As I've been planning out the posts for my April A-Z adventures in the realm of fiery manifestos, I realized that I hadn't found any that are specifically about role-playing games. There's no shortage of passionate commentary about them -- see, for example, Alexis and JB and Cyclopeatron. But I've been looking for something that mixes the passion, the old-school spirit, and some decidedly new-school futurism into something that might catch fire as a 21st century gaming manifesto.
I haven't found that yet, but I did just find the seeds of all of those things in a recent, excellent post by Noisms, titled Storytelling and Immersion, or We Are Ahead of the Curve. Go ahead and read it; it's not long.
The references to Willy Wonka and Blade Runner were fun, but the eye-opening idea for me was that the key to a decades-old goal of web enthusiasts -- i.e., the promised land of hypertext and social 2.0ness and interactivity of every kind -- may have been already been invented back in the 1970s by some wargamers in a basement in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Dungeons & Dragons, and all its descendants, found an engaging, fulfilling way to combine "...the very
participatory aspect of games with the narrative absorption of storytelling" (to quote the Frank Rose interview that Noisms came across).
I won't get into the details of precisely how D&D-type games "generate" engaging and immersive stories. Suffice to say that not everyone agrees about how to best accomplish this! Often times the best stories emerge in ways that the players never imagined they would. Many game masters attempt to manage the narrative beats of rising and falling tension, only to have their players come away with a wildly different take on the emotional roller-coaster that was played out in real time.
All this makes me also want to think about the possible intersection of RPGs (role playing games) with GBGs (glass bead games); the twin celestial luminaries that I aim to follow with this blog. I've done much less cross-comparison than I've wanted to... this post is only the 3rd in the history of this blog to use both the RPG & GBG topic labels! But I'll definitely be thinking more about this in the weeks and months ahead.