Thursday, January 12, 2012

awe, wonder, and G+ hangouts

Above is the new background image for my work desktop.  My boss has pictures of her grandkids, I go more for images of sci-fi majesty.  This is either promo art or the concept piece for the final scene of the 1985 non-classic The Quiet Earth

I've only seen this flick a couple of times over the years.  My distinct impression is that most of the movie is only okay, not particularly awesome, but the final scene is 100% kick-you-in-the-brain great.  I'm going to spoil it here, since we're talking about an old movie nobody watches: the hero dies, then mysteriously wakes up on an unknown beach, and this Saturn-looking world rises over the weirdly-clouded horizon.  No explanation, roll the damn credits.

Somehow in just a few seconds of poorly-animated matte painting cheesiness, this scene captures nearly all the enigmatic majesty and power that 2001: A Space Odyssey tries to reach in its approximately 400+ minute final act.

I don't use visual aids much when gaming around the tabletop.  Passing around a picture to gawk at seems to really break the enchantment for me.  But posting a link in the chat window of a Google+ Hangouts game seems to work a lot better.  In Jeremy's recent Outland session he shared a picture of a monster to great effect. 

Just to be clear, I'm not advocating that we flash pictures on the screen for every little thing in a G+ game.  The point of using hangouts isn't to act as a subsitute for our imaginations.  But I like the idea of once in a while being able to wow the players with a really kickass picture, like an alien sunrise or a particularly messed-up demon or something.  In fact, that might be the missing puzzle piece for a good sci-fi exploration game.


  1. Yeah, I think that linkage instead of flashing pics is better idea, especially that player may keep it opened instead of trying memorizing it :D

  2. I actually love using pictures--but I almost exclusively use them as inspiration for me to wax poetic in my descriptions. I'll try to find pictures to represent various scenes in any game that I'm running and then use them to help me convey that via description to the players.

  3. They used to show that film a lot here on BBC2 in the mid-90's so I saw it a few times. I agree, it's not great, but there's something to it.

  4. Hey, what kind of Google + app/extension would you guys like to see?

    I know how to build them and occasionally have the urge to write some code. Google's API is still new and very crippled; but, a few things can be built: an editable character sheet, a fairly unsatisfactory die roller, simple encounter stats, maps with layers, image/video gallery,... that kind of stuff.

  5. And the same John Johnson, I frequently use images as well - though I've not yet refereed a G+ game. I do have one I'm nearly ready to play test though...

  6. Eric, I guess it would be neat to have a film strip I can just click on to send the image to the rest of the hangout. Click, browse to folder with art, thumbnails appear in strip. You dig what I'm saying?

  7. I like that film, some day I'm going to run one shot tabletop game session that starts with same situation as The Quiet Earth, because I have always thought great movies can not be adapted to great adventures but B-movies make excellent scenarios or adventures for roleplaying games.
    I don't know what it is but maybe movies that do not have very structured narrative where stuff just happens make good non-railroading open scenarios, like for example adapting Night of The Living Dead as adventure, PC's start in the house and there is zombies outside, perfect one shot or mini-campaign start.