This is the title of a book of game related essays by Greg Costikyan and others. (There is lots of white space in the front of the pdf…).
Reading the story about the newb that stuck his dagger through a Troll’s eyeball scrambling his brain in a DragonQuest game…and the memory it cemented for all participating, I could not help recall a game of D&D I played with my Dad back in the day… I used him as a guinea pig to practice DM’ing and he would run two characters. In one such adventure he had a hulking fighter of exceptionally bad looks but 18+(something decimal) strength. This hulk had a partner who was a cleric of exceptional Charisma. On one adventure the charismatic cleric was turned into a donkey by a wizard. For several weekends, back in 78 or 79, we laughed hysterically at the antics of this ogre-like fighter and his ultra-charismatic Donkey sidekick. How ridiculous, but funny.
Then came Shrek…an Ogre with a donkey sidekick…we laughed about what the odds were that one of our favorite gaming memories would have such a close movie parallel. The world is strange sometimes 😉
And the connection to the professional side is the idea of the power of narrative. Why are memories like this so strong and long lasting? How can we orchestrate moments like this to purpose? Is it possible, or is it the fact that they are spontaneous and NOT “set up” what gives them their power? Even is not a story of desperate odds overcome by phenomenal luck, I am still taken by the power of narrative that while contrived, resonates with the players. I’m a bit of a storyteller at heart having spent many hours in my children’s elementary school classrooms reading to the class “doing voices” and trying to demonstrate the power of a well told story to draw an audience in.
This is an aspect of gameplay I know Ed McGrady has championed for some time, but one which professional wargamers are tough to sell on. I’m not sure how or with what, but like Ed, I’m convinced that professional games that do not pay attention to the narrative “super-charging” a game are not getting nearly as much from their games as they could.
Some of the essays in Greg’s book reinforce that notion.