The geek finds its own use for things: Google Wave RPGs

Paul Raven @ 28-10-2009

Google Wave logoA few weeks back, all the major tech blogs were saying “well, Google Wave seems pretty neat, but we’re not really sure what it’s for”. Google themselves surely had a number of potential applications in mind, but whether using Wave as a platform for roleplaying games was one of them remains an unknown quantity. (It’s surely a cheaper option than that touchscreen table mod, though.)

The waves are persistent, accessible to anyone who’s added to them, and include the ability to track changes, so they ultimately work quite well as a medium for the non-tactical parts of an RPG. A newcomer can jump right in and get up-to-speed on past interactions, and a GM or industrious player can constantly maintain the official record of play by going back and fixing errors, formatting text, adding and deleting material, and reorganizing posts. Character generation seems to work quite well in Wave, since players can develop the shared character sheet at their own pace with periodic feedback from the GM.

Unfortunately for those of us who are more into the tactical side of RPGs, it isn’t yet well-suited to a game that involves either a lot of dice rolling or careful tracking of player and NPC positions. Right now, Wave bots are hard to get working reliably and widgets are scarce, which means that if you don’t want to use the standard dice bot that Wave debuted with (dice bots are an old IRC favorite) then there isn’t really another convenient option; rolls are either made with real dice and then posted on the honor system, or they’re posted in batches and a GM then uses them in sequence.

In truth, this probably isn’t all that big a surprise – from IRC and email onwards, pretty much every internet communications format has been bent to the whims of gamer geeks. But it highlights a fundamental difference in the way people approach a new technology: a journalist goes in thinking “what is this meant to do?”, but the true digital native goes in thinking “what can this do for me?”.

Both questions are valuable, of course, but I suspect that it’s the increased penetration of the latter mindset that ensures I get the bulk of my news and opinion journalism online. Whether the difference in underlying philosophies that those questions represent is a function of network architecture or a cause of it remains, naturally, an unanswerable (but greatly entertaining) point for debate… maybe we could start a Wave for that? 😉

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2009/10/google-wave-we-came-we-saw-we-played-dd.ars

Big up Matt Staggs, who i believe suggested this a few weeks back.