I don’t quite have it yet, but there’s something here. Spoilers for Indiana Jones movies follow.
PAX East obliterated Jared Sorensen’s voice but he still had an event left to run. Players were counting on him. The convention schedule had the game session locked in. Sorensen, his voice already spent on conversations and events in the noisy convention venues, seemed fucked. But Jared Sorensen didn’t quit.
Sorensen was on the hook to run one of his new Parsely games on Sunday afternoon. Parsely games, if you don’t know, evoke classic text adventures through live, face-to-face play. One or more players (sometimes many more than one) issue commands to a person who parses (get it?) the players’ instructions in the fashion of an old text adventure, thereby navigating intriguing, frightening, exciting adventure environments like in days of yore. The players take on the role of explorers and collectors and the parser takes on the role of computer emulator, taking in the player inputs and doling out brief descriptions of the environment and the action.
“You’re in a dank cellar. The water here is ankle-deep. You smell gasoline,” the parser might say, then: “Exits are North, East, West.”
“Go East,” says a player on her turn.
Writer, actor, geek, gamer, and producer Wil Wheaton has a shiny new web series coming to the shiny new YouTube channel, Geek and Sundry. The show’s called TableTop and its something like Celebrity Poker meets Dinner For Five except instead of dinner or poker there are fun and funny people playing fun and funny tabletop games. The first episode debuts on Friday, April 2nd, on the aforementioned Geek and Sundy YouTube channel.
Word from the WonderCon panel at which the network was announced by executive producer and prolific writer/actress, Felicia Day, is that the show will feature a variety of board games, plus RPGs like Dragon Age and Fiasco. Check out the show trailer and the channel’s sizzle reel for a glimpse at some of the guests coming to the show, too. I am maximum eager to see this show light up my computer monitor and, one hopes, to give eventual DVDs as gifts to would-be players seeking primers on a variety of fun tabletop games.
I want to write a missed-connection piece for those beautiful RPGs that have passed me on the train or gone unmet at the coffeehouse.
Different kinds of game texts connect with different kinds of audiences. Naturally an audience may tend to prefer and admire the text that connects with them over those that don’t. Can we manage the nuance and understanding that appreciates that games that might miss us, as individuals or an audience, might successfully connect with some other audience?
That is, games that capture an audience other than you or I might not be badly written or unsuccessfully designed or whatever else. Can’t we find ways to parse and understand texts that missed us without disparaging texts and audiences that have found each other?
As I meet more and more gamers, I discover an audience wider than that served by any one text—and audiences that presume the books they connect with are doing it “right” and the others are doing it “badly.” This is precisely as narrow-minded as the perspective of the books that missed their chance to connect with this audience. This is sort of a shame, but it is no big deal. We write from where we stand. We’ll make mistakes. We’ll gather some readers on this try and others with the next. At least we’re here together; does it matter which road we took coming in?
The RPG audience deserves a variety of texts, writing styles, and voices. A necessary consequence of that diversity shall be that not all texts shall connect with all audiences on every try. That is not a value judgment. It just is.
Let us not disparage an RPG just because it was not written in our argot, even if it was written in our language.
Jason Morningstar wrote this on Google Plus:
Questioning assumptions: In roleplaying games, how come we only play each scene one time?
Here’s what I wrote immediately after reading the question (so this is probably just a reflection of my habits and presumptions to date, alas):
In part, I think it’s because playing any scene multiple times is rare in a given instance of performance. Not many plays or movies or novels play the same scene multiple times for different effects outside of rehearsal. RPGs are typically performance-now constructs, not rehearsal constructs. We know what happens and we are audience, why watch it again when we could see something new?
(I say this as someone who wishes there were more alternate takes on DVDs and as someone who understands why there aren’t.)
Also, getting to explore multiple potential outcomes of or within a scene is tantamount to cheating—like loading a save game to see what the other corridor leads to before settling on your decision. It is meta. It takes advantage of a system and diminishes the impact of actual play. (“What the hell, I’ll say this because I can always play the scene again and leave it unsaid.”)
Of course, this also grants great freedom of expression and a unique look at the possibility space. (“What the hell, I’ll say this because I can always play the scene again and leave it unsaid.”)
This is one reason I advocate for shop talk during play, though. It allows for the skewing or revision of scenes in the moment, as sometimes happens during rehearsal, without having to play a scene again exactly. You get to peek at the possibilities and pick from them rather than just getting what you get from the collision of improvisations.
I have played the same scene from different perspectives, though usually within a strict narrative context and with a lot of hustle to save time. E.g., “Let’s play the scene again from the perspective of the surveillance team we didn’t know was there.”
Also, it’s my sincere hope that people play the same scene at least twice in “All The Damn Time,” though I didn’t know how to suggest that in the playset format and though it’s probably more literal in that set than you’re talking about here.
And, of course, we may play the same scene twice whenever we play the same game adventure more than once. So it’s not unheard of in the medium.
What are your thoughts? (Swing by Jason’s post and share them there, if you prefer.)