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Gaming Culture / Self-Sufficiency

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Date Host George Noory
Guests John Gastil , Gary Collins

Prof. John Gastil from Penn State discussed his latest work examining the huge popularity of gaming culture, including Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) and fantasy role-playing. Gastil explores the world of gaming through his new novel, Dungeon Party, which not only delves into the gamers' lives but the fantasy world and characters they inhabit. Instead of the immersive experience of video games and virtual reality, many people are turning to fantasy games, where they interact in imaginary spaces, he explained. "The stakes of a good story...can be so high that it's emotionally charged," he mused. Fantasy games are suited for the pandemic environment, he added. He's currently involved in a D&D game with a number of players in different locations via Zoom. This can also happen with multiplayer action-adventure franchises like Grand Theft Auto, where online participants form bonds with strangers.

The gaming world has become incredibly lucrative (surpassing the profits of the movie industry), Gastil pointed out, but is not entirely dominated by big companies-- smaller ventures offered through things like Kickstarter have found audiences. Beyond D&D, elaborate Live Action Role Playing games (LARPs) have taken off, in which players physically portray their characters with costumes and props in settings defined by specific rules. Gastil also touched on his research that focuses on the theory and practice of democracy, and remarked that in the recent US election, so far, there hasn't been any evidence of voter fraud that has held up in court.

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Author and educator Gary Collins was a former special agent for the FDA investigating food and drug crimes and public health dangers. In the latter half, he talked about his life off-the-grid and how COVID fears and the lockdown drive the urge to be more self-sufficient, simplify life through downsizing, and be more mobile. For Collins, who had a real estate license, the American Dream became more of a nightmare. He concluded that the average homeowner actually loses money on their home, and it becomes a trap. That's why he decided to live off-the-grid in spaces either minimally financed or entirely debt-free (he now divides his time between an RV and an off-grid house on a large piece of land in Washington state).

While some people spend big bucks on an RV, Collins said his is just a simple 24-ft travel trailer which he tows to different locales. The RV has a plug for solar panels, as well as propane tanks, and is good training for those who are considering an off-grid lifestyle, he stated. A caller complained that she could not build a 'tiny house' on her property in California because of regulations, and Collins advised her to consider moving to a state with fewer restrictions. He also commented on the recent election and was critical of current voter technology standards. In regards to potential COVID vaccinations, he expressed concern they may become mandatory for travel and other activities.

News segment guests: Lauren Weinstein, Steve Kates

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