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Showing posts with the label Narrative

Star Wars Gaming in the Outer Rim

B : There’s a term Doctor Who fans use to describe the period from 1990 to 2003 when, with the exception of the US-made 1996 TV movie, there were no new “official” installments of the series: the Wilderness Years. The reason they have a specific name, as opposed to simply referring to this time as “when the show was off the air” or simply a lack of new episodes, is that the Wilderness Years were anything but devoid of new Who material. Entire series of novels, comics, audio plays, and even “ serial numbers filed off ” fan movies starring the original actors proliferated during this period - many of which were made by people who would be involved in resuscitating the “official” franchise in 2004. One thing that characterized  Wilderness Years years works was a willingness to expand far beyond what had been seen in the original series, both thematically and tonally, taking the franchise in wildly different directions. Without having to worry about tying things back to the status quo o

Time for Games!

How much time have you spent on a particular game? How much time have you spent in that game? While modern electronic games present your total playtime with a prominence making it almost impossible to avoid (especially if you're using a service like Steam), it hasn't been that long since the former question was entirely on the player to keep track of and the latter simply nonsensical. While some of this is a function of the way the Almighty Algorithm tracks us and our gaming habits, it's also a result of games having endings - something else that wasn't always present. Not that the ever-running clock exists solely to feed the gnawing hunger of a monstrous inhuman marketing machine, but it really is a useful factor in how we select games and try to fit them into our busy lives. Likewise, time passing within a game's setting is the result of the medium's development in general. The passage of time in Pac-Man 's nightmare world of flashing lights, powerful (i

It's a Mystery!

What should you, the detective, do now ? That's one of the first prompts for interaction I ever saw in a mystery game: The Witness by Stu Galley (although modern accreditation would likely say "directed by" rather than attributing the whole thing to him) and  published by Infocom in 1983 for just about every home computer platform then in existence. I acquired the Commodore 64 version from a yard sale and immediately rushed up to my room to try it. I've loved detective stories for literally longer than I can remember - it's simply always been . The complete collection of Strand Sherlock Holmes stories I received for my seventh birthday was one of my most prized possessions and I frequently hauled the massive tome to school with me... even if I never made it past the first few stories. Encyclopedia Brown, a little closer to my demographic, was a hero of mine and I think I had every book in the series (along with the adjacent se ries Encyclopedia Brown's Book o

Hitching a Ride on the Ghoul Bus: Treehouses of Horror and the Freedom of Halloween Episodes

The Halloween Episode is a rarity among rarities, a riddle wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in wax paper. In episodic shows, the passage of time is generally ignored - it draws too much attention to the artificiality of the premise and questions how the world of the setting syncs chronologically with the world of the audience. On top of that, when holiday episodes do come along, they generally have certain expectations of tone and theme - particularly when it comes to Christmas. Halloween episodes, though, are something different: the only real expectation is that they’re going to break from the normal “reality” of the show. They don’t necessarily have to be scary (or even have the trappings of scary things), but they do have to be weird. In some cases, particularly with more serialized shows, this shift allows for a new perspective in the ongoing story, a different way of seeing the narrative that will put past and future events in a new context. My favorite example of this would be Mill

Analyzing Analyzing Horror

There's something of a cottage industry in dissecting people's interest and love of horror media - I've certainly delved into the discussion , myself. Nonetheless, the sheer number of words put into understanding the genre's appeal is simply staggering , to the point where I find myself asking why horror is widely subjected to unique scrutiny rarely applied to other genres. (Well, maybe porn, but I'm certainly not going to unpack that here.) So, for today's Spooky Season post, we're going to look into why the quest to understand horror's popularity remains a topic as perennial and evergreen as... well, as horror itself. After all, what's scarier than getting meta with media? To start with, a lot of these articles present an engagement with horror that I find... odd. Many focus on the psychological effect of the fear response, the adrenaline rush that comes with being scared (from the safe distance afforded by being an audience), and even some weird

Fantasy Forward: Culture

This week in our ongoing “Fantasy Forward” series of posts, discussing ways to make sword-and-sorcery settings feel less pre-packaged is going to deal with something… squishy. Something touchy-feely. Something that, I feel, is rarely used to its potential in imagined settings: culture. We’re not expecting anyone to become trained sociologists or, heaven forbid, anthropologists in building out their fantasy settings (although I’m very curious if anybody with said training has incorporated that into games of their own), but there’s plenty of room to develop how people (regardless of species) live, learn, love, and do things. Real world cultures are the product of generations’ worth of history, experiences, stories, and beliefs, which can be a lot to live up to! How can we come up with original cultural elements in our fantasy settings, and how can we convey them to our players and audiences in ways that feel natural instead of forced? - B A : Music! Art! Literature! These are all amazin

Fantasy Forward: Economics

Last week, we started a new series of posts on how one might go about changing the stagnant nature of many “default” sword-and-sorcery fantasy settings by exploring how various aspects of the setting might develop over time and how the protagonists (or players, if this is in a tabletop RPG) might have an effect on these changes. While we started with one of the most obvious factors (technology), this week we thought we might go with something a little less so: economics, including the effect dungeon crawling might have on a regional economy that finds itself inundated with recovered treasure and artifacts… not to mention the adventurers who show up looking to get in on the action.  - B A :  The economy might be one of the most difficult things to consider in a game world - it's dangerous to upset the balance of your tabletop games. Just as with our technology post, a small change in the economy can have huge ripple effects. This is something we were even touched on: the city with a

Dracula and Difficulty

"Difficulty" is a word that invariably comes up in discussion of games of any sort. It's a setting in electronic games. It's a skill check in tabletop games. It's the basis for heated arguments about the relationship between creators and players , between accessibility and experience . But, for all of this, can we really define difficulty as it relates to games? It's a term that can mean all kinds of things in all kinds of situations, but, at its core, it's about the way that audiences engage with stories and their stakes. And speaking of stakes... As I've mentioned previously in this blog, I started reading the original Dracula in October out of some lunatic idea of looking at the Castlevania series as an adaptation of the original novel. (Which may still happen someday, who knows what horrors the future will bring.) Life being what it is, it took significantly longer than I'd originally planned and I only finished the book yesterday. While focu