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  • Donald J. Bingle, Writer on Demand

Talking About Fiction in a Non-Fiction World

Lots of the people who read this blog or follow me on Facebook or Twitter are writers--and most of the rest are pretty avid readers. Some are probably also role-playing gamers. So, when we run into one another, we tend to sometimes talk about fiction--not just about what book or game we like or why ("the pacing was slow" or "awesome effects"), but about things that happen in the book or game as if they occurred in real life. This can be especially noticeable with gamers, who often talk with their fellow gamers about things their characters (PCs) did and said in first person, as if the gamer did and said them. This isn't a problem when you are talking with other gamers or writers, who understand you are speaking as if you were the character (yet, unlike the main character in a certain bad Tom Hanks movie, have a firm grasp on the distinction between make-believe and the real world and are free from psychological problems). The problem can be with people who overhear your conversations about exotic poisons, violent encounters, hidden treasure, and looting the bodies. This issue became clear to me many, many years ago when I ran into a gaming friend of mine as I was exiting the commuter train in downtown Chicago and beginning the eight block trek to work. Since all of the commuter trains in Chicago stop west of the river, there is a regular march of people all heading the same direction for a number of blocks--making it a good chance for an extended talk. I had just gotten back from an exciting weekend of RPGA gaming at GenCon, but he had not been able to attend, so his first words to me were "So, how did things go in Wisconsin?" Now, I'd had a bunch of fun rounds at the Con, but one was a standout in terms of being unusual--fun and disastrous at the same time--a round of Top Secret, TSR's old spy-themed rpg. So this is how I responded: "Well, I did this [t]op [s]ecret thing with Keith. We were supposed to find this incriminating information a bad guy was using for blackmail, so Keith and I, we go to his apartment to look for it ... and Keith is about the pick the lock and I say 'What if someone's home? We should knock first.' So we do and the guy answers the door but he doesn't know who we are and Keith clearly doesn't know what to do, so I put my foot in the open doorway so the guy can't shut it and say 'We're Jehovah Witnesses. Have you read you Bible today?' and we kind of push our way in and I say 'Let us pray' and push the guy down to his knees and then coldcock the guy with my pistol and we search the joint and find the information. Keith just wants to take it and boogie, but I say 'He'll know that's what we came for if it's the only thing we take.' so we mess up the place and take his stereo and stuff, but we don't want to be seen carrying all of that stuff out of the apartment building, so we dump it all down the trash chute. But when we get to the lobby, we see that there are cops outside, so we escape through the back, and Keith goes and steals a car, but all he can get is a piece of crap Yugo and we take off and a cop gets in our way, so Keith just runs him down and that really gets the cops excited and the whole team gets bogged down in a shoot out with the locals." And that was when I noticed that we had been walking for six blocks and the same people had been in front of us and in back of us the whole time and that they seemed to be listening intently, but avoiding looking us in the eye--because, of course, they didn't know this was all a gaming storyline. So, I bumped up the volume and said "So, we had a good time playing the GAME, but we didn't do so well at the GAME'S mission." It seemed to work, cause nobody came and arrested either of us. Yep, writing and gaming can be dangerous. Making stuff up is. If you want to read some of the stuff I make up, check out my website


Don Don

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