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23848Re: [mythsoc] RPG fiction

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  • John Davis
    Dec 18, 2012
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      >> But I find the fact
      >> that games *can* facilitate that sort of community
      storytelling a point in
      >> favor of not discounting them all
      together.

      > As noted below, the real question is not can they, but do
      they?

      Yes!
       
      I've played in dozens of campaigns in my life. And whilst some were 'merely' a dice-rolling bit of fun, some led to great story-telling, and the development of new worlds. 
       
      But that, in a sense, is a side issue. I think the key strength to role-playing games lies not so much in the resulting creation of a story or world, but in the immersion of the players in that story or world. As I think I said in an earlier email, when you role-play you aren't reading about a world, you are living in it. There is something very important, I believe, about the fact that having spent an evening sitting round a table 'pretending' to be someone else, and, moreover, pretending that your mate Dave is not in fact a forty-year old with a beard but an elven princess, every player will come away thinking not 'my character did this', but 'I did this'. And that is a level of immersion that no novel, not even one by Tolkien or Tolstoy, can achieve.
       
      John
       
       

       
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 8:31 AM
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] RPG fiction

       

      "Alana Joli Abbott" <alanajoli@...> wrote:

      >> And lastly, it's because, being
      >> written by a bunch of amateurs, it's usually not very good!
      >>
      > A cut! Since I and a at least a couple other writers on this list make a
      > portion of our incomes on game writing (in my case, a sizeable portion),
      > could we replace the word amateur with something else? Heck, if you say it
      > fondly, I'll accept "hack." :)

      I was here referring to the gamers themselves, rather than to those who
      write professional fiction in the gaming ethos. I accept that I didn't
      always make clear which I was referring to at a given moment.

      > Given the hurdles, it is no surprise to me that there's a lot of gaming
      > literature out there that falls short of literary excellence. But then, I
      > also review mass market SFF for a number of periodicals, and gaming
      > certainly does not have the corner market on writing that falls short of
      > the bar. :)

      Yes, and I'd apply that criticism to fantasy in general. Recently I found a
      public library recommended reading list of various kinds of fiction, and on
      looking at its fantasy section I realized with horror that if I'd read all
      of those authors and none others, I would be convinced that I absolutely
      hated fantasy. I was speaking here of the specific problems with
      gaming-style fiction. My problem with general fantasy blockbusters is a
      different rant.

      >> I played D&D for a while, once, in the early days of the late '70s. My
      >> friends in the same group went on for years, but I quit after a few
      >> months
      >> because it was so f'ing BORING. As my friend Steve Gaddis said, "D&D has
      >> all the excitement and adventure of double-entry bookkeeping."
      >>
      > If my history is right, I know the edition you were playing, and holy cow,
      > you had to have a degree in advanced mathematics to play.

      I believe it was called "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons." But the mathematical
      complexities in and of themselves were not the problem, it was the way the
      story relied on the math to tell it. Here, look at this episode of "DM of
      the Rings": http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=719

      > But I find the fact
      > that games *can* facilitate that sort of community storytelling a point in
      > favor of not discounting them all together.

      As noted below, the real question is not can they, but do they?

      > much of the impulse behind creating a secondary world has to come from the
      > people participating in a small group game; the large publishers can do
      > their very best to inspire, but the end result happens at small table tops
      > among groups of friends, which is something that can only really be shown
      > anecdotally.

      And I see you saying that it does, but how often, and what's really the
      aesthetic impulse at work here? Even totally outside of gaming, a lot of
      really earnest and (at least in their own minds) creative authors produce a
      lot of hopeless crap. The burbles I've heard from people who really enjoy
      their games are not the most ideal forum to convey the quality of the work,
      but they rarely sound at all promising.

      >> Anyway, Tolkien isn't writing a D&D-style story. If there's any classic
      >> fantasy author who is, it's William Morris.
      >>
      > A writer I've not heard of! I'll look him up.

      The founder of modern epic secondary-world fantasy. Died 1896. Wrote a lot
      of novels whose titles have alliterative W's in them, in which the
      protagonist frequently sets off on a journey through unknown countries with
      no particular goal or destination in mind, and has a lot of incidental
      adventures along the way. This is why he reminds me of RPGs.

      "John Davis" <john@...> wrote:

      >And good computer games immerse one in a world more immediately than a book
      >or even a film. You are there, in the fantasy world, struggling for
      >survival. Your heart beats faster as you walk round a corner, your hands
      >sweat as you swing your sword. You are not reading about a character, or
      >watching them, you are them. You are not reading about a narrative, you are
      >almost directly experiencing it.

      Ah, that's another reason I dislike gaming that I forgot to mention earlier.
      I don't _want_ to experience the story; I want to read about it. For three
      reasons: first, I find adrenaline rushes disagreeable (I don't ride roller
      coasters either).

      Second, I found RPG gaming frustrating because I didn't know what to do,
      both in the sense of not having the training and experience my character
      would have, and in the sense of having no idea where to go or what I was
      looking for. When it was new, I was enthusiastically pointed to a computer
      game called Myst. The enthusiast sat me down and started the game up. I
      stared at the picture of a landscape. "What do I do?" I asked. He
      suggested I get oriented by going to the game's library and reading the
      books. I started to read them, but the pseudo-script text was hard to read
      and the stories were boring and pointless, so I gave up.

      Thirdly and most importantly, I don't want to make up my own story, I want
      to read other people's. I read fiction not to experience what, say, Frodo
      experiences, but to make contact with Tolkien's, or other authors', minds.
      They are richer than my own, and certainly different, and each differs from
      all the others, too.

      "James Curcio" <jamescurcio@...> wrote:

      > No idea what this has to do with Tolkien but I've got to say that this
      > isn't at all what roleplaying need be. It IS what video games tend toward
      > because it's easier that way - but ROLEplaying games can focus entirely on
      > story, or they can involve more strategy, or they can focus entirely on
      > rules, rolls and points, it's all in how you play it.

      Maybe, but that leaves the question of how it is actually played. As with
      many things, the limitation is not on what one can possibly do, but on what
      one actually does.

      > My games tend to
      > focus on character, so there is a lot of journaling and emphasis on
      > getting
      > that character's perspective on what happened and so on. Some of my
      > favorite recalled RPGs were 'real world' settings

      Maybe so, but I wonder what I would think if I actually saw one. Remember
      that my fellow gamers were so enthralled with what I found terminally boring
      that they went on playing the same game for years. They thought it was
      great.

      > Anyway, the point is that you're stereotyping RPGs

      Is the author of "DM of the Rings", who has a great deal of experience in
      gaming, stereotyping RPGs? Does he have a right to? It fits very well with
      what I've generally heard about gaming from gamers over the years.

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