Cross-over interest

Something has been resonating with me lately about the cross-overs between my different interests in different formats. This has been crystallised by some recent posts by Marcus and Luke and some discussion amongst people I know about The Walking Dead.

Breaking down your own habits is a bit hard – as semi-unconscious activities, they often pass you by unnoticed. However, taking a stab at what I tend to read and watch for relaxation purposes, I’d say that probably the bulk would generally fall into the category of “detection”. I love detectives and crime capers a lot. My favourite movie is the Maltese Falcon, my favourite authors include Agatha Christie and James Ellroy, and even Elmore Leonard for my sins. The show that I compulsively watch whenever I get more of it is the lamentably formulaic Castle, and I hung out with the basically awful CSI and House for 4 or 5 seasons based on their detective components before their other flaws finally crushed my will-to-watch.

So what is my least favourite kind of RPG? That I have spent the last few years studiously trying to expunge from my repertoire as a GM and which I have been extremely leery about as a player? Detection. I hate, absolutely loathe, that lost and bewildered sensation of fumbling around in the dark of someone else’s “obvious clues”, and no amount of “innovation” seems to be fixing that situation- Gumshoe, I still hate you. I want to be a protagonist, not someone investigating the protagonist, as it seems often to be the case in detective RPGs.

Zombies and zombie fiction is another area that seems to have only a sketchy overlap. While I’ll happily sit through Day of the Dead for the 20th viewing, I just can’t seem to get excited by roleplaying in that environment. More than once I’ve sat down to write a zombie game and just found myself steadily losing interest and energy until I give up and go write something that I am interested in…

Which has more than once been Pulp RPGing, a genre where my enthusiasm levels have remained relatively high since first reading Adventure! back in about 2003, and which I’d happily return to any time someone else seems keen. But where, aside from some border zones, I’ve almost totally lost any enthusiasm for the source material. Last time I sat down to listen to some tales of the Shadow or read some Doc Savage… bored bored bored.

Westerns represent more of a middle ground. I love most Westerns, but like Pulp, it seems to be a difficult genre for people to game with. It is sufficiently stylized that you need genre familiarity for the game to work, and you need meta-game buy in…

One way or another I think that has exaggerated the total influence of Urban Fantasy on my interests. It’s got a naturalistic edge that makes it more readily accessible, and it’s star is in the ascendant at the moment. From Anita Blake to Twiglet to Stupornatural, it’s interesting and sexy and on the rise.

The idea of a world-behind-the-world is one that I find interesting both in fiction and in games. I guess, like with most folk of my age, that probably started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I like it on many layers, and it runs a spectrum of interesting possible juxtapositions. At its lightest, you have essentially ordinary people compelled to do battle with forces beyond their comprehension, at it’s weirdest you get the pseudo-mortal melodrama of supernatural beings equally baffled by the mortal world, as glimpsed in the latter part of Angel.

Probably where games work best for me is where they can draw on multiple sources while remaining true to them all. Deadlands is a great example of this, because it manages to hold on to the feel of a Western while drafting in the most extreme elements of a world-beyond-the-world, and become a Horror-Western. Both at once simultaneously, not diminishing either.

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8 Responses to Cross-over interest

  1. wyldcard says:

    Yeah, my short run with Dark Heresy taught me that detection is hard.

  2. Does liking to play Pulp but not read it stem from wanting to be a protagonist not watch one, as per your critique of detection?

    • mashugenah says:

      Wouldn’t that apply to all the genres I discuss?

      Because whenever you’re reading, you are watching not participating?

      • Maybe. But maybe there’s something about about the type of activities in pulp and detection that differs from those in westerns, etc?

      • mashugenah says:

        Yeah, I think that’s probably worth exploring more. I’ll have a think about it and see what emerges. 🙂 Though genre studies are always extremely tricky and subject to numerous caveats.

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