A friend of mine, Petteri Hannila, suggested that we should start a blog that combines our two shared pastimes, creative writing and roleplaying. So we did - Writing with Games
is basically a postal rpg session between the two of us, playing S/lay w/ Me
. At this writing the story is progressing just like you'd expect of S/lay, except it's in a readable format available for others to enjoy as well.
The choice of game was dictated in part by our shared fondness for the literary genre of pulp fantasy and in part by the fact that S/lay fulfills the constraints of the medium well: as a two-player game it's not dependent on a large number of people, as a turn-based game it fits well in the format and it produces rather literature-like stories. We've played for a few weeks now, and so far this has been quite enjoyable - we're certainly doing a much more acceptable amount of creative writing per week this way than the usual lonesome toil of the writing hobbyist achieves.
As a side experiment we also asked a friend, Peitsa Veteli, to illustrate the play as it proceeds. As S/lay does not directly incorporate a court illustrator, the role is somewhat informal, but we'll have to see - perhaps some sort of structural logic is achieved over time.
If you enjoy reading fiction, do take a look and perhaps post a bit of critique on our English literary style, por favor - improving our writing skills is a big aspect of the project for us, so any insightful observations on what we're doing are very welcome. I don't think that it's supremely useful to compare the produce of our play directly to finished literature, but I think this process does a good job of bringing out our skills in dynamic, immediate writing - whatever our individual technical weaknesses as writers are, they sure make an appearance when the deadlines are tight and the gameplay constrains the ability to plan and polish. I've compared the experience of writing this to participating in a marathon while juggling with beer bottles.
Also, as a more general consideration of the topic, a question I've been pondering around this experiment: what other games might work well for blog-based, literarily oriented play? De Profundis
is an obvious suggestion, but what else might be considered, were one to play more along these lines? This is a sort of a specialty niche in the niche of story gaming, and one that doesn't obviously map to any other analytical traits we usually use to characterize games. Some games just seem more likely to produce a readable story than others, and even then it's not a given that the game can be altogether restructured into a postal format where the players communicate in slow, large chunks of information instead of a quick back-and-forth.
I'll make note of a different type of interactive postal play
here myself, simply because I find the "quest" format that's developed among the Internet denizens over the recent years interesting in itself. It's not a direct inspiration for what we're doing, but the creative impetus is quite similar, I think. (I'll also note that I do not particularly recommend the afore-linked site to a writing hobbyist due to its suspect copyright contract; I'm merely linking to it as a convenient explanation of the phenomenon.)