Sunday, July 10, 2011

Origins 2011: Part 3 - "Learning From the Masters"

Another thing I did at Origins was go to some seminars. I did this because the seminars are one thing you can only really get at gaming conventions, and lots of them are interesting. At Gencon I went to a seminar on balance in games that I really liked, so at Origins I signed up for two seminars that sounded interesting: "Making Magic Real" and "Internal Consistency." When I got to the seminars I found out they were about books and literature rather than games, but they were still interesting. The seminar on "Making Magic Real" was given by fantasy authors R.T. Kaelin and Jean Cade, and they talked about how good stories need to have limitations on the magic. I mentioned that games are good sources of ideas because games are all about setting up limitations - for example, in "Magic: The Gathering" you have to draw a random set of cards at the beginning and can only cast what is in your hand. They said this would be a good idea for a story - a mage who doesn't know what spells he is going to get each day. The seminar on "Internal Consistency" was given by science fiction author Timothy Zahn. He had a list of a series of ten plots from different stories and asked us to describe what was inconsistent about them. For example:

PLOT: A small, ragtag resistance force tries to overthrow a universally hated dictator.

PROBLEM: If the dictator is universally hated, why is the resistance force so small? (Perhaps most people are too afraid to rise up, but in order to project his power the dictator would need a police force and army, and those people at least would have to support him.)

PLOT: The last two humans on Earth seek shelter from the vampires.

PROBLEM: If there are only two more humans on Earth, where are all the vampires getting their blood to feed?

Overall, both seminars were fun to go to. One thing that was funny was during the "Internal Consistency" seminar when Zahn was talking about how writers can make their stories more consistent. One example he gave was the "Jurassic Park" movies and television shows, where the security system that is used to keep the dinosaurs in was very poorly designed - "even zoos have better systems for keeping animals penned in." He suggested that one thing writers can do to make their stories better is to do more research. For example, Zahn suggested, if you were writing a story like that you could "call up your local zoo and ask them to explain how to design an impenetrable system to keep animals in = and how that system could be beaten." Of course everyone in the room laughed, because we all had exactly the same reaction - that the response you would get is similar to what would happen if you wore this "Personal Electronics Vest" when going through airport security.

1 comment:

Nanette Goodman said...

The idea of what would happen if you went through TSA security with the electronics vest is too funny. At least someone thought the better of it and it is no longer available.

The seminars seem really fun. It seems like a good game and a good story have some of the same characteristics when it comes to internal consistency and limiting magic.

I really liked playing Labrynth because it was so close to what could happen in real life if you just changed a few factors.