Evolution of a Gaming Site & the Dark Side

When I began writing this post become something far different than I’d envisaged. Then I realised: it’s May the 6th – May the Sith be with you. Welcome to the Dark Side.

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me

– Star Wars, The Sith Code

Of course, the Jedi have a different perspective.

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

– Yoda

They’re both valid perspectives in my view. I’ve been considering lately the direction this site has taken, as well as my own direction in life for the last few months. Many years back themandragora.com was merely an off-shoot of the Nova Games PBM site that I’d created for my Mandragora games. Since then I’ve been through several versions of CMS and themes. It’s a long way now from the same pages in 2002. Of course back then, I wasn’t running the ORC Edinburgh website, nor was I involved much in the Edinburgh RPG scene. And my personal circumstances were very different. This post is a bit of a ramble but I hope it makes sense: there’s a certain kind of logic behind it.

The site was largely a dumping ground for my ideas back then, a vanity project for stuff wot I’d done. It’s become more polished(?) over the years as I’ve attempted to try and get more of a gaming community in Edinburgh together. The Edinburgh Gaming page is consistently popular. I’ve cut out a lot of the inconsequential posts that provided a little too much insight into my time. These web pages have a modest set of daily visits, and are pretty specific. I sure as hell don’t consider myself a gaming celebrity. At all. I’m just a bloke with a blog.

A lot has changed since 2002. The world has become smaller, sometimes frighteningly so, through social media. Words, and even numbers, now have sinister overtones (gitmo, 9/11, 7/7 for instance). Celebrities – sometimes who only famous because they are on reality TV – are all over social media tweeting their lives. Self-promoting themselves first chance they get – freeloaders of fame. Or worse, someone like Katie Hopkins.

Twitter is often largely to blame for this I reckon. I’ve recently heard of Joss Whedon quitting it as a result of hate tweets and Rio Ferdinand subjected to some horrible tweets regarding his recently departed wife. That’s pretty sickening behaviour and sadly it seems to have become part of our culture – I’ve heard some pretty horrible things about Gamergate too. Twitter (and sites like it) have no “buffer” zone or DMZ of geography or security. People are able to interact directly with their target or idol, often saying things that they’d never say in person to the object of their hate/affections. Complete strangers will make personal remarks. It’s not just Twitter either – go on an online gaming site and you’ll be subjected to some serious verbal abuse. Anonymity encourages the worst in people it seems. It’s almost a culture of savagery.

This New Year was something of an epiphany for me. It wasn’t much of Hogmanay. All I could think of, alone in the flat, were negative thoughts – and trust me, this wasn’t depression. I was angry. Furious. Angry at myself for not getting more done. Resentful of those who’d been more successful over the previous year. Then I realised that the only person who cared about it was me. At that point “the scales fell from eyes” as it were. What was the point of it? It wasn’t achieving anything. At all. So I’ve pretty much ditched it. Or so I’ve thought.

A result of this online “culture” we’ve got this strange sense of entitlement. We want it all right now. Netflix and torrents mean we don’t have to wait for a show to be picked up by UK TV stations. And we don’t care how we get it either. For example, “We backed it so we should get it first/early” – especially Kickstarters. I’ve been fighting an urge to rant about Chaosium and their “Horror on the Orient Express” Kickstarter earlier. The European Kickstarter backers are still waiting on their copies, despite it being sold in the local games stores – and we’re not happy about it. As geeks we’re very passionate about our hobby. Who can forget the Edition Wars of D&D? Remakes vs. original cuts of Star Wars?

Anyone can start a podcast and become a “celebrity” coasting on the backs of others – however some podcasters (Nearly Enough Dice, Hazard Gaming, for example) do stay objective! My sensorineural deafness means I can never really listen to podcasts except if I’m there in presence. So instead I’ve been writing review of conventions and RPGs. Writing reviews has become something new to this site. I never try to be unkind, I only point out what could be improved, and don’t set out to try tocrush the dreams of game writers. Last thing I want is a visit from the gaming equivalent of Jay and Silent Bob (cf. Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back.). Then again….

Use it… – Blade, Blade Trinity

I’ve been very unimpressed with the work I’ve done on my short stories and novel so far. So I’ve decided to try and invoke a darker aspect to them. It’s an element I’m more than familiar with. The Oath of Shadows characters are going to be less than clear cut, no Chaotic Evil vs. Lawful Good. There’s going to be a sense of loss, an anger at the world as it exists. It’s a bit of a departure from my original concept, but much more of a challenge.

For me, the most maddening things about modern day gaming are time, space, and money. But I suspect the results of the General Election tomorrow are gonna make me angry and force choke something. Thanks for reading this.

Something. Something. Dark Side

Published by Bill Heron

Wannabe game designer and would-be author. I've been playing RPGs for over 25 years and have recently started creating my own RPG called Mandragora: Ashes of Freedom. I also run a number of RPGs: Cthulhutech, Call of Cthulhu, WFRP, and D&D. I'm active in the Edinburgh RPG community at http://orcedinburgh.co.uk and regularly play RPGs.

One reply on “Evolution of a Gaming Site & the Dark Side”

  1. Very reflective post Bill. From personal experience, I find myself writing a lot of dark and oppressive content at the moment – the dark side if you like. My blog tends to be an outlet for my humour and cheer, or a more balanced, Jedi type view. I’d never thought about it like that before, but this post brought that into perspective. Always good to ruminate!

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