The Wunderkammer

A Digital Alchemy Lab



The Internet and Games

Well, hello! Sorry for the radio silence on here. We’ve reached the beginning of March, and that means it’s the beginning of our section on Games, which Justin and I will be moderating. It’s tempting to think only of video games when we discuss games in relation to networked narratives and online culture, but for my post today I’m going to discuss two other ways that the Internet facilitates gaming: Art Roleplaying Games and Fan-made augments to traditional table top games.

To borrow the definition listed on the reference site of the Griffia ARPG, “ARPG is a term that is short [for] Art Role Play Game and is used to describe a game in which you have to draw or write in order to complete written prompts that are referred to as Trials, Training, and Quests. By completing these Activities and receiving an approval from a mod, your [character] will gain rewards that will further their progress in the ARPG.” ARPGs share similarities with both video games and tabletop games, but are considered neither. Like video games, a computer or smartphone, as well as an Internet connection, is needed to access and participate in an ARPG; however, unlike video games the engine is not computerized. The “engine” running an ARPG is completely human, much like a tabletop game. Participants and moderators log points, progress, and items, not a computer system. Sometimes ARPGs make use of random number generators, but that’s as far as it goes. In general, the computer just allows access to and transfer of game-related information. Another way that ARPGs differ from both video games and tabletop games is in their method of play. Rather than fighting monsters by pressing buttons on a controller or rolling dice, in an ARPG one fights monsters by drawing their character and the monster, or writing about them. The artwork or writing is then made available to the entire network of players for that ARPG, turning individuals’ game progress into a community art gallery/library. To learn more about ARPGs, I would suggest clicking around Griffia’s reference site. Reading some of the resources there will give you a better idea of how ARPGs operate.

Tabletop games, like Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), have been around for decades. There is a unique feel that sitting around a table with one’s friends provides that not even massively multiplayer video games can compete with. That’s why tabletop games still thrive in the age of next-gen consoles. That, and the endless creative possibilities that tabletop roleplaying games allow. Ask any D&D player, and they will no doubt tell you stories about some outlandish situations they’ve found their party in, situations that not even the best video games could have rendered. In the eighties, what you, your friends, and your Dungeon Master (DM) created stayed on your table and in your notebooks, but today the Internet allows players to share their creations with the world. There are communities online where tabletop RPG players can share their adventures and even unique game mechanics. These fan-made races, classes, items, etc. are referred to as “homebrews.” If someone can imagine it, work it into the rules and context of the game, and share it in a way that’s easily understood, someone else miles away can play it. To learn more about this concept of making small-group tabletop games infinitely networked, check out this homebrew wiki.

I hope this has given you all some new ideas about digital gaming!  Although video games are wonderful and artistic, they’re not the only game in town when it comes to networked narratives!


One of my Favorite Things!

Hello all!  The previous week was a good one for digital alchemy, what with all our Twitter adventures and in-class research.

During our Twitter Chat, I got the chance to talk, or tweet…, about one of my favorite things: digital art!  I was tickled to see other users talking about DeviantArt (for those that don’t know, my thesis is focused on DeviantArt communities), and I loved that I could share a bit about my activities there and some of my favorite digital art.  I wanted to talk about the ways that Twitter has become an extended part of certain online art communities, particularly (you guessed it!) my beloved closed species (CS) communities, but I figured it might go off topic, so I’ll just settle for sharing a few examples here.  I’ll save the rest for my thesis blog.  As a bit of context, those two examples are Twitter profiles members of the Griffia closed species community have made for their characters.  It allows them to explore social media through their characters’ eyes, thus bridging fantasy and reality.  At times these Twitter accounts are also used as places of practice for civic imagination.  As an endcap to this little digital-art-themed ramble, I’ll share a piece of digital art I made, of which I am particularly proud.  Yes, this was for a CS community thing on DeviantArt:

Terradragon fly 4

Artwork by me, Terradragon species and design by griffsnuff@DeviantArt

Now let’s get to the next (related, but different) topic: the Twitter Safari!  I really had a great time with this activity, and it had some extra, behind-the-scenes meaning for me as well.  As can be seen in my Safari entries, each one includes a little snippet of lyrical prose.  That sort of writing was on the tip of my brain last Tuesday because I had just been struck by a bolt of writing inspiration on the way to school.  Well yeah, you might say, you’re in an English Master’s program; that’s no big deal.  Big news: IT IS.  I had some major health issues last semester, and those issues had been bubbling for a while.  My mind was in an awful place, and it had been at least a year since I had experienced genuine inspiration to write.  I’m not talking about “Oh, okay, I’ll write about this for this assignment; I’ve got ideas about how to do that”; I’m talking about true creative writing inspiration, the type where the words just smack you out of nowhere, pre-packaged in tasteful statements, and demand to be written.  It’s like artistic diarrhea.  A few years ago, that sort of inspiration was commonplace for me.  I wrote like I breathed.  I had artistic diarrhea enough that I had to carry a fucking pen-and-paper diaper to catch all my words and ideas.  I thought I had lost that ability; I thought life had beaten it out of me.  But I was wonderfully wrong!  Before class last week, I was feverishly writing a short creative nonfiction piece on a yellow legal pad with an unsharpened pencil.  The residual creative thought was used to make the comments on my Twitter Safari photos, and now they’re markers of the moment when inspiration finally came back to me, when I really started feeling like myself again for the first time in a while.

The Twitter Safari itself was a fun activity, and I can see it being a useful teaching tool (for those of us that intend to teach).  I liked the urgency of it, and I definitely would not change it to a longer assignment.  I think that would allow students to ignore it.  There’s something special about being told “Here’s 15 minutes; go find art in your boring-ass surroundings.”  It’s like a warm-up jog for the brain, or at least that’s how I’d use the Safari activity if I were to use it in my future teaching career.  One day the students could do a Safari instead of free-writing; I think they serve similar purposes, but in totally different ways.

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