6. Gaming

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Can you see gaming in this world? Is it a horror game? A game of ethics? How do you simulate the spreading of the insomnia, both by infection and by election? How do you measure an individual’s level of infection? What else is being spread and how? What is being extracted from these characters? How do you simulate the dreamlike character of all the experiences, even those that aren’t dreams? Or are they?

Comments

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    I can't see myself gaming in this world... though maybe...
    Is it a horror game? Maybe. Maybe more of a psychological thriller.
    Is it a game of ethics? Absolutely.

    I don't know if you do simulate the spread. Does it become less of an ethical question if the PCs get the disease? I think so. Also, I wonder if using some mechanism to track spread - like a time of some kind - would really serve what I think is the most interesting aspect - the ethics. I think this is really a game of choices and consequences. And maybe a game of how the get the most bang for the buck - how to save the most people, and how far are you willing to go to save people?

    What else is being spread? Risk. The game is a competition to save people. Who will go too far?

    What is being extracted from the people? Moral authority.

    How do you simulate the dreamlike character? Description! Enthusiastically and increasingly off-colour description. And the antics of NPCs.

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    What is being extracted from the people? Moral authority.

    I think those two words show more insight into this book than anything I’ve thought about the entire time I read it and pondered my discussion questions. It pulls together two aspects I think are important to the book in a way I hadn’t considered.

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    Glad to be of service :D

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    Not relevant to gaming, but to the horror aspect you raised... it baffles me that Stephen King would so warmly endorse it, except that Karen Russell specifically thanks him for his support, so part of me wonders cynically if she was a student on a writing course he ran.
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    Quite possibly, or he was otherwise a mentor. She was short-listed for a pulitzer prize for her first novel, so she isn't a slouch.

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    I definitely didn't feel that Sleep Donation was very gameable. But then I don't particularly care for playing "modern" settings. And I have rarely felt that magical realism type fiction works all that well in RPGs. I'm trying to think through why that is. Something about what the rules would need to cover, I think. Or rather that there would be very little need for rules. I'm not sure what you would engage with, mechanically. It would certainly be more of a 'story game' kind of thing.

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    edited February 7

    I would not game this setting or situation, but I do like the idea of exploring ethics in roleplaying. How to raise ethical questions and have them be meaningful in the context of a game - that's my main takeaway from this book.

    RPG gaming, afterall, is about giving meaningful choices to players. And this is a novel of meaningful choices - with no clear answers! Many gamers do not want this kind of thing in their gaming - they want clear choices ("I cast 'Detect Evil' on it"), resolve, and action. So 'ethics' isn't a tool for every game, or everyone. But in a long running campaign, or even in the right one-shot, it's a great tool to have in the toolbox.

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    I have moved toward playing story-forward games precisely because they allow me to roleplay elements like this. I’m running a sci-fi game right now, very light on the rules, in which I could see introducing some of these elements. I couldn’t just import it whole cloth and wouldn’t want to. In fact, I have an NPC in an induced coma because of a horror implanted into his mind by a psychic entity. The Big Bad (who is not the psychic entity) has stolen something in order to enslave a planet. I haven’t decided exactly how that’s going to take place, but now I’m thinking about making the crew engage in a moral calculus. It won’t be enough to defeat the Big Bad, which, of course, I should have been considering all along. Will they sacrifice Baby A (in whatever form that may take) in order to free the planet? Or some such thing. Detecting evil is a lot less clear cut.

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    It did make me think a lot of Don't Rest Your Head, which is sort of occult insomniac superhero urban fantasy game that I've never quite got my head around. It's very different to Sleep Donation, but I think that I might be able to 'get it' now that some of the metaphors can connect a bit better. This means I have to find my copy though, which could be tricky.

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    I looked up Don’t Rest Your Head, and it sounds like a game I’d give a try.

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    It's a pretty fun game. And yeah, it kind of fits the vibe. Not sure if you could literally play the world of Sleep Donation with it, but you could get into the same space. It was a first gen story game (maybe second if you want to get super granular). If I recall correctly it came out around 2009 and was designed by Fred Hicks just prior to his writing FATE (or should I say re-writing FUDGE).

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