How Playing D&D Has Influenced My Writing or My Gaming Evolution: A Writer's Experience
“Completionist” In game terms this means someone who obsesses over all possibilities until they find everything in the game.
My Early Gaming
Growing up, I played a lot of video games. I started on Atari. Pong amused me. PAC-Man was fun to play. Spider-fighter, Centipede, Pit-Fall; these were all entertaining. But when I got my first taste of Adventure (Really, the game “Adventure”), is when I started to see real fun. A game that was more immersive and made me think, rather than just move my hands fast, was just what I wanted. I knew Adventure was just the tip of the iceberg of what would later come.
Then we got a Sega Master System. It had a built in snail maze that was pretty fun. But we also purchased a Role Playing Game (RPG). Phantasy Star. This opened my eyes to a whole new experience in gaming. RPG's were quickly my favorite genre. I learned then to be a completionist.
I would make up a word; “Completionist” and then I would see it in a gamers magazine, or hear it from other gamers. I was there with a new movement. It was like we were all acting and thinking as one. People would complain about kids and video-games and how video-games were silly, or stupid, and would never last. But I saw information coming from Japan. I knew the Japanese culture was ahead of our own in terms of entertainment. I could see the development of games and was sure that one day, we would understand, as a culture, as a nation, the value of immersive entertainment. The masses didn't get it, but gamers understood. I was a gamer.
As time went by and we kept upgrading, RPG's remained my favorite style of play. I would consume them. When Final Fantasy VII (Fun story in that name by the way. Maybe I'll write that article.) came out, I started my first game in that franchise. I was entranced. The graphics were unlike any I had ever seen. The cut-scenes were right out of a cartoon, and the 3D graphics were crisp and clear. The graphics compared to today's standard are really, really bad. But back in the day, they really were amazing and impressive. Now, they're about as astonishing as Minecraft. But, what really got me, was the story. There are plot holes, and things that make you say “huh?” And worst of all are some of the translations. Sometimes, reading the dialogue was a simple chuckle for the repetitiveness. Other times, you'd get through a whole scene and think you knew what they were trying to get at, but just didn't know for sure. The depth though, was greater than anything I played before. It was greater than many books I read (though, admittedly that wasn't a lot). And the story in this game dwarfed anything I had ever seen in TV or movies.
The completionist in me went crazy! I spent more time than the in game clock could count up to. Over one hundred hours. The game could be finished in much less time. I heard of someone doing it in around 9 hours. Common time is closer to 40. But I like to savour every element. I had my characters all over level 80 and had beat Emerald and Ruby Weapons before I even went to the end of the game. Emerald and Ruby Weapons, for those not in the know, were so powerful, most people wouldn't believe I even beat them. I consumed that game, or it consumed me, so thoroughly that I completed it four times through before I stopped playing it.
What all of this adds up to; I was an RPG Gamer.
First Time D&D
The first time I played D&D, a friend took me to meet some of his friends to “interview” me for a game. This seemed silly to me. I was a little hesitant to go with people taking a game so seriously. But this friend was a guy who had come in and out of my life through other friends and work, and curiosity won over. The first time I played, it felt like a lot of work to create a character. Then I got to understand some of the mechanics and we played a game. I was hooked. The fact that the game we played was not only interactive, but interactive with intelligent people, made it so much better than playing a computer generated world. Non-Player Characters (NPC's) could adapt and change. Their personalities were not flat. They could respond with personality and believable dialogue. And the only limits were the imaginations in the room. Which were great.
The people I first played with are such amazing minds. Over time, I played with other people too, but mostly that same group. We had a few people who came and went. In all those games one thing prevailed. Our desire to learn. Each game we would come up with new stories and challenges for each other. And each time, we would get a little more inventive.
Some of our game sessions inspired stories I didn't know could come from my mind. Numerous characters and worlds came to life in my head. Looking through a little of the new source material has me a little wistful and bringing back old inspirations for some of my stories.
I haven't played D&D in a long time. I rather miss it. In many ways it was always a good source of inspiration for my writing. I haven't played since just after the release of fourth edition and they are getting ready for the next release. A friend of mine was talking about doing beta testing. That's what made me realize I was missing it.
Tonight, I am going through some of these experiences and remembering the fire that lit the lights of our imagination. Tomorrow, I shall reacquaint myself with my first, unfinished, novel.
Beta Testing D&D Next
Edit: Wizards of the coast released this version of D&D at this point. The link below is no longer for beta testing, but does take you to their main website. While you won't be able to sign up for "D&D Next" anymore, it's still a great source for finding out what they're up to.
For those who are interested and not already doing D&D beta testing. The sign up is here. They are being amazingly liberal with the requirements. We could even set up a Google hangout for a session. Pretty amazing what technology is allowing these days.
*Secretly still waiting for the Holo-deck. Secretly thinks we are already living in one.*
I hope to start beta-testing the new system before long. I like the mindset I have to be in to play. It helps keep the creative juices flowing. In that state, it's easy to keep working on my novel and short stories. Just thinking about it has my mind in a whirl.
© 2013 Cole Ikerd