Sunday, April 19, 2009

Probably a bad thing to say.

I Played Dungeons and Dragons last night till 4am.

(Stop, wait, listen.... really. It's okay.)

Woke up this morning and the power /electricity had been turned off at my house in the middle of the woods.

The first experience was mind-opening. D+D, at it's best, is more immersive than World of Warcraft or Age of Conan could ever hope to be. You visualize everything: Subjectively perfect graphics and more mental exercise than computer based interactions. We need to retool online experiences to make more positive use of individual personality, humor and identity.

The entire thing also revolves around the group of REAL people you play with, and how willing they are to joke, play-act and openly enjoy the absurd splendor of what they are doing.

People scoff at Dungeons and Dragons, but it is by far the greatest play experience I have had since.... Jail Dodgeball in 7th grade? Yeah, that good.

What's going on in D+D under the hood is so complicated / beautiful. The narrative is controlled by a player, the "Dungeon Master," and our DM enjoyed his experience showing us "what was going on" as much as we did acting it out for him. Both sides relied on each other. Laughter! Personalities! Real life!

It was a glorious revival of oral tradition, old school storytelling with perfectly structured rulesets made the experience honest; things depended on chance but the DM held the final say like a God whose chief interest is good drama.

Sounds like ours...

Anyway, I played as a human paladin... yeah. He rocks. I bought into the narrative, built my character's background as I went. People can be "good" at D+D only to the extent that they add to the story in creative and legitimate ways.

I know I sound like a ranting fanboy, but there really is something profound at work here. Everything that my game design class is stressing, every nuance that I have seen escapist media attempt to cultivate through "coop" modes and "immersion," is pointed towards the effects generated by IRL role-playing.

There's a catch: it was all about the people I played with. Without those social ties, the narrative might have gone differently. I look forward to bringing more people into the circle, but there is a good chance that their presence might pull the rest into self-consciousness, self- doubt: the enemies of good storytelling.

So we wake up and the power and electricity are off. Reality. Had we not paid the rent? What if things stayed like this? What about drinking water, bathrooms, the internet? Suddenly every skill I have becomes useless without electricity. A fear of self preservation filled me, and things became clearer.... literally. My senses became heightened, as if the resolution of my existence came into focus: what did I need to do to survive? what did I need to see?

Now the power and water are back. Maintenance. I can feel myself falling back into the comfort of toilets, electric music, email. But for a moment all I had was my car and the remaining charge in my cell phone.

Luddite adrenaline.

A few days ago I confronted a protesting veteran on the campus green. The audio below reveals some distinct issues that stand between my generation and his (Obama stole the election? Not having a gun license is unconstitutional, retirement taxes are destroying much of the middle class?)

His most useful/legitimate observation: a single EMP could wipe out electronics in the US if you deonated a nuclear device in orbit? Likely or not, we'd be thoroughly hosed. His advice: stock up on food, water, bullets. Apparently since 9/11 bullet factories in the US have been unable to meet demand? All I know is that I'm not prepared. We need to memorize books (which ones?). We need to shield our electronics.We need to build latrines. We need to think about the possibility that this system might just keel over without its blackberries and ethernet cables.

Of course I sound like so many conspiracy nutjobs, maybe I just bought this old guy's story too quickly. OR, maybe thinking about the worst outcome sucks because you aren't ready. I experienced life without tech this morning. It's scary and real and it looks much clearer than this world does.

(I'll post the audio I recorded during his conversation later.)

Suddenly D+D seemed... silly? I have to register my car. I need to pay my cable bill. I need to do work for class.

Nah. I need guns and friends, and good stories to get us through the chaos that might erupt.

So now... I guess I just need guns.

The DM in the real world isn't willing to blur the rules to make things work (thanks will). To the same extent that storytelling and role playing have been numbed and abstracted by digital technology, so too have our real world skills.

Who farms anymore? Who hunts? If the grid goes dark your cities will become dungeons and your party had better be ready for some dragons.

Play a role. Stay open minded.



Bill said...

people in red states hunt and farm!
ok, CA is a blue state and our largest farming resource, but you get the point. the part about bullet factories running overtime is not true since 9/11, but is quite true since team obama got elected. firearms of all types are selling at record levels over a fear of a renewed assault weapons ban. this is fairly stupid, as "assault weapons" are no more deady than any other semiauto, but there are a lot of people on both sides of the issue who dont really seem to know know much about guns.

Danielle said...

make a survival pack. keep it under your bed. you will always be ready.