Monday, June 29, 2009

A Little Close to Home

I started a thread on Story Games asking folks what they'd look for in a game about exploration. I got a lot of good suggestions from that thread, but, at the risk of seeming like I just have an interest in patting the backs of people who follow my blog here and comment after yesterday's post thanking Michael Wenman, I really got a great suggestion there from Bill White. He wrote:

I think there was something powerful in The Fifth World's transformation of a modern landscape into a post-urban one. It's like that old Talking Heads song: "Here was a parking lot; now it's all covered with daisies." Make that a part of play: lay out a roadmap of the place you'd like to see transformed and have one output of play be alterations to the modern landscape. Another output of play then becomes integrating these newly defined zones into the post-urban politico-spiritual economy.

I could've jumped out of my chair when I read that. Yes! That totally captured what I wanted from the game. It captured what had excited me so much when I first saw Michael Green's Afterculture, that consideration of a future where the world has become magical—as Michael Green would put it, "cool"—again. A re-enchanted world, a world once again recognizably more-than-human.

So, now I wonder, what if you had to set every scene in a place you knew? Then, you had to tell us what that place looked like 400 years in the future? It seems like it could fit well with a mechanic built for awareness, where you have to spend points to add details to the scene.

I feel pretty excited about this. What do you think?


Alan Post said...

When thinking about I would enact this idea, I realize there are places in the world that I think are interesting. I want to tell people about them.

I can imagine trying to craft a story about a favorite place as it is now, and then finish the story by describing how it changed over 400 years. You don't even have to think about fast forwarding time 400 years, but rather you can ask "If this place's story was set free, what would it be like?"

As well as being a game mechanic, telling a story about a place as it actually is today--learning and teaching about places as they are now--in the process of playing the game--creates ties to those places beyond the game.

You walk away from the game into a more storied world. The process of animating them for the game also animates them outside of the game, as well. Your inspiration for new places starts at the path leading away from your house.

I tend to come at this from the opposite way, in that I imagine an idea I'd like to explore, and create a place from that model/principle. I want a place to embody an idea I'm interested in exploring. If I try to imagine making this work, I'm inspired to ask "What place could I discover this idea manifest?" That way of thinking about story I suspect is more familiar to players of other role-playing games.

Jason Godesky said...

I sure hope it works like that! If I can make a game that will give people a love of their bioregion, a sense of place, a feeling of connection to the places they live, I'll count this whole project an amazing success and all the time and effort well, well worth it! I think you put it beautifully: "If this place's story was set free, what would it be like?"

I agree, I think we mostly create settings to serve ideas, rather than starting with the setting and asking what ideas it has. For the most part, we consider the notion of a place having an idea, preposterous in itself. But most (all?) people who still have a native relationship with place see it in precisely those terms: they experience things like imagination, intellect, emotions, and so on, as part of the landscape that they engage in, rather than something interior to themselves. See Sheridan & Longboat (2006) The Haudenosaunee imagination and the ecology of the sacred, Space and Culture 9:4, pp. 365-381.

Alan Post said...

I've recently finished reading The Spell of the Sensuous. I found the first 2/3 of the book very difficult, in that expressing what is missing within the written word is difficult to do with the written word--I spent a lot of time between pages with the book down really exploring what David Abram was trying to express.

The last 1/3 of the book really made the effort worthwhile, and I'm deeply grateful to have read it.

I've been reading what you write online for some few years now, but with a detached curiosity more than anything else. I loved your perspective, but I didn't find it as relevant to what I've been working on as other voices.

Coming off the Spell of the Sensuous, I started reading Willem at the College of Mythic Cartography. He was able to articulate rewilding in such a way that I suddenly saw how it deeply mattered.

I think I'd been blocked on the image of wearing buckskin shivering in the woods. Suddenly, however, I could see how rewilding mattered. I could be a more sensitive, functional, kick-ass human being by cultivating a feral brain. That I didn't have to wear buckskin to go through the mental journey of rewilding.

Which has meant that I've come to more deeply integrate your previous work, seeing it now in a more relevant context.

I'd love your perspective on what might be a good next step for me, though lacking any suggestion on your part, I've started to practice improv games and more seriously focus on story games as a medium--which currently consists of getting friends interested in them or just springing them on them.

I'm also interested in learning WAYK, and introducing it to my community here in New Mexico. I've started a list of people I know heading out to the Portland area that I hope can visit Willem or Evan, learn the game, and bring it back here. I'm writing Willem next, I haven't asked him about this yet!