Stuff I’ve Been Up To: Sharks in Water Elementals

I haven’t been writing here a lot lately. The reason, as I around a year ago mentioned, is that I’m writing craploads in a lot of other places. While you wait for me to finish the report from Knutpunkt where I spent last weekend, here’s a selection of links to other games things I’ve written.

The post title is a bit of a clickbait maybe, since while I did write a long article studying the infamous cartoon about a shark summoned within a water elemental and what it means from the point of view of marine biology, the historical theory of magic, and the rules of the game, it’s only in Finnish. It’s on LOKI, along with another text of mine written since I did this last time.

There’s also a bunch of new things on PlayLab!:

Plus some research highlights based on other people’s texts, “Dungeons & Dragons & Deleuze”, based on a paper by Curtis Carbonell; and “The Hegemonic Masculinity of Rules Lawyering”, based on a paper by Steven Dashiell.

There’s also some reviews based on games played with me, and they’re pretty nifty as well, so here’s Markku Vesa’s Battle of the Reds and the Whites in Finland 1918 Review”, Aleksi Kesseli’s Arkham Horror Review”, and Elisa Wiik’s Finnish-language review Tales from the Loop – roolipeli teknofuturistisesta 80-luvusta”.

And then there’s that Chernobyl Mon Amour crowdfunding campaign still going on. In addition, I’m working with Jaakko Stenros on a book about role-playing games called Roolipelimaa, out sometime in the autumn.

And running Ropecon! Ropecon season is upon us once again, and the call for program is open. This time around we’re also doing an academic seminar on Friday on the theme of intersections in games. The call for abstracts is out, and will be until April 4th.

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Happy Birthday, Hobby

Some forty years ago, the first copies of Dungeons & Dragons were sold. The specific date is a bit fuzzy, but Jon Peterson has laid out the evidence on his blog and January 26th is one of the likelier candidates, and why not?

A forty-year-old franchise is a big deal, and Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson deserve our respect for creating something that could so adroitly carve out its own niche and endure and sustain itself on a changing, competitive marketplace. However, D&D is only a small part of what came out of that Lake Geneva garage in 1974. It launched an industry, created a new genre of games and birthed a peculiar strain of cultural influence that pops up in unexpected places.

To me, the most important thing is that it originated a social hobby. Now starting on their fifth decade, role-playing games have brought people together around the same table, same online chatroom, same larp venue – and unlike sports, they are not competitive. It is just “us”, the “them” are in the fiction. I’ve sat at that table for some seventeen years now, and around it I have seen lifelong friendships form and romance bloom. It brings people together and facilitates communication.

It is also a creative hobby, a “game of the imagination” as the Dead Alewives once described it. Around that table, stories come into being, from slapstick to tragedy and all things in between. I have seen sonnets, songs and short stories arise from that table, and witnessed the formation of epic legends. I’ve also laughed so hard I fell off my chair.

Sure, it’s not always all these things and sometimes it’s none of these things, and not everyone plays for these things. It is these things sufficiently often, however, that I keep returning to that table. Those are the things that make this the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

So, I wish Dungeons & Dragons and the entire role-playing game hobby a happy birthday.

And here’s a couple of songs from way back: