Derik Badman's Journal

2021-01-19 08:20

Skipping between a few books right now: the Queneau essay book, which so far is a little too much arguing about poetry; the Barthes book, which is starting to get into Proust, so we'll see how that goes; and Jon Peterson's The Elusive Shift: How Role-Playing Games Forged Their Identity. His first book Playing at the World was a great history of role-playing games and D&D in particular, looking at the origins of various concepts in the game, tying it into previous games (wargames especially) and writing. This new book (out in December) looks (so far) at how early players interpreted and argued about different concepts about role-playing in general and D&D in particular. Peterson heavily sources old fanzines to summarize debates about things like: referee neutrality versus oppositional stance; play as game vs playing as story (which he relates to the two main background of players: wargame enthusiasts and sci-fi fandom); how much players should be aware of the rules; character generation; alignment; callers; character vs player agency. I'm finding it pretty interesting. A lot of it is arguments one could still see people having in contemporary times (all his sources seem to be focused on the 70s so far), though I think a few are kind of settled matters (does anyone use callers anymore?).

Watched this movie Ham-on-Rye on Mubi yesterday. I recall reading a positive review of it somewhere in the recent past, but found it rather disappointing. It's very clearly a first film. Visually there were a lot of extra flourishes to it that served no point, in particularly a few cross fades and one case of double exposure (or... I'm not sure what you call that when there's no "exposure" to speak of). My ability to suspend disbelief was taxed past its limit with the plot's use of this vague coming of age rite that the characters participate in. It starts out as this kind of group narrative of all these high school age kids going to what seems like a weird prom and then goes a little fantasy/mystic and then becomes this slow process of watching a few of the characters be sad and lonely. The metaphor it is going for about some of the kids getting left behind in their home town doesn't work past the shallowest of depths and ones empathy for the few identifiable characters left behind at the end is hindered by our complete lack of understanding of them as characters at all.