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The Bones and Gamer Joy

I pre-ordered The Bones from Gameplaywright Press this week. They have a hardcover special edition that I’m very, very eager to get my hands on. I have a few friends in this book, but even if not, I would have to buy it.

See, every book I’ve seen with Will Hindmarch as editor or developer has impressed the hell out of me. His name is one of those that, when seen, will cause me to buy a book without hesitation. (Jeff Tidball, the other half of Gameplaywright, is like that with me for board games. The two together are a fierce combination against my wallet, yo.)

Enough of my verbal fellating.[1] What I want to do is tell you a story. But first, I’ll do a little copy-paste from GPW to tell you what this book is about:

about the book

This isn’t about math. It’s about unlucky breaks and victory against all odds.

This isn’t about percentiles and probabilities. It’s about late-night game-ending rolls where everything hinges on that climactic moment when one single die skitters across the table and determines the fate of a hero, a city, an empire…

The Bones gathers writing about fandom and family—about gamers, camaraderie, and memories— and ties them together where they meet: our dice. These are essays and anecdotes about the ways dice make us crazy, about the stakes we play for and the thrill we get from not knowing what the next roll will bring.

Step back and look at how we play with dice.

When they announced the hardcover[2] on Monday, I ordered it.[3] I got the PDF Tuesday morning. I was in quite a bit of pain from a gout flare-up that started the day prior, so I was in a pretty piss-poor mood. I decided to take a slow that morning at the kitchen table, and downloaded the PDF. Sipping my coffee (which I walked down the damn block to get, because I really wanted that coffee), I opened it and started flipping through.

(Note: if you don’t have a Mac, you don’t know the joy of trackpad gestures. I can honestly feel like I’m thumbing through a book with how swiping up and down scrolls the page. That sort of natural motion is what’ll drive me to buying an iPad. And I’ve been a Windows monkey since 3.1 — you know, back when they used civilized version numbers. Get off my lawn.)

I started with John Kovalic’s Foreword, forgoing the “random essay/article” roll that you can do on the table of contents. (Which, by the way, I think is keen. I may never roll on it, but I love the personality there.) I grinned. Here I am, the big toe on my left foot in a crapton of pain, my left calf aching from having to walk weird, my back complaining about having to use a cane again…and I’m grinning.

And then I read Will’s introduction. That’s when The Bones clicked for me. It’s distilled Gamer Joy. From the history of dice as told by Ken Hite, to Fred Hicks talking about how diceless gaming made him love dice, to Paul Tevis sharing a story about dice and his gaming group[4], to Jared Sorensen sharing with you the random places he’s found his dice by describing it as a random table, to…well, you get the idea. All these people love this thing we do. And it reminded me how much I love this thing we do, why I keep doing it, making games for other people, things like that.

I kept reading. I kept smiling. I’m not saying The Bones made the pain in my leg go away. That’s crazy talk. But it did cut into the foul mood I had that morning, and made the rest of the day just a little easier. And I know I’m not the only one on the planet who has foul moods. I’m looking at you, Internet. You’re a moody bastard.

So, if you’re looking at The Bones and wondering to yourself “well, that’s neat, but it’s not a game or an advice book, so why would I want it?”, I’m here to tell you: because, if you’re a gamer, if you love this thing we do, it’ll put a smile on your face. It’ll teach you something. (I don’t know about you, but as a nerd, that puts a fucking smile on my face.) It’s about our tribe and being connected to it.

And when you’re having a piss-poor day, there’s that random essay table…

– Ryan

[1] Or is it?

[2] I typed and deleted “hardcore.” Thought you should know.

[3] Yes, I still don’t know where I’m living at the end of June. But I hope to know that by the 15th.

[4] Which I have heard at least three times before, in person over drinks. Still, the man can spin a fun yarn.

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3 Responses to The Bones and Gamer Joy

  1. Thanks for the kind word, Ryan. I’m truly glad that the book brought something positive into your day. I hope it manages to find an audience. As you say, it’s not a game and not a guidebook, so it may have some trouble finding a home with the audience. We’ll see.

    Thanks for telling people about it, though. That’s a great help to us.

  2. Gareth says:

    Honest curious here — not trying to rub your face in it, seriously — but how does this jibe with your statements in comments to your original ICONS post, where you said:

    “This is why I won’t support such a business model”,

    referring specifically to time-limited pre-orders?

    I’m not grokking the difference.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Gareth,

      There was more to what I said than that, but it’s irrelevant. If you look at the comments on the earlier post, you’ll see that long thread between Rob Donoghue & me. We circled each other, but by the end of it I finally got what he was saying, and decided that he was right.

      Now that you point it out, though, I see that I didn’t make being convinced clear in the thread, probably because it hit me while I was thinking about it on the train ride home. Something to remedy. Thank you for that.

      – Ryan