How games can inspire

Back in April I received an invitation to participate in an anthology on ship vs ship encounters in space.   I was pretty excited about it except for one thing.   Working on a novella for the Horror Hounds contest and getting ready for the Shock Totem Flash contest had me pretty busy at the time.   I admit I set it on the back burner.  The deadline for the invite only anthology was end of July so I thought I’d have plenty of time to think of something.

But it was on the back of my mind and it bugged me I didn’t have an idea immediately. Usually, I have a tiny bit of an idea for a prompt– yes, the theme does count as a prompt for me. The more I thought about it the less connected I felt to the theme. I had other things to get written and told myself that I’d worry about it later.

I did kind of worry about it.  The anthology is going to be edited by a friend of mine and I want to write a good piece for him.  Biggest problem was, I haven’t read any ship vs ship stories in a long while.  Years, in fact.

My rescue has come in the form of gaming.  Now a lot of people turn up their noses at computer, console or table top RP games.  At times they have gotten a lot of bad press and still some people look at it skeptically. But really its okay. What Role Playing, or RP, games allow adults to do is play pretend. (There’s a really great essay about this somewhere but I can’t find it right now.) You get a group, whether it is online or in person, set some rules, make a plan and see how things turn out.  You know, just like you did when you were kids. Sometimes it turns out well and sometimes you wipe.

If you look at it a certain way, that is what writers do.  We play pretend, except we put it on paper for other people to enjoy.

After moving and getting the internet set back up in the house, I listened to B play EVE Online as I worked on my novella. Instead of music, I heard the fleet coms and the general chatter of a bunch of guys who flew online spaceships and worked well together.  This is pretend in one of its highest forms. From hot drops and cloak ships to gate camping and Hulk ganking, I’ve been introduced into a world I had lost contact with when I stopped reading a lot of science fiction.

Ideas began to tumble.  Characters began to form.  In my head, ships and fleets and commanders began to take shape.  I’ve got a story now.  I just have to put it on paper.

So a bit of advice to my writer friends, we all get stuck writing a story. Sometimes ideas don’t come naturally. It really is okay to take a bit of a break, load up a game and a bunch of friends, and play pretend.


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