Follow up to Game of Thrones & Transmedia

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post which examined the future for Game of Thrones – specifically how Martin now seems unlikely to finish his books in time for his final volume to be released ahead of the shows. I examined the idea that the story could be continued in the shows, with the books catching up later.

And now, it seems, I was right!

Martin hints on his Not-A-Blog that he’s nearly done with his next book, Winds of Winter, but we’re unlikely to see it on shelves before 2016 – i.e., before filming starts for Season 6. And now the Internet is abuzz with articles like this one from IGN, “Game of Thrones Showrunner Confirms Show Will Begin Spoiling Books.”

Now, I wish folks would stop using the word ‘spoil’ when talking about the TV show progressing the story ahead of the books. Spoiling is when someone walks into a room three days after the release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and yells ‘Snape kills Dumbledore!’ (yes, this actually happened to me, and yes, I’m still bitter about it). It’s not spoiling for the storytellers themselves (in this case, Benioff, Weiss and Martin) to choose how to tell the final chapters of the story. As I said before, Martin strikes me as someone suffering from a huge case of creative burnout right now, and relieving some of the pressure on him by letting Benioff and Weiss take point might help him finish the books in the long run.

Because frankly, I find this an exciting use of transmedia. This isn’t a Firefly-Serenity style continuation, when the movie finished the TV show. Rather, this has become a conversation between the books and the show, with each one being developed alongside each other. They’re certainly going to end at the same place, but I’ll enjoy seeing how they each get there.

 

New Side Project!

Just a small update to talk about a side project I’ve started up, the League of Extraordinary Ladies!

I plan to update every Friday, and cover the biography of a woman whom history has glossed over. Last week, I covered Edith Margaret Garrud, “the Suffragette Who Knew Ju-Jitsu.” This Friday, I’ll probably cover Ching Shih, my favorite pirate queen ever!

Work on CampFire Tales proceeds, though slower than I’d like. I’m also doing a little bit of social media for Wyrd Con, a local convention with a focus on transmedia and larp (yes, I’ve gone to all five, and run events at four of them). I’m also playing around with the idea of starting up a Twitch stream for tabletop games.

Late to the Mass Effect Party: Thoughts on The Ending

I have just finished Mass Effect 3, and with it, the entirely Mass Effect trilogy.

SPOILERS AHOY! 

You have been warned. The game’s been out for awhile, but in case there are any late adopters who have plans to play this game eventually… you have been warned.

Shooters generally aren’t my genre of choice, but Mass Effect had enough RPG elements to keep me interested. And in true BioWare fashion, what I’m thinking about right now are the amazing characters I felt a connection to – Joker, Tali, Mordin, Anderson; and all the rest. The crewmate I let die on Virmire, the other crewmates I allowed to share my bed from time to time, the engineers belowdecks. The justicar, the biotic rebel, the perfect woman, the perfect soldier. Had Mass Effect been just a shooter, I would have lost interest weeks ago. The characters kept me coming back, they were so full of life!

Life.

That’s what this game is about. And that is, what I think, what players are missing.

It might be helpful to think of Mass Effect as a Buddhist allegory. The old generation (galactically speaking) gives way to the new, and the new builds upon the wisdom of the old. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But no matter what, the cycle continues. You cannot break the cycle, the cycle is.

The choice, at the end, asks you about life. That’s the big choice you have to make: “What is Life?”

Is life about conquest, control, or synthesis?

Yes, the gates break. Yes, this means calamity for galactic civilization. But the game isn’t about galactic civilization. It’s about the definition of life, about the life which Shepard allows to be reborn in the next cycle. The mass effect gates, the citadel, these are the tainted tools of the oppressors. They’re bad karma. Of course they can’t be brought forward into the new cycle. Whatever civilizations rise after this, they’ll have to forge their own way.

Your choice is how the new cycle begins, and about what life will be going forward. You must decide if synthetic life has value; if the geth and EDI are just as alive as Joker and Jack. And even Shepard, granted cybernetic life in Mass Effect 2. Across all three games, you’ve been confronted with questions of VI, AI, synthetic life and cybernetic life. Do the geth have souls? Is EDI alive? Well, she’s alive enough to form bonds with others, which is good enough for me. She takes, and she gives back. To me, that’s life on a biological, emotional and spiritual level. You take from your surroundings, and then give back. And EDI forms bonds with Shepard, with Joker and with others. She even, possibly, feels shame over her origins. And you can’t feel shame unless you already feel a connection to your community.

Are the husks alive? The various abominations you fight? Who knows? Well, Mordin does. He’s got a very good point in Mass Effect 2: the husks and various monsters might be alive on a biological level, but they’re emotionally and spiritually dead. The Reapers are almost certainly alive. But it’s a life which is inimical to human existence. They’re viruses, or cancer – moving with the rhythms of life, but utterly deaf to the subtler melodies.

Your choices have always been about which lives to save and which lives to sacrifice. The final choice is the logical extension of that choice – not only do you choose which lives to save, you choose which form they will take. You’re not breaking the cycle, you’re redefining it.

Me?

If you can’t tell by now, I chose synthesis. I don’t think that destruction is the ‘best’ ending. It’s synthesis. Throughout Mass Effect 2 and 3, Shepard goes through trials which would kill a lesser mortal. Or,more accurately, a mortal without Cerberus’ cybernetic enhancements. Shephard isn’t pure organic life anymore. And thank goodness, because a squishier Shepard might not have survived the last hour of the game. It’s the nature of life to change and evolve. Synthesis took nothing away, as being turned into husks would have done. Instead, it added to what already existed.

And, frankly, synthetic life has the best chance of getting a new version of the Mass Effect gates up and running.

Best GM Advice?

It’s International GM’s Day today, and I’m throwing out a lot of love for everyone who’s run a game for me! It’s a difficult job, but few things are as creatively rewarding as a game well-run.

In observance of the holiday, I’d like to collect advice for game masters.

My best piece of advice for Game Masters: “Say yes.”

Say ‘yes’ as often as you can. This is a technique taken from improv comedy, where no one can say ‘no’ to an idea put forward by another player. You cannot tear down in improv, you can only build up. If possible, say ‘yes, and…’ But most of the time, ‘yes’ is enough.

Your players want to take option D, when you only had plans for options A and B? Say yes. Your player has come up with an unorthodox character concept? Say yes.

Saying yes fosters trust – your players know you want to work with them, not against them. Sometimes you have to say ‘no’ – there’s just no good way to include a space marine into a high fantasy game. But if you say yes as often as you can, it gives your ‘no’ more weight. And if you must say no, say ‘no, but…’ ‘No,you can’t play a space marine… but there’s this order of paladins with access to special magic you can join.’ ‘No, you can’t single-handedly transform this despotic government into a free democracy… but you can make life better for the peasants in these ways.’

Don’t worry about losing control of your game, or not being prepared for alternate choices. Just say yes.

What’s the best piece of advice you have for GMs? Leave it in the comments!