The Gardens at Taskerland v3.0 – Year Two

The Gardens at Taskerland is the series in which I talk about this blog, the direction it is headed in, and any tweaks and alterations I feel like making. The rest of the series can be found here.

I was planning on making a minor course correction based around what I was enjoying writing about but then I looked at my schedule and realised that this post would have coincided with this blog’s relaunch on June 12, 2021.

To be honest, I am not sure how this lines up with when I decided to start this blogging project as I do schedule stuff a couple of months ahead of time and am actually writing this post on Easter Sunday. Regardless of the actual dates and timelines, this post will go live around the first anniversary of the blog’s relaunch and I am amazed that I have not only stuck with it but stuck with it whilst maintaining a steady two-posts-per-week rhythm. Yay me!

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SWR: L’Ellcrys

Shrink-Wrapped Recall – An occasional series about memories of old game shops. The rest of the series can be found here.

The stairs leading to L’Ellcrys

Have you ever had one of those weird coincidences happen when you’re talking about something and it suddenly materialises in front of you? The kind of thing that bad sitcoms immediately follow with “…and I also want a million dollars!” Well… that once happened to me with an RPG shop.

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On Professional GMing

Image borrowed from http://uniquelychicmosaics.blogspot.com/2013/06/show-me-money.html

Many things changed during my absence from the hobby. In fact, so many things changed in the 10-15 years I spent away from RPGs that I am almost tempted to say that RPG culture has changed more in the last ten years than in the thirty years that preceded it. Take a gamer from the late 1970s and drop them into a game shop in the late 1990s and it would not take them all that long to adapt. Take a gamer from the 1990s and drop them into the hobby today and I seem to spend my time reeling from one conceptual stumbling block to another.

One of the biggest differences between RPG culture now and RPG culture twenty years ago is that it is now possible to get paid to run games. It’s not just that this is now a socially acceptable thing to do, it’s also that there is an infrastructure and a set of norms governing how to present oneself, how to find customers, and how to build your reputation as a professional game-runner.

My first impression of this development was to be somewhat opposed to it… Every session I have ever run has been for friends, family, or fellow travellers and so the idea of getting paid to run games conjures images of people being invited to dinner and offering to pay for their meal. However, the more I thought about the phenomenon, the more I realised the wrong-headed and out-datedness of that first impression…

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My Changing Attitude to Non-Traditional RPGs

One of the big lessons I took from my return to regular gaming under Lockdown was the need to re-examine old ideas. As I have said before, I returned to gaming convinced that I was a pretty good GM but I soon realised that my perceived competence was more a result of unchanging habit and unquestioned bluster than real skill.

One of the ideas I wanted to re-examine – Particularly in the wake of my experiences playing Dewey’s Ten Candles – was my resistance to the idea of non-traditional RPGs. By “non-traditional RPGs”, I mean the kinds of games developed by the designers who used to post to the Forge message board as well as the people who would then go on to operate under such rubrics as ‘indie’ or ‘story’ games.

I am aware that this describes a hell of a lot of games and covers a hell of a lot of ludic territory and so a more accurate description of the kinds of game I tended to ignore would be games that challenge the power structures of traditional gaming tables by deconstructing the role of the Game Master by re-distributing narrative responsibilities more equally throughout the group.

For ages, I refused to engage with this type of game. Then I returned to gaming and decided to give them a go. Not for the first time in my life, I wound up feeling a sense of profound shame and sadness over my own pig-headed stupidity.

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Origins: Spot Hidden Detritus

Origins is a series of posts in which I reflect upon my earliest gaming memories as well as the events that shaped my tastes and understanding of games. The rest of the series can be found here.

Having now written about my earliest gaming experiences, I think it might be time to move beyond origin stories and begin thinking about some of the later gaming experiences that changed the way I think about games.

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SWR: Games People Play

Shrink-Wrapped Recall – An occasional series about memories of old game shops. The rest of the series can be found here.

Tip of the hat to the Duke Mitchell Film Club for sharing this image.

It is fascinating how some memories rise effortlessly to the surface while others lay buried.

One of the reasons why I decided to start writing about old game shops was that I have a very clear memory of the first time I visited the Virgin Game Centre on New Oxford Street. I can remember getting the bus all the way along Oxford Street, I can remember wondering why all the interesting games were hidden on a mezzanine, and I can remember the face of the friend who took me there as I headed back home. I would say that I was probably around 14 when this happened.

Having written about all of the game shops I visited most frequently, I started casting my mind around for other places I happen to have bought games. I can remember visiting a horrible shop in Paris, a lovely shop in a shopping centre in Brussels, and a shop in Lausanne by a set of steps that seemed to appear just as I thought ‘wow… this would be a great place for a game shop’. I would love to write about these places as I do have some memories of them but I can’t quite remember their names. Then I was struck by another memory, a memory of being taken to a game shop in Notting Hill years before I had ever encountered even the concept of an RPG. I pulled on the thread and yanked free a number of images but I couldn’t remember when or why I had been to this place.

Then it started to fall back into place.

Continue reading “SWR: Games People Play”