Old Technology (IRC) for Recent Games (D&D 4e)

After years and years away, I'm back into IRC in a very limited capacity. And it's all @gamefiend's fault. He wanted to have discussions about D&D 4e in a depth that Twitter just couldn't handle conveniently. So he installed an IRC server and invited gamer folk to come on and hang out.

IRC and Me: Ancient History
Back in the day, I used IRC for chatting with people halfway around the world, and I got hooked on it for a while. Yes, I flirted madly. Yes, I started a long-distance and short-lived relationship over IRC. In general it gave me social fluffiness and a place to blow off steam or to go pretend. And yes, I used to fire it up on a DECTerm in the brand-new computer center at WPI, or on my VT-220 over a 28.8 modem. Don't laugh; it worked.

I thought of IRC as a faster form of communication and a more interactive flavor of email, nothing more. And then I had my "Aha!" moment. I remember sometime in 1990 or '91 during the First Gulf War, someone had set up a channel for updates on the war. Iraq had sent missiles into Israel and my friends and I got a little nervous about the possibility of a draft in the US, so people from all over hopped on to talk about what was happening half a world away. And then someone casually mentioned that he may have to drop because the air raid sirens were going off right now and he had to grab his gas mask and go into his plastic-sealed room until the all clear sounded. I think he typed, "BRB - air raid. Can't type in my gas mask." He was on from Israel to talk about the war. We buried him with questions and got a decent feel for how he perceived the conflict - apparently air raids were no big deal since most of them were false alarms.

And then it hit me. Someone in the middle of a war zone in the middle of a missile attack could talk instantly with over 300 people scattered across the world. Here's a guy who was actually living what I saw on the news and filed away under, "That's terrible, but it's not really real because anything on TV isn't really real." And I could talk to this guy and get to know him and feel for him - not so much for the Israeli people, but I could I feel for him because I knew him, at least online.

The war suddenly became very personal and it slammed into my brain in that instant of realization. This power to communicate across the planet made the world incredibly tiny, and gave those with enough curiousity the power to circumvent media pre-digestion and get the raw experience from the perspective of someone on the ground. That's power, and that's what the Internet meant to me from that moment on.

I doubt we'll see anything quite so earth-shaking in a game chat channel, but the ability to live vicariously through someone at an event you can't attend is still pretty heady stuff. Live GenCon updates, anyone? *grin*

And Now, 4e At-Will's Web Chat!
@gamefiend opened the chat room up on Wednesday, 18 May 2011 sometime in the late morning - a little over 4 weeks ago. In that time, we've gathered a core group of a couple dozen solid regulars to keep the discussion blissfully troll-minimal, and we've had visits from Wizards of the Coast folks (Hi, @Trevor_WotC!). The Internet makes us a global village - we've got gamers from Ecuador, England, South Africa, and Germany chatting in there every day. We've recently set up a free-form roleplaying area for people wanting to come up with a character and hang out in the Nentir Vale.

One great benefit for me has been asking questions about potentially breaking into the industry as a freelancer. Thanks for talking about your Lost City experience, @SarahDarkmagic! Communicating directly with freelancers, designers, and game publishers has taught me so much about the gaming industry in a very short time. We've had rules discussions, game design discussions, and talks about business decisions. Speaking of which, if you haven't seen @thedandmom's art, go look at it now and then order a commission from her. Thank me later.

And the chat will only gain momentum from here.

Star Frontiers (Alpha Dawn) [BOX SET]We're having a special guest on Monday, June 13 at 9PM Eastern: Steve Winter from Wizards of the Coast. He's the current editor-in-chief of Dungeon and Dragon magazines. He's been involved with RPGs since the early days, since he's listed as a creator of the Marvel Super Heroes system. He served as the editor for Gangbusters and Star Frontiers, and he used to run the Car Wars "Lake Geneva Death Rally" games at Gen Con.

We'll be having a moderated chat with him - send questions to the moderator and they'll be batched up and asked as the chat progresses. It's a great opportunity to get some D&D questions answered direct from a long-time gamer who just happens to be a highly-placed source inside Wizards.

I'm sold. How do I connect to the chat?
If you want to join for the moderated chat or just hang out and see how others play their D&D games, you can point a browser to the web chat page at http://at-will.omnivangelist.net/at-will-webchat. Or if you prefer a more flexible web-based IRC client, you can use mibbit at http://www.mibbit.com, or you can dust off your local IRC client. You want to connect to server 4eatwill.net, channel #4eDnD.

In the end, it's about building community. We gather ourselves, unlimited by geography and improve the hobby one game, one idea, one answer, one person at a time. We collaborate and create. We talk and imaginary reality pours out of us, spun off as blog posts or published products or adventures five times cooler than ones we could make by ourselves. I'm hooked.

Hope to see you there!

No comments:

Post a Comment