Monday, February 16, 2015

Time... to play

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.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Taking the A-to-Z plunge!

I have no idea if it was the smart thing to do, but I did it anyway!

I just signed up for the 2015 Blogging from A to Z challenge.  After doing the challenge in 2012 and 2013 (see post summaries here), I took a break in 2014.  Although I'm starting a new job this year, I also had a moment of inspiration a few months ago that pretty much decided the perfect set of topics to write about...

Thus, this year's theme is an A-to-Z of Fiery Manifestos.

"What?" you're thinking, "Is Cygnus going political?"  Although I'll profile a few manifestos that had specific governmental changes in mind, I'm aiming to cast my net much more broadly.  So I'm also including declarations of principles, iconoclastic essays, some awe-inspiring poems and songs, and other sundry "laws of life" that people have felt strongly about over the years.  Not all manifestos are called manifestos.

It's the passion that's the unifying principle, here.  If a person has had enough insight to compress their pursuit of Meaning and Truth into a short document -- and if they do it with enough red-cheeked verve that it inspires others to get off their duffs and change their lives -- then I'm there.  I've always been a sucker for these things.

Right now, I'm planning on breaking one of the cardinal rules of the A-to-Z game: the calendar.  With everything that I have to do at work between now and April, I think it's best to plan spreading my 26 posts over more than one month.  I'll start on April 1st as always, but my current plan is to do 3 posts a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), which will have me hitting the letter "Z" around the end of May.  I hope that doesn't break the brains of the good people in charge.  But, well, being a bit of a rebel certainly fits in with my theme!  :-)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Many thanks go out to the Armchair Squid for nominating this little corner of the internet for the Very Inspiring Blogger award.  If you're not reading Squid's insightful thoughts on books, comics, movies, Star Trek, family life, and tennis, then what the heck's wrong with you? by all means go check him out!

Rules!  There are rules, right?
  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and link to their blog.  (Yup!)
  2. Display the award logo.  (These are easy, right?)
  3. Nominate 15 other bloggers (more or less) and provide a link where they may be found.  (Hmm, getting harder...)
  4. Go to their blog, leave a comment to let them know they have been nominated.   (Still harder...)
  5. Mention three things that inspired you the most during the past few weeks.
Oh, let's do that last one next.

First, there's my lovely wife, Mrs. Cygnus.  While the boy and I have been out in our new, Rocky Mountain Way locale for the last few weeks, she has been back on the east coast, getting the old house ready to sell, finishing up her job, and packing up the remaining stuff to be shipped out very soon.  Inspiring doesn't even begin to cover it.  She'll be rejoining us this weekend.

Second.  I'm teaching 30 undergraduates about outer space this semester.  The room I teach in has an old-style chalkboard (those are getting harder to find these days) and the chalk they give us is quite messy and powdery.  After one class of multiple erasings, it's hard to see the cloudy, almost-whitened board.  They don't seem to regularly wash the things, either, so as the week goes on, it gets cloudier and whiter.  It's kind of a running joke in class.

So what did I find last week when I came in to start teaching?  Three of my students up at the board with sponges and a water bucket they must have "borrowed" from some nearby supply closet.  We had a clean blackboard that day, I tell you!

(Was this strictly "inspiring?"  I don't know, but it sure warmed my heart.)

Third, is something that I'm not allowed to talk about yet.  Sorry!

My nominations:

In recent years, the term "blogging" has seen quite a bit of cognitive drift.  Thus, I'm not sure if many of the places I visit online are officially called blogs or not.  Let me just give you a list of links to some of these fun places, and hopefully they'll make your days better.
  • I have no idea what the title Xanthor's Perfect Cromulence means, but it's a Tumblr blog full of retro-awesome science fiction imagery and factoids.
  • I know I've blogged about fellow Glass Bead Game enthusiast Ron Hale-Evans before, but I don't think I've pointed you to his Pinboard page, on which he posts daily lists of URLs that he's found interesting.  I usually discover or learn something interesting whenever I catch up on his linking.
  • In the "definitely not a blog" department, I've been enchanted by a series of stop-motion animation videos on youtube.  Doctor Puppet gives us new adventures (usually wordless, but narrated) of Doctor Who and his companions, in adorable puppet form.  A must-see for those who, um, put their hand in the hand of the man from Gallifrey.
  • Jon Peterson, who runs the blog Playing at the World, is a professional historian of wargames and role-playing games.  He doesn't update the blog often, but each entry is a treasure-strewn dungeon crawl of historical baubles.
  • If you're a fan of humor that is sometimes grotesque, usually NSFW, and often head-scratchingly bizarre, please pay a visit to LiarTown, USA.
  • A lot of people are already reading, a blog about "science, culture, and the world of tomorrow," but I thought I'd give them a plug anyway.
  • Oh, Porky, where art thou?  For purely selfish reasons, I wish this old-school gaming mogul would start blogging more frequently again.  His insights on games, narratives, philosophy, and cosmic weirdness are beyond compare.
Only seven?  Sorry, that's as many as I can think of right now.  Many of these sites I've never commented on, and I'm probably not going to start because of this award.  Still, by all means visit them and show them some love.

Thanks again for the award, Squid!