The Skeptical Gamers

Bringing critical thinking to Gen Con Indy

Bad News

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on May 16, 2012

So…Unfortunately we are cancelling all of our events. The Skeptical Gamers will not have a presence at Gen Con 2012. This is because I took a job in Spokane, Washington and can’t possibly make it back in time and Tom isn’t comfortably trying to run all the events on his own when he doesn’t even live in Indy. So maybe next year. Right now I’m looking at porting over some of my presentations to Spocon, Spokane’s local fantasy/sci-fi convention that happens the week before Gen Con, so if you’re in the inland northwest you might see me there.

Sorry to anyone who was looking forward to another year of awesomeness from us. I suppose, though, sometimes shit happens. Hopefully we’ll see you in 2013!

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2012 Events Are Pending!

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 8, 2012

Good afternoon, Skeptical Gamers fans! I just submitted a boatload of events for Gen Con 2012. We’ll be repeating most of last year’s catalogue with, as I said in my last post, a few tweaks. Those tweaks include, so far:

  • The panel that used to be called “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture” has been retitled to “Lies, Damned Lies, and Pop Culture: A Choose-Your-Own-Panel Adventure,” so look for the new name when you’re getting tickets. New name, same utter awesomeness.
  • “Cargo Cult Science” has been removed from the catalogue for reasons involving its difficulty finding an audience, the difficulty we always have sticking to the time limit, and the fact that Sara Head covers cargo cults in her archaeology talks.
  • We have added two new panels. The first is titled “Mixed Media Nonsense: Pseudoscience Across Geek Culture” and will be like our classic choose-your-own-adventure panel but the emphasis will be on movies, TV, comics, and games and what we can learn about real science from the bad science they often contain. The second is called “When Will I Ever Use This?” and will cover all sorts of awesome uses for the math and science that students so often complain is completely useless.
  • The talk “Crazy Conspiracies and Coverups: Secrets THEY Don’t Want You To Know About” has been expanded from one hour to two. Last year we went overtime and still didn’t have time for a Q&A. It was a packed house in a very large room and everyone seemed to totally dig the content so we’ve expanded it to give ourselves some breathing room and the ability to cover more ground.

That’s what’s changed so far. I’ll update here if anything else gets added or removed and, as I did last year, I’ll post the full event schedule as soon as Gen Con has confirmed it and sent it to me.

See you in August!

Edit 3/9/12: We’ve decided to double up on both “Mythical Monsters and Folktale Fauna” and “Crazy Conspiracies and Coverups: Secrets THEY Don’t Want You To Know About” since they were both huge and a ton of fun last year. I also got my good friend Rob, one of the founding panel members from way back in 2009 (who has been absent since then) to commit to a talk this year. He’s a math PhD student so his talk is titled “1=0.9999…How Innumeracy Affects the Educated World.” He’ll also hopefully be joining us on the “When Will I Use This?” panel.

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Regarding 2012

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on February 20, 2012

Things are heating up, Skeptical Gamers fans, but I’m not going to lie to you: 2012 is in a bit of limbo. I am finishing my Master’s and this means two things: I’ll likely be relocating within the next few months and I am quite poor. Tom, my right-hand man, is looking at buying a house. Together we have a lot on our plates already but that isn’t stopping us from planning for Gen Con 2012.

At present, we’re looking to repeat last year’s catalogue almost verbatim. We’re likely dropping “Cargo Cult Science” as it has struggled to find an audience and it never fits into the time constraints anyway. And besides; Sara covers cargo cults in her talks so it’s kind of redundant. We’ll be replacing it with some new stuff, though; we’ll likely be doubling up on last year’s hugely popular “Mythical Monsters and Folktale Fauna” and we have some other stuff in the works, like “When Will I Use This?”, a talk all about the common complaint people have about math and science.

We’re also retitling the general-purpose panel from “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture” to “Lies, Damned Lies, and Pop Culture: A Choose Your Own Panel Adventure.” The original title, while descriptive, wasn’t exactly eye-catching. So if you were one of those who like the big panel in 2009, 2010, and 2011, make sure to look for it under its new name in 2012.

I will have a full schedule posted as soon as it is available and if anything comes up to stand in the way of a full Skeptical Gamers presence at Gen Con 2012 I will post it here with an explanation. See you in August!

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Gen Con 2010 Presentation Videos!

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on August 1, 2011

After almost a year and just in time for Gen Con 2011, I have sat my ass down and put the videos of last year’s presentations on YouTube.

Did you know that YouTube removed all length restrictions on their videos? I didn’t, until after I had spent hours looking for a good free video editor. Then I spent days, days I tell you, trying to upload these giant files and hitting snag after snag after snag. I must have restarted the upload three times after hours and hours of progress.

But it all worked out! Below the fold you will find the videos we captured of two of last year’s offerings: the panel “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture” and the presentation “Cargo Cult Science.” If for some reason you must have HD, you can watch them in HD on YouTube itself.


Read the rest of this entry »

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A Loss for Gen Con

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on July 27, 2011

Some bad news, folks. Elyse Anders, Skepchick and founder of the Women Thinking Free Foundation, who was originally slated to be on both “Women’s Intuition and Other Myths” and “Skepticism, Pop Culture, and Critical Thinking,” has been forced to cancel due to personal reasons.

It’s nothing bad, mind you, I’m just not sure I’m allowed to go public with it yet. So good luck, Elyse, and we’re going to miss you here in Indy!

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Gen Con Event Registration Is Open

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on May 2, 2011

This is coming a day late, but Gen Con Registration is now open for business! You can go register for our events at

Get crackin’, though; a couple of our events are close to sold out already and the rest are going fast!

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Audio: Cargo Cult Science Presentation 2010

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 30, 2011

I mentioned in an earlier post that a couple of gentlemen were kind enough to record our Cargo Cult Science podcast last year but that I had forgotten who or what or where.

Well, in digging through my Gmail, I have located the answers to all of those “w” words. The “who” was Kevin Weiser, the “what” was The Walking Eye Podcast, and the “where” is this link right here. That will take you to the page where you can download the audio from last year’s presentation so you have some idea what you’re getting into in 2011. The talk went really well last year and I hope you like it. Here’s a podcast they did that wraps up their Gen Con experience; I haven’t listened to it, but we’re linked on the page which implies that we were mentioned. Give it a listen.

Thanks for putting this together for us, Kevin! Sorry it took me so long to get you your official kudos.

Posted in 2010, Media, Presentations, Talks | Leave a Comment »

2011 Panel: “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture”

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

2011 promises to be pretty big for the Skeptical Gamers at Gen Con, and what better way to headline the festivities than with our annual panel?

Back in 2009 we threw our first “Skepticism, Critical Thinking, and Pop Culture” panel and had a great time with our audience. In 2010 we revised the format to allow the audience to choose what topics we covered. In 2011 we’re retaining the “Choose Your Own Adventure” format and switching up the topics a bit.

The format: We present you, the audience, four options. You choose an option. We blather on about it for fifteen or so minutes. We do this six times to total one and a half hours. Then we open up the floor for our patent-pending “Stump the Skeptics” Q&A, where you can ask whatever the hell you desire and we will do our best to give you an answer that is both enlightening and hilarious.

Potential topics this year include but are not limited to:

  • Ghosts and ghost hunting
  • Cryptozoology
  • UFOs and alien abductions
  • Crop circles
  • Applied kinesiology
  • The anti-vaccination movement
  • Power Balance
  • Dr. Oz
  • Oprahwoo
  • Paranormal photography
  • Astrology (updated for the new zodiac!)
  • Psychics
  • Bullshit advertising claims
  • 2012 apocalypse!
  • Pseudoarchaeology (e.g. Atlantis, ancient aliens, etc)
  • The curse of Tutankhamen
  • The Bermuda Triangle
  • Spirit possession
  • The Secret
  • Nostradamus
  • Water woo
  • Folk wisdom and suburban legends

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2011 Talk: “Cargo Cult Science”

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

Also returning from an acclaimed 2010 run (of one venue) is “Cargo Cult Science,” presented by myself and Tom Foss. This one even had buzz last year; we were recorded for a podcast, the URL of which I have since lost, so if you’re reading this, podcast guys, please send me the link so I can give you a proper shout-out for being so awesome.

“Cargo Cult Science” looks at the phenomenon of people who believe they are doing science but don’t understand the process enough to actually be performing it properly. Instead they act in almost scripted ways based on their flawed understanding of the method, believing that by going through the motions, their results will be useful.

The metaphor is borrowed from Richard Feynman, who first  used it to refer to activities that have only the outer patina of science without the proper guts on the inside. “Cargo cults” refers, in the most well-known sense, to a phenomenon wherein colonialized cultures misunderstand the actions of their colonizers and begin acting out their “rituals” in ways that clearly communicate that misunderstanding. Of course, as with most things in anthropology, things aren’t quite that simple, so the talk will open with a brief introduction to the phenomenon of cargo cults and why it is such a useful metaphor for pseudoscience.

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2011 Panel: “Mythical Monsters and Folktale Fauna”

Posted by Adversarial Writer #2 on March 23, 2011

One of last year’s most popular talks was “Myths, Monsters, and Legends,” delivered by Colin Thornton. Colin has bowed out of Gen Con 2011, and to fill the void of his absence, Tom Foss, Jon Maxson, and I are stepping in to give a panel focused on the fun folklore of cryptids and cryptozoology.

We’ll look at Bigfoot, Nessie, Mothman, and who knows what else. We’ll focus on the methods used in the searches for these creatures and the evidence presented for their existence. We’ll look at some real-life analogues and draw connections between mythical creatures and real ones. We will also, of course, crack lots of jokes.

Finally, I’ll tell the harrowing tale of the Bigfoot hunt I undertook in February 2009 across the entire state of Indiana and share some pictures and videos of that incredibly silly trip.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »