Friday, January 13, 2012

Viewing Life Through the "Gaming Lens"

I'm sure I'm not the only one of you who does this, but a few days ago I was driving home when I passed by a local smoothie shop with the unfortunate name of "Maui Waui."  It's got some kitschy Hawaiian-themed decorations, making it look like a sad knock-off of an Island's restaurant, but something in the window caught my eye - it was a small wooden sculpture of a somewhat tiki-like representation of a warrior with a club. 

Upon seeing this, I was reminded of a trip I took to the Bishop Museum of Cultural and Natural History on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  My dad was transferred to Hawaii while I was in college, and he and my mom moved there for what was supposed to be five years but which ended up being only about 18 months.  I stayed here in California to finish college but went to Hawaii several times to visit them and help them house-hunt and also to spend the holidays. 

During one of my visits there, we took a family trip to the Bishop Museum, which is full of tons of really interesting and cool artifacts illustrating the history and culture of Polynesia, and of course Hawaii in particular.  This is a part of the world that, at the time, I knew very little about, because of course it was pretty much ignored in all of my history classes at school.  Growing up when, and where, I did. "History" meant "Ancient Egypt-Greece-Sumeria-Rome --> Dark Ages/Middle Ages --> Renaissance --> (HUGE GAP) Colonial America and American Revolution --> American Civil War."  That's it.  If you were lucky and in the "Advanced" history classes, we sometimes got to deal with the very beginnings of World War 1 before the end of the school year came.  There was never any talk of China and Asia, Africa, or South America.  And Australia?  Forget about it.  So, obviously Polynesia was skipped over as well. 

I tried to supplement this lack of education by reading through my parents' collection of old World Book Encyclopedias, which they had acquired used from a friend who no longer wanted them.  All of the photographs were in black-and-white and they were published during the short period of time that Kennedy was actually still President, which is kind of cool when you go to the section on "Presidents of the United States" and you see Kennedy's picture with "1961 -".

Yeah, I know that's a ton of background to bring this back to gaming.  I usually write my blog posts by the "stream of consciousness" method and I rarely go back and edit them to tighten them up like I probably should.

So, I'm at the Bishop Museum and seeing all of these really cool exhibits and artifacts like old weapons, jewelry, clothing, boats, maps of different kindgoms, and reading about different customs and rituals for all of the varied peoples of Polynesia and the surrounding areas. 

And the entire time, my main focus was on trying to remember everything so that I could figure out how to integrate it into my D&D campaign.  One of the first things I did when I got back to our hotel was start jotting notes in a green Steno pad I had brought with me, and I ended up creating a group of Hawaiian-style islands off to the Western sea of my campaign world at the time.  

That's what I mean by the title of this post - "Viewing Life Through the Gaming Lens."  Ever since I learned to play D&D (or more specifically, when I started creating my own campaign worlds), I have a tendency to look upon any new learning experience through a sort of lens where I ask myself, "How can I take this knowledge and apply it to my campaign world of Samoth?" 

That's why, a few months ago, when I read The History of the World in Six Glasses, I thought about ways to incorporate what I learned into my game.  I've practiced this odd way of looking at things at museums, libraries, bookstores, while looking at items on display at friends' houses, while watching TV and movies, while listening to stories on NPR... the list goes on and on.  One time as a young teen while driving through Yellowstone National Park with my family, I spent most of the trip looking out the window and working on a way to adapt the landscape and animals to my Gamma World game.

I've always felt that looking at the world this way has helped to enrich my gaming experiences, but sometimes I wonder if I'm actually missing out on "living in the moment" because instead of just enjoying what I'm looking at or listening to, I'm figuring out how to incorporate the cool elements into my games.

Anybody else have this "problem"?

1 comment:

  1. i certainly do. i don't really think of it as a problem, though; i usually try to cultivate it


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