Archive for April, 2006

Final Bits of Push Text (1 of 4)

2006 Apr 27

Push contains several different kinds of content, the most obvious being 1) articles describing newly emerging or less well known varieties of play and design, 2) articles describing new opportunities for play and design within existing roleplaying traditions, and 3) complete and playable short-form games that demonstrate new play possibilities. The contributors who created our content were invited to participate, wrote proposals, listened to preliminary suggestions, wrote drafts, received feedback, made changes, expanded certain sections, presented final drafts, approved my final edits, and participating in the proofreading process. Push is a group effort and they deserve much credit.

Each issue also features running “guest commentary” in the margins. Our Guest Commentators are hand-selected by me, the Lead Editor, for their previous contributions to roleplaying thought, as well as the intelligence and clarity of their writing. They also have to be really fun people! Additionally, I’ve made an effort to invite Guest Commentators from outside The Forge, the online community where the idea for Push began. I hope this practice of inviting less familiar faces to participate continues in subsequent volumes, so that our circle of faces will never become too comfortable and the Push community will continue to grow in size and the diversity of backgrounds.

Finally, each volume of Push features a cover image by an up-and-coming visual artist, preferrably one who supports Push‘s progressive values in their own medium. For this initial volume, we are lucky enough to have a fantastic cover image by Clio Chiang, whose portfolio of comics and illustration work speaks for itself. Artists contributing to Push retain complete creative control over their work, just like any other contributor.

Zero to Sixty: Bouncing Back

2006 Apr 27

Okay, so last night I must have hit rock bottom in my “Ah, GenCon!” frustration, but some good stuff happened (I got some sleep, I talked to Clinton and he doesn’t think I’m a total loser yet). Again, I apologize for all that crap last night. This isn’t my personal blog and I should try to keep personal bleh from filling it up. I’ll do better about that, promise.

Thanks to Annie, Ben, Clinton, Thomas, and everyone who posted comments, since all of you folks helped me get out of some rampant stupidity that I was under the influence of. Gah! Back to our regularly scheduled program.

Where things stand now:

We had a really productive Story Games thread about starting a forum that focused, initially, on bringing together people involved in different kinds of roleplaying and related creative activities (mainstream tabletop, indie folks, Anglo-Am larpers, Nordic larpers, online freeform, collaborative fic/fanfic, MMORGs, interactive fiction, etc.) for the purpose of exploring connections and learning from people who do things totally different from you. That might eventually spawn something else that works to push for more diversity of people (and not just diversity of play) in roleplaying, but that might be a seperate project. Jess “Kleenespace” Hammer’s tenatively agreed to help me recruit and organize an “advisory board” consisting of representative folks from many different roleplaying communities, who’ll then work together to determine what this forum/webspace will look like. This project is probably gonna be called Plays Well with Others and eventually be up at, but there are a few other projects to tackle first.

I’ve been finishing up Push stuff all week: looking up publishing info to flesh out the bibliographies, tweaking the layout, writing the descriptive section of the introduction (which I’ll post here soon), and otherwise getting it ready to go. I think May will be our month for doing proofreading and collecting the side comments from our Guest Commentators, who now tentatively includes Jess Hammer, along with Annie Rush, Brand Robins, Mo Turkington, Paul Tevis, and Victor Gjisbers. Since our contributors for the first issue are Emily Care Boss, John Kim, Shreyas Sampat, Eero Tuovinen, and myself (and a few people like Rich Forest, Liz Henry, Piers Brown, and Thomas Robertson may be helping proofread), I’m totally stoked. This is one of the greatest crews ever. Woohoo!

GenCon stuff is still up in the air. Annie’s really psyched for doing our own booth still, but I’m dubious about our chances of finding two more people who are interested in splitting it (since we need to put some money up by next week). Personally, I’m not especially worried about our ability to pull off something awesome, despite me having never been to GenCon before (Annie’s an old pro). The money thing is slightly worrisome, but not too much. As long as I don’t spend more than $500 on GenCon, I’m probably cool. Money, as they say, ain’t a thing.

I might end up crawling back to the Forge booth if things don’t work out, embarrassed and apologetic for my little tantrum. Personally, I’d LOVE to demo TSoY and Polaris and Breaking the Ice. That would be hot. I still feel that, overall, the “diaspora effect” needs to take place at GenCon as well as online. Wicked Dead made a good start of it, but I eventually envison a half-dozen seperate indie booths at GenCon and see that only as a good thing. I mean, the indie movement is partially about being able to do things your own way, pro-pluralism and all that, and I’d like to be a part of enacting that at the convention level. If not this year, then next year definitely.

Okay, that’s enough for now. More later.

Pre-GenCon Angst

2006 Apr 26

EDIT: Written late at night, on not much sleep, after a frustrating conversation with Ben. I’m rethinking a lot of the things I said here, so please don’t judge me too harshly. I am someone who admits their mistakes and posting this at the height of my angst was probably not the best idea. My apologies.

I’m not feeling so emotionally hot right now.

I’m in the middle of going through my adolescence as an active member of the creative community that surrounds roleplaying. I spent several years at the Forge studying what other people had done, but, really, much of the time I felt like I was spinning my wheels and wasn’t able to discuss the kinds of things I wanted to be talking about and work on the projects that really moved me. Then, when the call for the diaspora went out (Ron’s “Go away, please”) I left and have been having a much more productive and fulfilling creative life since then (for a number of reasons). Projects like Push and some of the short games I’ve written have renewed my faith in myself and given me a sense of personal identity as a game designer.

Things haven’t all been great. I’m like a kid who’s left home for the first time and there are some awkward mistakes that I’ve made and will continue to make (and hopefully learn from). I’ve unintentially pissed some great people off by trying to distinguish myself from them and get a better sense of who I am and why I’m doing this. But, all in all, things feel good and I’m moving in the right direction. Most importantly, it feels like this is something I’m really doing for myself, not for other people. I worry less about people appreciating the work I do.

But this GenCon stuff has fucked all of that up.

There’s something in my gut that, right now, tells me that I don’t want to work for the Forge Booth. I’ve spent the past year and a half trying to distance myself from the Forge (which is part of what’s pissed some people off, and I’m sorry for that) in order to create a space in which I feel comfortable working on the projects that most interest me. This has more to do with ME and where I am right now than with the Forge Booth in particular. I feel like this is when I need to step awkwardly into the world. I don’t want to delay or put this off any longer. It doesn’t matter if I make mistakes or if it isn’t perfect. Sometimes you just have to do things and deal with the consequences, whatever they may be.

This may be me just be bratty and selfish and stubborn and adolescent, but, dammit, that’s the place where I am right now. And being inauthentic to myself is something that I don’t want to do. I don’t really want to go and have the typical GenCon experience because, frankly, it doesn’t really sound all that great to me. I’d like to go and try to make a different kind of experience for anybody who’s interested in doing something else.

But then, I start talking with other people, people I really respect and whose opinions I value (like all the folks who responded to the last post), and they say:

1) You don’t really know what you’re doing.
2) You don’t really know what GenCon is like.
3) You could lose a whole heap load of money.
4) You could do all this neat stuff and no one could care.
5) You should wait and do it next year.

And all of these things are 100% true, but the rockstar in me says, “So what? Fuck that. I’m not going to spend my whole life waiting for the right opportunity. It doesn’t work that way.” I am the person I am for having made some foolish decisions without knowing what I was doing, like going off to China when I was 16. And I’m a better person for having taken those chances and having made a bunch of awkward mistakes.

Sure, we could do something astoundingly awesome next year. But we could also do something pretty dern awesome this year. What if stuff goes down so that I can’t make it next year? What if I’m in China? What if I get cancer? What if I die in a car crash? Shit happens. I don’t want to have not done things because people made me self-conscious and I wussed out.

And now I have to go to bed, because I have to teach tomorrow. Gah! I hate going to bed in a bad mood. I wanna be excited about GenCon again, not frustrated!

Annie Can Convince You to Do Anything

2006 Apr 26

So Annie Rush and I were talking about GenCon, and one thing led to another, and now we may be running our own booth. Mo’s trying to decide if she wants to join us or not and I’m racking my brains trying to think of other people who might potentially be interested, because we’d need 3-5 to make it work. Here’s a (somewhat edited version) how we came upon this plan…


ME: and Mo still has no clue where she’s selling her games.
she was just planning to backpack it, but i told her what you said.
AR: does she have forge-nections?
ME: about the Con people not liking that,
not really.
i mean, i’m sure people would love to have her, but i don’t know if she’d feel comfortable
or if she’s willing to put in 4 hours a day at the booth.
we really, really need our own booth next year.
AR: all of a sudden i wonder if it’s too late to get a “storygames” booth.
ME: Andy’s heavily into the Forge stuff.
and most other candidates are too: Jason Morningstar, Ben Lehman, Emily Care, Matt Wilson, etc.
so it’s just you, me, and Mo.
AR: aah.
ME: and a booth is $1000.
AR: ah, dunno
Well, I easily make back my part, but I don’t know if you two could
and there’s the matter of manning it.
ME: i just have no idea what kind of product i’m going to move…
AR: If we want to go low key, cash only, everyone sell their own books, it’d be easy
ME: i don’t know, it’s weird. i don’t want to be a salesman.
i want to be a bookstore.
AR: me, too.
ME: someone walks in, picks up my book, looks at it, decides it’s cool, and buys it.
and asks questions if they can’t find something.
AR: That is unusual at GC.
ME: a crafts booth.
a hot dog stand.
not a used car dealership.
AR: GenCon is a carnival.
or the circus.
ME: i feel like GenCon totally isn’t my scene at all.
but it’s something i should check out at least once.
and it’s important for making and renewing connections.
AR: I’ve always been as an employee.
ME: i think we should play games at our booth too, if we decide to get one.
AR: which I don’t get to do.
Honestly, I’d like to have a place to sit and put my feet up, invite others to talk and stuff.
maybe have posters to do the major pull for us, and not need to bother calling over people who aren’t attracted by our ambiance.
ME: i feel like we could have a badass ambiance.
being artists and graphic designers and such.
AR: I was thinking velvet drapes, comfy seats, and a fake fire place
ME: fake fire!
AR: nods
like one of those silk ones in a paper-mache brick-facade setup. ;)
ME: heh.
i think we should make it as non-gamer as possible.
AR: “the story lounge”
ME: but still be cool and neat and artsy.
we could read stories aloud!
AR: lol!
ME: Story Time!
AR: and play games!
ME: yes!
fun time!
AR: yeah!
ME: and if people want to buy our books, that’s cool.
AR: “I can’t explain my game in 30 seconds, so I don’t want to try and miss the point that will sell you. I’d rather discuss what you want out of your play-time, and direct you where you want to go”
our table will be attractive by not being a table.
ME: yes!
no table!
and we’ll be glad to recommend OTHER PEOPLE’S GAMES.
or talk to you about games or whatever.
“man, I LOVE Exalted!”
AR: I don’t know anything about most games.
ME: heh.
it’s okay.
you can recommend good books!
and draw people yummy pictures!
AR: yeah. ^_^
hot shit, I want to do this.
ME: and Reagan can sign autographs, being a famous Flight author.
ME: speaking of, we should bring copies of Flight 3 to sell.
AR: yeah, he’ll be our special guest.
ME: ha!
AR: if we could get a total of five people on board, it would be perfect
ME: yes.
i just emailed Mo.
Thomas may have a game ready, but he may not.
I’m trying to convince Shreyas to make little booklets of his short games.
AR: we’d all be responsible for our own product, and have product be secondary to networking.
ME: yeah.
making friends and getting attention for ourselves.
passing out business cards.
AR: and our friends. ;)
ME: trading email addresses.
AR: yeap!
ME: we could run a coffee shop!
well, without the coffee.
i guess that was the original idea behind the Brewing Company.
a different kind of approach.
ME: Thomas doubts we can afford our own booth.
because we’d have to sell 100 copies total to break even, and that’s not counting hotels and stuff.
AR: lol, no!
ME: but i don’t mind paying some money to have a good time and sell games, especially if it’s a better time than i would have otherwise had.
AR: yeah
100 games at 10 each
previous years, I’ve made a grand.
ME: well, you’re Annie fucking Rush.
you’re a rockstar.
AR: \m/
ME: i don’t know, i think if i have copies of Push, KKKKK, and Seadog Tuxedo, that we can move a fair number.
but i’m not a cute girl.
so i may not sell as many as you.
AR: again, if we can booth for $225 each (approximate and considering we only get 2 badges with the booth), I’m really not worried.
ME: i’ve already bought a badge.
being dumb.
but i’m sure i can give it to someone.
AR: or upgrade it
ME: yeah.
okay, definitely something to consider.
AR: yeah. Some of this hinges on who else we can get on board, though.
ME: yes.
because we couldn’t accept “maybes”
AR: yeah, and I wouldn’t want to open it up to just anyone.
ME: since we’d probably need to book it soon.
AR: nods
AR: see, now I can’t wait till GenCon again
ME: heh.
especially if we rock out at it.
we just gotta figure out how to do something that we’ll be proud of and really enjoy doing.
AR: yeah. figure out what’ll be worth it to us.
Just forwarded you an email from Mo.
She wants to know if she can sell masks at our booth.
we’ll hang them as decoration
ME: that’s what i said.
AR: and sell them
I want to start a little email list or something to get to know these people for the story lounge
ME: sounds good.
AR: GenCommune
ME: yes!
AR: rubs hands manaically
ME: of you, me, and Mo, you’re the only GenCon vet.
AR: yeah, but you’re the ringleader
ME: me?
AR: the hub of us all
ME: getting a booth was your idea.
AR: oh. okay.
I’ll take credit. :>
ME: yes.
you’re the rock star.
AR: so’re you!
ME: we are “Annie Rush & Her Amazing Friends!”
AR: dawww
AR: The two things I didn’t like were the inability to sit down, and the constant pushing out on the crowd
ME: yes.
but we don’t want people just taking up space in our lounge.
so we need some way to filter the crowd.
AR: maybe some kind of schedule of events
AR: Or if you sit down, we’ll try to engage you in conversation, and if that makes you uncomfortable, well, we were here first.
ME: right.
AR: anti-booth?
ME: right.
we need a sign that says “this is not a booth”
AR: “and these are the people who don’t run it”
ME: yes.
AR: “unemployed designer hall of fame” wall
ME: heh.
AR: I’d like to have some information about our purpose that people can access without needing to be social.
ME: yes.
“we are rockstars”
AR: lol
ME: “who also write games”
AR: “and tell stories”
ME: we should have “masks” in the name.
ME: we could be “the mask shop” from MirrorMask!

Ben Can Convince You to Do Anything

2006 Apr 22

ME: what i’ve been trying to say is not that “Forge games are inaccessible to women” but that Forge games are inaccessible to a largely untapped audience that would really enjoy a specific type of roleplaying experience.
BEN: Ah!
Yes. Okay.
That’s a completely reasonable thing to say.
Ron says it a lot, too, actually.
ME: that’s what i think.
BEN: See, I’m interested in tapping the large audience of women and minorities who are interested in gaming as it is right now but have problems with the social arrangements surrounding it or simply the white-washedness of the hobby.
ME: yes.
BEN: So yes, cool, go you.
Hey, can I make a proposal to you?
ME: yes.
BEN: I’d really like there to exist a place where you, Jess, John Sneed, Jere, and other folks could feel at home.
Like anyway is for me.
“our turf.”
I don’t think that exists right now.
And so I want you to start a bulletin board for this purpose.
ME: no.
okay, well, i was going to have to start an online forum for Push anyway.
that could be it.
BEN: That seems totally reasonable.
And I really want to help you promote it.
ME: thanks, i would appreciate it.
BEN: Because I don’t think that there can exist a functional neutral ground until everyone has a place where they feel comfortable.
ME: see, this is why i wanted to talk about this, because people seemed to get the sense that I was shitting on their lawn.
BEN: Because neutral ground is inherently uncomfortable for everyone.
ME: yes.
which is why Story Games doesn’t quite work.
it’s still too broad.
BEN: And so Pease is like “I’m uncomfortable.” And I’m like “yeah! It’s Story Games! So am I!”
ME: ha!
BEN: But I can go post on Anyway or the Forge or my blog. And Jess really doesn’t have a place to go other than Livejournal, which is non-ideal for other reasons.
But I can’t really start a place and be like “you people who don’t like me! Come here!” That’d be awkward.
ME: right.
well, i’ll talk to some of the people i’d want on-board such a project and see what they think.
BEN: I would take it as a personal favor, at least :-)
ME: but it may be one of those “if you build it, they will come” kinds of things.
BEN: Oops.
It always is that way.
But I think there’s a hunger for it.
ME: indeed.
especially after recent conversations.
BEN: Yes.
I want it :-)
I want to lurk.
ME: i was just telling Rich “35 people, invite only, one open forum for people to discuss the discussions, but that would get pulped every 3 months or so.”
BEN: Hrm.
You know, I thought that people were really into the inclusiveness angle.
But you never know.
ME: inclusiveness is hard.
if you let everybody in, the people you want won’t feel comfortable there.
that’s why the Forge and Story Games doesn’t work.
BEN: Hrm.
See, I think the Forge works just fine.
ME: there would be an application process which would be like, “link me to another online discussion where you talk about related issues”
BEN: Because if you let the people who are unwelcome know that they are, in fact, unwelcome, they usually leave.
One notable exception.
ME: yeah, but i don’t want to have to become Ron.
BEN: But also you miss out on great folks like Kleenestar.
ME: kicking people out does not set the right tone for inclusivity.
BEN: Who just drop in and are awesome.
No one has ever been kicked out of the Forge. A lot of people have been told “we don’t discuss that topic here.”
ME: right, but i’d also be lurking on various online places to find people to invite.
BEN: Hrm.
ME: and members could recommend their friends, like Gmail.
BEN: Well, it sounds interesting, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. I will hit up Jess.
ME: i’m just thinking that everyone has to be there for a reason.
what do you want, Ben?
an open forum where people discuss inclusivity?
BEN: :-)
ME: if you want it done YOUR WAY, you’re the only one who can do that.
BEN: I want a place where Pease feels comfortable.
ME: like, I can’t make Andy K make Story Games what I want it to be.
BEN: And her crew.
ME: how is that not what I’m describing?
BEN: And it seems that her big issue is inclusivity in discussions.
Of course, I could be wrong.
ME: i think you’re wrong.
she was really rattled by having everyone talking about her afterwards.
BEN: But, also, I think that there are more than 35 folks out there who want that.
I want a place where they can all go and do their thing.
ME: she wants inclusive discussions, but she doesn’t want to deal with a ton of people who aren’t on the same page.
well, 35 would be like, a starting limit.
it could go up.
i just don’t want to become another Story Games or The Forge, where you don’t know people.
BEN: See, but if what you’re actually talking about *works*, you’re going to want 10,000 people talking.
ME: i couldn’t read 10,000 people talking.
it also has to be semi-managable.
i guess i don’t want a forum so much as a think-tank, but that’s how my social circles usually run.
i have small groups of close friends instead of a ton of sorta-friends.
BEN: It just seems to me to be self-defeating. It’s like the by default assumption is that not a lot of folks are going to want to participate.
Which seems to be opposite the rest of what you’re talking about.
ME: i guess i feel it’s hard for 10,000 people to be productive.
well, we could do both.
BEN: I don’t think it’s going to be 10,000 people overnight.
ME: have an open forum and then a think-tank forum.
BEN: But the premise is that there’s this great group that’s disenfranchised from the current discussions. And I don’t see how franchising a couple of dozen helps a lot.
ME: true.
BEN: Now, you may not be the guy to do this.
In which case I will go to other people.
ME: maybe if i start coming up with forum titles, like “Inclusivity” “Designing for New Audiences” etc.
it may be that i’m not the guy to do what you want, but that doesn’t mean i can’t help out the cause in a different way.
BEN: Sure…
ME: well, i’ll start a Story Games discussion about it and see what comes up.
BEN: Heh.
Good luck.

Making Some Progress

2006 Apr 15

I’ve been trying to articulate my new approach to play and design, the approach that led me to write KKKKK, Waiting/Tea, and this year’s unfinished Game Chef attempt. Part of this process is for me, so that I can get a better handle on what I’m trying to do, and part of it is for others, so we can further diversify the ways in which we talk about roleplaying.

I made a stab at an introduction (A New Anthem, Part I) over at Story Games, where I tried to talk about the “low-impact” audience that I want to write for (an audience that includes myself, on most days) as well as why recent indie games, while unmistakably awesome, don’t fill a very real need. Ultimately, before trying to explain how you might design for more general “communities of practice” instead of designing games, I decided that I nedd to talk a bit more about what led me to this approach and what I see roleplaying-based communities of practice looking like. That led me to the paragraphs you see below.

Vincent Baker recently had the neat idea to sponsor a Game-Game Contest, where people design non-roleplaying games in an effort to learn lessons from tradition board and card games. While this is an interesting approach, I have long thought that roleplaying was already too closely connected to its wargaming roots, too much like a board game already. So, while I’m a little worried about being viewed as a Vincent-hater (I love you, Vincent!) or, as Clinton said, “all talk” (ouch!), follow me down a different road for a bit.

A Storytelling Approach to Roleplaying

Since White Wolf first appeared on the scene wrapped up in the trappings of storytelling, with their Storyteller System, and GM-as-Storyteller, and campaign-as-chronicle, and with character-driven play structures (as oppossed to situation- or setting-driven approach), many people involved in roleplaying have been wary of talking about storytelling as a model for roleplaying. Some dislike using the terms “story” or “narrative” to talk about roleplaying at all, seeing these as invading ideas from literature and other narrative media, which don’t really describe what happens when a group of people roleplay together.

However, I think there is one kind of story that is very applicable to roleplaying: oral storytelling, something that regularly occurs in our daily life, but has received much less attention since the rise of high-tech media. We tell stories to each other all the time. “Dude, this one time, me and Phil were hanging out beside the coffee shop off Hillsborough Street…” “This horrible thing happened at work today…” “What were you doing the on the evening of April 3rd, Mr. Johnson?” In talking about this brand of conversation narrative, I’m going to be quoting regularly from Part I of University of Maine professor Kristin Langellier’s Storytelling in Daily Life (2004, Temple UP), the best book I’ve found on this subject.

Langellier begins with a description of storytelling quoted from Walter Benjamin: “The storyteller takes what he tells from experience – his own or that reported by others. And he in turn make it the experience of those who are listening to his tale” One major purpose of storytelling, then, is the transmission of experiences (real, imagined, altered, half-remembered) from one person to another, through the act of communication. In the course of daily life, stories are often re-told, transmitted down a chain or spreading out into the larger community. As Langellier writes, “Storytelling is reversible in that an audience can take his or her consciousness of the storyteller’s experience and, in turn, become a storyteller and make it an experience for another audience. Audiences can become storytellers and vice-versa” (3).

In fact, it is this reversibility that enables roleplaying to occur in the first place. In the course of a traditional storytelling performance, sometimes the audience can participate in small, significant ways, making comments, throwing out suggestions, laughing, giving encouragement or discouragement, making gestures, even miming or acting out story events. In roleplaying, the differences between storytellers and audiences are even less distinct. Sometimes roleplayers listen to others recount imagined experiences and, sometimes, a few seconds later, they take their understanding of what their fellow players have just said and put their own spin on it, recounting their own personal imagined experiences while their fellow players listen. Roleplayers constantly switch between being storytellers and being audiences.

In her introduction, Langellier also writes, “When we participate in storytelling, whether as storytellers or audience, we reenact storytelling as a conventionalized form of communication as well as collaborating in the production of a unique story or performance” (4). While storytelling is a common social practice with traditions, norms, and specific roles for participants to play, those involved, even if they are reenacting a very similar storytelling experience, even if this story has been told, in a very similar fashion, hundreds of times before, each instance of storytelling is also a unique event. Because storytelling is habitual, the “possibilities for our participation are marked out in advance, so to speak, by the discourse and by our material conditions” (4). However, because each instance is unique, “any particular storytelling event has the potential to disrupt material constraints and discourse conventions and to give rise to new possibilities for other storytelling and how we participate in performing narrative” (4). Storytelling is both traditional and, potentially, revolutionary.

It is this latter aspect that continues to excite me about roleplaying. Every instance of play and every new game has the potential to open up new possibilities that weren’t there before, to transcend traditional conventions, and to redefine the ways in which we think about roleplaying. Czech ex-patriot author Milan Kundera feels the same way about art and the novel, writing “the concept of this or that art (what is the novel?), as well as the meaning of its evolution (where has it come from and where is it going?), is constantly defined and redefined by each artist and each new work” (Testaments Betrayed, 16). This is crucial to remember.

What Does Storytelling Tell Us?

After that overview, let’s consider the four major points Langellier makes about storytelling and see how they relate to a specific storytelling tradition, namely, roleplaying.

I. Bodies, Experience, & Embodied Stories

II. Constraint & Situated Storytelling

III. The Rules a.k.a. Discursive Regularities

IV. Legitimation and Critique

More coming.

Email to the Robins/Turkington Family

2006 Apr 9

Dearest Bradley & Moyra,

I am perplexed about which road to proceed upon, since my humble roleplaying journal, Push, has been so utterly defiled by having its name associated with a group of play styles utterly divorced from those the journal intends to promote (Mo, I’m looking at you!). Since calling the journal Pull would leave it lacking that all important ring, that special something that all great names must have, I see no choice but to, in icy cold revenge, rename my journal One Thousand One, smearing my muddy boots all over your own 1000 Stories. How do you like them apples, misanthropes?


Opening Up the Conversation

2006 Apr 8

Over at Story Games, I said:

    The way people converse on Story Games is somewhat different from the way people converse on the Forge, but not all that different. And we already know that the way people communicate on the Forge was off-putting enough to people like Mo and Jess to the point that they didn’t feel comfortable posting there (judging from what they’ve posted in their personal blogs) and didn’t feel like a part of that community. My personal tastes and online practices have changed to the point where I don’t feel like or becessarily want to be an active member of the Forge anymore, and I worry that Story Games may already be beginning to exhibit the same tendencies that made me increasingly dissatisfied with conversations on the Forge.

    I don’t know whether it’s inevitable that a forum frequented mostly by roleplaying dorks like ourselves will necessarily become a cockfest of slapping each other on our metaphorical asses, but there’s definitely that danger. Then again, maybe that’s what Story Games, overall, wants to be. I mean, I think there definitely should be a place for people to have conversations about roleplaying that don’t have that tendency (and, for a while I think, 20×20 was such a place), but there’s a good possibility that Story Games just isn’t that place. Andy’s right that Story Games is basically just a year-round version of the Forge Birthday Forum, which means it’s mostly like the Forge, but it has more room for joking and messing around.

    However, despite what people say, humor and joking are one of the least universal things on the planet. People let down their guard for humor and that can explose some ugly things underneath (which may or may not be how they really feel and think). And a bunch of dorky gamer guys joking around (I’m including myself in all these charaterizations) is not always gonna be pretty or accessible or inclusive or especially enlightened and fair. But I don’t think “more serious” is the solution. The Forge is “more serious” than Story Games and it can be even less accessible.

    The only real suggestion I have is this: write for the audience you want to have. If you are expecting that only fellow dorky gamer guys are going to be reading what you write, your writing voice will show that and other kinds of people (who would give you a more diverse audience with other valuable opinions) will be turned off or not feel like they can really have conversations with you. And that’s less cool, in my opinion.

And over at Sin Aesthetics, Mo said some related cool stuff.

Non-Commercial Companies

2006 Apr 2

From a NYTimes article:

    There is another breed of rival lurking online for traditional media, and it is perhaps the most vexing yet: call it purpose-driven media…

    These are new-media ventures that leave the competition scratching their heads because they don’t really aim to compete in the first place; their creators are merely taking advantage of the economics of the online medium to do something that they feel good about. They would certainly like to cover their costs and maybe make a buck or two, but really, they’re not in it for the money. By purely commercial measures, they are illogical.

And then it goes on to talk about Craigslist and a few others.

This is totally where I see myself and my little game publishing imprint, One Thousand One. I don’t have to follow traditional publishing models because I’m not doing the same thing at all. I’m not especially interested in having my games available in retail stores. I’m not going to get a booth at GenCon and hawk my wares (I’d rather be out playing games and meeting people!) And, most importantly, I don’t invest more money in projects than I can stand to lose.

I’ve already (stupidly) spent a bunch of money on artwork for Argonauts (which may or may not ever see the light of day) and Vesperteen, but doing that made me happy at the time and it’s not money I have to make back. And going with a print-on-demand service like Lulu means that I don’t have to invest $1000 in a print run and then work hard to sell it. People can always buy books, if they want them, and I can spent $50-100 to buy copies to take to conventions or other meet-ups and sell to people I meet.

Of course, Push is going to be the first book to test out this publishing model and it’s a little different, since it’s a collaborative project with several main contributors, so I’m dealing with other people’s time investment instead of just my own. I’m still not entirely sure how we’re going to handle it if, say, Emily decides she wants to sell copies of Push along with Breaking the Ice or Eero wants to sell Push in Finland along with his Finnish-language translations of My Life with Master and Dust Devils.

Obviously, the person doing the hawking should get a bigger cut from the sale than the other contributors, but the other contributors should get something too. We’ll see. Maybe we’ll set up a way for contributors to buy copies of the book at several dollars above cost and several dollars below sale price, so everybody gets their share. Or maybe everyone will agree to donate their time to Push for a batch of 10-15 contributor copies and we’ll sell the journal at near-cost.

I’m a non-commercial company who’s first product is semi-commercial! Alas! Alack!