Thursday, March 27, 2008

Why I'd Rather Play D&D, But Don't

I feel like I missed out. I never really tried "classic," pen-and-paper role playing until just last year. Prior to that I had little exposure and never really gave it a chance. But once I did I was hooked!

Unfortunately I was fated to only get a small (albiet delectable) taste. My friends introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons but then orphaned me. Now I wander a dreary wasteland of unfulfilled dreams and scattered tetrahedrons.

I think my favorite aspect of role playing is the freedom. You can be spontenanious, creative, and inventive. There are no rules so hard and fast that they cannot be bent or broken. Although there are books and books (all of which being tomes) of rules, everything is ultimately left up to the GM and the players.

That kind of freedom isn't found in video games. You can try to add it yourself, but it doesn't affect anything. You are just playing your own imaginary game -- the rules are rigid and the environment fixed. And as a programmer I respect the difficulty of trying to make games with increased freedom. The only interaction you get is between other players who are also bound to the game's system.

So all in all, I'd much rather play a role playing game with friends than video games.

But video games have one great allure: they can be played by yourself.

That's the biggest problem I've had. It seems nigh impossible to schedule my own time to really play a role playing game, let alone try to get any friends to commit to such a schedule. Maybe one day I'll get my chance. I know there are some dedicated people who play at the local game stores... but I don't know them. It's much more fun to play with people you know.

So for now, I guess I'll keep playing my video games.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Electronic Pony Express

In the last few years I've read articles now and then describing how easily the intention of our electronic communication (email, instant messages, forum posts, etc.) is misunderstood. Tone is especially hard to get across. For example, something written sarcastically is often taken as harsh or offending.

I've experienced this myself on occasion. From time to time I have written things which I had believed to be well thought out and non-hostile, yet people took up arms about it. I find myself having to go out of my way to expressly and overtly state my true intention of not wanting to offend.

This problem has caused me to wonder how written communication has been interpreted in the past. It seems like it used to take a woman to start a Trojan war. Now you just post a comment on their blog. But was it always that way?

Letters were a common and important form of communication for many years. Did these written communiques have this same problem we see today with email? Or has the problem manifest itself due to differences in how electronic messages are sent and received?

If Ben Franklin wrote a letter to George Washington, would George have flown off the handle? "How dare he imply such a thing! Forsooth!"

It seems like one big difference is found in the effort and care taken in the art of writing letters. I say art because when you compare a handwritten letter with an email there tends to be a big difference. In our age of instant, prolific, electronic text have we abandoned the craftsmanship which carried our intent? Or do we just save time now, because letters never were any better?

In any case, it certainly seems like the world could greatly benefit from increased numbers of wordsmiths.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Paving My Road With Good Intentions

It has been almost a month since I started working on my game again. I feel like I've made some good progress on it. And yet, when I look at the long list of things to do I feel somewhat discouraged. I suppose it is mostly due to not having worked on it much these last two weeks.

For about the first ten days I was really excited. I stayed up a little too late and thought about it a little too much. But I kept plodding along until I got to one of the first complex parts. That's about when life stepped in with other matters which required my attention.

Nevertheless, I still am interested in working on my game. I plan to come back to it. Despite the title of this post, the plan is to pour some actual development asphalt down on this road. Intentions alone just don't have the requisite traction. It will take time (quite a bit of it actually), but I plan to keep working on it. Time will tell.

Still, my primary goal was to start a programming project for myself. That goal has been met so far. So I can console myself in that fact.

In a way it is sad to think of the various projects (programming or otherwise) that I've embarked on yet never finished. Some barely got out of the starting gate before collapsing on the ground, victims of a premature death. Yet life is always full of more important things. I believe that for the most part, I've been successful at setting priorities and getting the necessary things done.