Friday, February 01, 2008

The Pillars of SquareMans

There's a new blog on the block and it looks like a winner. SquareMans is a blog about politics and gaming, a combination I mostly avoid on this blog, but hey, both are fun, so why not?

Matthew Colville pays the bills with his game master skills. He's a writer and designer in the computer gaming hobby. On his new blog, he's begun discussing what he calls the Five Pillars of Game Story. He's posted on two so far.

The first, entitled The Plan (scroll down if you don't see anything, the formatting on his page seems to be a bit wonky just yet), refers to what he calls the False Backbone. This is the plan of the villain, or more basically, what will happen if the heroes don't get involved. Game happens when the players start mucking with the False Backbone. They try to foil the villain's plans or save the villagers from the erupting volcano or whatever. The important realization here is that play happens when the players begin to derail things. Stuff not happening according to plan is not what makes play stop, it's when play really gets going. I think Mr. Colville and I might disagree a bit on this. You can, after all, have the "True Backbone" be firmly plotted branches off the False Backbone. I find that sort of thing icky, but it's considered necessary in todays computer gaming market.

He then goes on to discuss the Central Conflict in Ptolus is Fucking Big. The Central Conflict isn't necessarily the ones the players are focusing on, though it has an impact on what they are doing. In "Gone With the Wind", the Central Conflict might be the Civil War, but Scarlett is much more focused on Rhett. Likewise, in "Return of the Jedi", the Central Conflict is the war between the Empire and the Rebellion. But Luke, while engaged in that struggle himself, is focused on the personal struggle to redeem his father.

Read them both. They're interesting and thought-provoking, and both look like fun things to play with in your game.

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