, but you know what is fun? Stuff that moves around. So, I decided to integrate Isotope.js to sort the games by different filters. Isotope animates the transition, so you’ll see games disappear and reappear and there’s lots of different things you can sort by.

As I was working with these filters I thought “wouldn’t it be cool if you could use the game list as a way to get ideas about what games to play?” What game to play depends on the audience, right? So, I added a “difficulty” dropdown that you can use to determine how hard the game is to learn. The range goes from Easy to Hard Core. What game you suggest also depends on how many people are playing, so there’s also a dropdown for number of players. So if you have a group of 4 hard core gamers, you can get a list of games that would be good for that group, and for that many players. Whereas, if you have a group of 7 or 8 casual gamers, you can get a list of games that are more laid back and are good for larger groups.

How does it work? Well you can take a look right here on my blog: Games. It uses a shortcode which you are probably familiar with if you’ve used WordPress for a while. There’s some notes on setting it up on the GitHub page. Here’s a screenshot of the back-end.

If you love games as much as me and you use WordPress, download the plugin and let me know what you think. I’m not planning on releasing it on WordPress.org any time soon because I don’t want to deal with the support forums and because it’s written for PHP 5.6 or higher (which is greater than the minimum requirement for WordPress), but if you have questions or feature requests, you can reach out on GitHub.

This is just the first iteration. I’ve got some ideas about how to extend the plugin moving forward, including integrating the WordPress REST API so the game data could be used outside of WordPress, in an app, for example. The mobile experience isn’t great, and I’d love to eventually build a way to manage and view your game list in a dedicated app on your phone.

Anyway, this is a cool little thing that I’ve been working on and excited to share. Again, download it and let me know what you think!

A Formal Request for More Female Creatures in Magic: the Gathering

Hey Wizards of the Coast. I have a request. Let’s see more female creatures, yeah?

Depictions of women in Magic are not entirely uncommon. It’s often enough that a deck will have at least a couple. And yet, when I think about creatures — specifically non-human creatures — almost always they are shown as masculine. For example, Selesnya Sentry:

Selesnya Sentry

Now, that’s a generic creature card. The creature type is Elephant Warrior. There’s no specific reason it needs to be male. Why can’t an elephant warrior be female?

Typically female creatures in Magic are reserved for more traditionally “feminine” types — Faeries and Angels — or androgynous races like Elves. In the history of Magic, I can only recall ever seeing one female goblin, the repulsive Hasran Ogress.

Hasran Ogress

And often when you do see female creatures or characters in MtG art, it’s for T&A purposes.

Seeker of Skybreak Liliana Pacifism
Elvish Ranger

Surely, Wizards of the Coast, I don’t need to remind you that women are just as capable of performing tasks that men can, and that their sole purpose on this (or any other) planet is not simply to look hot for men. I mean, seriously, of those costumes above, in what way are any of them even remotely useful for the tasks that those women might be performing (unless underwear model is a popular profession amongst Elvish rangers in Phyrexia…)?

I applaud you for adding the Planeswalker, Chandra Nalaar, to the core sets and making T&A distinctly absent from most of her depictions.

Chandra

But we need to see more of this. There’s nothing remotely resembling gender equality in the Magic: the Gathering universe.

Here’s why it matters to me personally. As players, we anthropomorphise our creatures. We say “I attack with this guy.”

“I attack/block with this guy” is much more common than “I attack with her” (unless you’re playing an Angel or Faerie deck). And this matters. It matters in how we think about women as people, outside of the game, and it matters in who is interested in playing the game (more realistic female creatures and characters that weren’t just there as sex objects would be more likely to attract more female players). Magic benefits from being a distinctly social activity — you play with other people — if you’re a woman walking into a game shop and the only people playing are nerdy dudes, you’re probably not going to be very interested in playing Magic. Certainly you’d be less interested in the game than you might be if the gender balance was more level and you saw other women like you playing.

Magic is also unique in that there are no specific playable characters — you’re benefitting from the fact that you don’t pigeonhole your players into a specific gender role the way video games with a single male protagonist do. But then you throw away that advantage by showing women in provocative poses, depicting them as objects for your male players, to be manipulated, moved and sacrificed by your male players, without providing an alternative. Tits and ass is fine provided that that’s not all there is, and provided that you give your male characters the same treatment.

My kids are playing Magic. I have a boy and a girl. They are 9 and 7. They are playing as I write this. I would like them to grow up with Magic as an empowering game for boys and girls, that depicts gender in fair and realistic ways and does not objectify women exclusively the way so many other games do.