Saturday, October 31, 2009

Early Thoughts on Wave and Gaming

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, so predictably, I've been thinking a lot about gaming lately. If all goes well, things are going to continue to be quiet around here through the end of the month. Last year I quit NaNo early, partly because I got massively distracted by a sandbox I was working on, but mostly because the novel was terrible. So I'm hoping that doesn't happen this year.

Anyhow. The main thing that's had my attention lately, gaming and otherwise, has been Wave. Trollsmyth and I have been using it to chat about gaming and setting stuff, and it's been great for that. It's a more convenient format to re-read than e-mail, there's a lot of tools for organizing conversations, and most importantly, conversations have a lot more structure to them. Everyone talks about the real-time, simultaneous editing, and it does conversations run a lot faster, but being able to break a conversation into multiple streams, or head off in another direction if I think of another question a few days later, is the main advantage Wave has over my other forms of communication.

The improvement in my between-session activities is good enough to make it a permanent tool in my gaming arsenal, but naturally I've also been pondering the use of Wave as a gaming platform directly. There's a different ways here to adjust (and perhaps improve) traditional play-by-post gaming; in particular, Wave's editability suggests a lot of possibilities, and the ability to easily manage a number of Waves with different combinations of participants should come in handy as well.

Trouble is, one of the main things I like about the online chat gaming I've been digging so hard lately is the ease of immersion. The 15-minutes-a-day format of PbP doesn't really encourage that. It's got other advantages -- and I don't really have another spot for a 4-hour block of gaming in my life right now -- but that's still a serious drawback. So I'm starting to think about what would take the best advantage of the PbP format, if I was to run a game like that. There's no point running a game that I'd be happier with if it was in chat. If I'm going to use the medium, I want to do something with it that only it does well.

Unfortunately, right now when I ask my brain that question ("What would PbP do well?") it keeps spitting back "Vampires!" So I think I'm going to give it a few more weeks.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Gaming Stories

There are a handful of stories that all gamers have, and that we pass around, ritually, when meeting each other or inducting new gamers into the tribe. Dice superstitions, "how roleplaying changed my life," and "the worst game master/player ever" are all well known anywhere gamers are, and we all have our collections of memorable anecdotes and thrilling incidents, either from our own experience or borrowed from the collective pool.

This is so much true that I tend to think of these topics as clich├ęs. Sure, I can write about how writing helped me get through high school and made me a better person, or the bizarre behavior of some Dungeon Master, or the funny things I do with my dice when I'm bored, but why? It's good to revisit those topics every so often, trade the details of each particular incident back and forth, but there's little of real consequence to be said on the subject.

So what's really interesting to me is how fascinating these stories can be to non-gamers. Every so often I'll go back to gaming when I'm writing something for a fiction or a non-fiction or a poetry class, since I have to generate a fair amount of material for those classes and gaming is a reliable subject for me, since I'm interested in it. Then we'll workshop the essay or the poem or whatever it is, and a bunch of non-gamers, people who have barely heard of D&D, will read it, and while not all of them care, there are always a few who are fascinated. They want to know more. Even if it's something simple; that old reliable story of the guys who "train" their dice, say. It's a window into the customs of our peculiar tribe.

Which, I suppose, explains why those stories keep getting passed around. Even though we've all heard them, or stories like them, a thousand times, it's a way to reaffirm our membership in that peculiar tribe. (And to reassure ourselves that, while we spend our Saturdays pretending to be elves, we're nowhere near as crazy as "that guy.") They're tokens of our various customs: why we game, the trials we've all survived in common, our shared talismans and paraphernalia.