Last year, I had a couple opportunities to play In a Wicked Age…, and it was my first real experience with RPGs of the “story game” variety, and I definitely got hooked on the concept. I won’t go into all the details of what differentiates a story game from a traditional roleplaying game, but in a nutshell, a story game is an RPG in which the narrative authority traditionally reserved by the GM is distributed more freely among all the participants.
If all this talk of RPGs and GMs means absolutely nothing to you, then don’t worry; you may actually have a bit of an advantage here. Just think of a story game as, quite simply, a game in which the participants collaborate together to create a story, with a few rules thrown in to resolve conflicts between the participants, add some interesting plot complications, and generally provide the grist for good collaborative story telling. Now on to the game…
For the last few days, I’ve been mulling over this recent post on Make, and shifting alternately between frustration and inspiration. In a nutshell, Philip Torrone’s suggestion is to retool public libraries of the future as hackerspaces, tool-lending libraries, FabLabs, and TechShops, places where the public could have free access to the tools needed to acquire skills in science and engineering.
My frustration with his article is similar to what I’ve experienced with much of the discussion about the role of the public library among the various tech blog communities. Namely, that contributors to Make and similar websites not only live on the extreme front of the adoption curve, but they also tend to write and think from within a distorting fishbowl of economic privilege:
“Computers are cheap, and internet access is pretty good for most people. The majority of people do not get their online news from terminals at the public library. At one time the library was ‘the living internet’ — you went there to look up something hard to find, to do research — now it’s all at our fingertips through search engines, Wikipedia, and the web.”
I’m sure that’s true for Torrone and for most of his peers; I’m much less convinced that that’s true for the public at large. According to an NTIA study published last year, more than 30% of Americans don’t use the Internet at all, and many of those because they still lack home computers, affordable internet access, or the necessary technical literacy. And as several of the comments on Torrone’s post point out, public libraries can barely keep up with demand for public terminals and for instruction in even the most basic technical skills. I’m fairly sure none of Torrone’s friends would need a tutorial on basic mouse use, but that’s still a reality for a fair portion of the public that libraries serve.
I can’t stop watching this video by The Doubleclicks, a “nerd folk” duo out of Portland, who perform songs about gaming, technology, and assorted geekery. Their album Beta Testing 1-2-3 is available for purchase on their website.
I admit to checking the Missed Connections on Craigslist with some regularity, not so much to see if I have been mentioned (okay, maybe a little), but more out of a certain morbid curiosity. Perhaps there’s an element of Schadenfreude, but I take a little comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who routinely squanders potential romantic opportunities and then spends an evening alone in what if speculation.
In this collection of short comics edited by Julia Wertz and inspired by Missed Connections and similar personal ads, there’s plenty of that sort of thing, people idly wondering what might have been had they not had to catch that bus or been interrupted by friends or lacked the courage to speak up, how a transitory situation played differently might have led to romance, instead of one person alone posting on Craigslist in the vain hope that it might be read by the right person.