A running transcript of the story of King Arthur, as told by me to a sick 7-year-old (with her questions paraphrased)

King Arthur by Charles Ernest Butler. Public domain.

“It was a very long time ago in a faraway kingdom called… England.”

I know about England!

“Well, it was different back then than it is now. It was a thousand years ago. There was no electricity or airplanes or car insurance. There weren’t even any laws.”

She’s very surprised by this.

No laws?

“No. The only law was what the warlords said was the law. There wasn’t even really a king, because if somebody said he was king, every other warlord would argue with him and fight him with their big armies. The warlords could do and say whatever they wanted and nobody could stop them.”

There were no police?
“There were no police at all. The warlords were the ones who enforced whatever they said the law was in their little corner of the country, and if they were jerks about it, nobody could say anything. If they decided they didn’t like somebody, they could kill him for no reason. If they decided they wanted something somebody had, they could just steal it. And there were no courts to punish them.”

She’s really surprised by no courts or judges. Read more…

Getting over despair the Dark way

Good lord, the news is depressing. Crushing. Utterly infuriating. It’s exhausting even to peruse headlines these days.

It’s odd that, in the midst of such persistent gloom, I’ve retreated to playing some of the absolute most crushingly depressing games. Dark Souls 3 and Darkest Dungeon are games that openly antagonize you – games that layer mechanic atop mechanic and, once you’ve learned those mechanics, they throw you a curve ball. I am, in the middle of the above video, outraged to find that an update has apparently added a “stealth” mechanic to certain enemies in Darkest Dungeon.

But, as you’ll see above, just as they introduced it, I quickly discovered the ways to circumvent it and destroy such enemies inside of a few turns. There’s always hope.

I also, stupidly, watched Devilman Crybaby on Netflix, which is just not advisable if you don’t want to become a crybaby yourself. It is simultaneously so-dumb-it’s-brilliant anime and a sobering reflection on the dark tendencies of humanity. As in, what you don’t need right now.

It’s why I’ve retreated to so much myth lately, I think, as I did in my latest for Paste magazine, which I’m proud of.

I’m going to defeat Darkest Dungeon, guys. It mocks me. It digs its claws into me. But I beat TWO bosses just sitting down last night, after months of throwing the game aside. You’ve just got to work through the fear, trust that you know what you’re doing, stay frosty, and don’t give up hope.


Project Dawn: Laying the cornerstone

A rendering of Ragnarok by Emil Doeppler. | Wikipedia Commons

So, I haven’t actually really elaborated much on exactly what Project Dawn is intended to be. Put simply, it’s my attempt at a dark fantasy game, put within a traditional JRPG framework (because that’s what I can currently program). I’ve been inspired lately by the copious amount of mythology and comparative mythology I’ve read, ancient world history I’ve studied, and games like Darkest Dungeon and Dark Souls. As I begin the long process of what I hope to be a fully playable, fully-featured game, here are some of the things I want to implement in it, and what it means for my process as I build this in the robust game engine that is RPG Maker MV: Read more…

Project Dawn update: The Oldest Stories

You’ve heard this one before.

One of the subject areas I come back to time and again is mythology. If you look at the various branches of humanity, consider how far apart they were, and then look at the similarities between major cultural mythological cycles. That they have so much in common, particularly the Indo-European mythological cycles like the Vedic, Celtic, Greek and Norse stories, seems to indicate that there’s something deeply similar across cultures. We’re talking about stories that came to their tellers in the time when the world was only what you saw, and the chilling nightmares you imagined.

The fact this sits at the root of works of fantasy like Tolkien’s Legendarium, the forefather of all role-playing games as we know them today, makes old mythology a sort of progenitor of the branch of gaming I’m interested in adding to. I’ve also been playing a bit of Dark Souls 3 again, and well… it does unhealthy things to somebody’s thought process where obsession over legends and stories are concerned. I think it might be why I’m incorporating mythology into my game. Read more…

Chaos, Honor and Metal Gears: On the unique failure of video game narratives

Snake, maybe

Solid Snake. Or maybe Big Boss. | Labeled for noncommercial reuse by Google Image Search, 11 July 2015.

As I continue with Long September, my novel, and continue to await word from my employment of whether the fiscal cliff we have found ourselves plunging over will mean I won’t be paid until we un-plunge ourselves, I blow off steam by playing old video games and listening to the Wu Tang Clan. Last night’s success was the defeat of a truly ancient foe of mine: Metal Gear Solid. As in 1, as in ©1998 by Konami Computer Entertainment Japan for the PlayStation. Yes, I am OG (original genome).

Whenever I boot up a truly old game, something of the original experience is lost, and I don’t just mean because I’m playing it on a backwards-compatible PlayStation 2 hooked up to a high-def television that doesn’t give any fucks about its aspect ratio and anti-aliasing. This time, what was lost was any sense of awe I had about the story. Come with me on this sad journey as I talk about how a tale that once held me enraptured has become something I mash the “X” button to skip. Read more…

Speak of the Bronson


Charles Bronson in “Death Wish.” Promotional poster image. | Courtesy of This image is displayed under Fair Use.


The AV Club must have heard of my recent squawking about Death Wish, because they just hit the full series with the sledgehammer of a close reading. And of course, they did better than I did. Check it out.

Ken Plays Outlaws, Part Two

I’m still yakking about Outlaws, which still stands the test of time as #2 in the Top Two Western Video Games That Have Ever Been Made. Seriously, game industry, I’m pretty sure people would buy more of these. This video does a quick tour of Levels 1 and 2 and sums up Level 3 with the words “Ah, fuck, a train level.”

“Problematic,” and The Ignorance Of It

Funeral car

A train coach based on Abraham Lincoln’s funeral car is restored in Springfield, Ill. for the sesquicentennial of his death. | May 2015, Kenneth Lowe


So, I had originally meant to post about why Westerns are generally a funny thing for a guy like me to like. I’d also like to tie it in a bit to some of the distressing stuff I hear from the modern fandom these days, and by that I mean the white guys who I grew up identifying with.

You’ve read about Gamergate and you possibly also heard about how some misogynists hijacked the Hugo Awards because they didn’t like that some women justifiably won a bunch of them last year. The controversy has become way too politicized for bizarre reasons. If you go read Breitbart’s site, you’ll find conservative guys claiming that feminists hate games and if you go to Gawker, you’ll be convinced all Gamergaters are not-so-secret rapists. Even one of the online comics I read at The Escapist Magazine treats the subject lightly, while the site itself, if you look, advertises the works of Vox Day, the fellow who is in a sense behind the great Hugo heist, and who blogs about how gay marriage is bad and insists that a bakery taking backlash for refusing a gay couple a cake is an attack on religious liberty.

How is all this tied in to Outlaws and Westerns? Bear with me. Read more…

The Revelation of Kung Fu

“Seconds Cover” by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Original image here. | Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.


Thanks to my brother and his wife for their Christmas/birthday gift of Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley, he of Scott Pilgrim fame. It’s not nearly as epic a read (in the sense of length), but it had things to say that resonated with me. Sometimes you need that more than another paperback about dragons and magic. (Which I’m also currently reading, guiltily.)

I needed a break from writing about stuff for the past month, since it has been pretty crazy. I have work-coming-to-an-end-stress, family stress, holiday stress, and creative stress, so the blog just needed to not happen for a bit. I plan to unveil a bit more about what I wrote about my grandfather in the near future, but for right now, I am much more excited to be embarking upon a new project with somebody who has been a great help to me in crafting a keepsake for friends. I have to mention something about it here, because it is just plain ludicrous the degree of labor I’ve put into it.

A great long while ago, I ran a Dungeons & Dragons campaign with some good friends downstate. We had a ridiculous amount of fun, and I even met several new people through it. Since it came to an end a couple of years ago, I have felt nostalgia like no other. In part to give a keepsake to my badass party members and in part to assuage these yearnings, I slowly set about creating a book of the campaign. Key to this was the addition of some art. Sadly, none of our players really drew any of us while we were playing, so in addition to sketches of maps and notes I’d made about the adventure already, I figured I should commission some art revealing our characters.

I’d love to reveal some of the art I used, but the fact is I paid for single-use for it and I don’t want to make it available to anybody on the internet who can Google Image search. The point, however, is that I partnered with a few great artists to illustrate the work, including one who I am pleased to say I will be working with on an upcoming project.

Read more…

Up and down

Peter and Lilia Yee, ca. 1953. | Photographer Unknown

Peter and Lilia Yee, ca. 1953. | Photographer Unknown

It has been a trying past couple of weeks. I plan to write a bit more about it very soon, but my grandmother passed away last week. It set me on a long period of rushing back and forth, which was compounded by the wedding I then had to go to the day after her funeral and a looming medical procedure. Through it all, writing has fallen to the wayside, but I’m hoping to find the endurance to get back into it this weekend. More updates to come.