Amid the bright blue skies and hail storms of the Seattle spring, I’ve been trying to get back to my habit of reading a number of books simultaneously. These are the three books at the top of my reading pile right now.
Monte Cook, Shanna Germain.
Stone Box Press, 2013.
I’ve been a part of a few Kickstarters, and a couple of GoFundMe campaigns. I bought Kicking It to see what wisdom I’d gain for the future, and give it a good once over to see if it was a book I could recommend to others. Some of the lessons in Kicking It are a refresher course for me, because I’ve worked with publishing, media and audience retention before I started to get involved with crowdfunding. But as a how-to guide that’s useful regardless of product-type, it’s a book we as a community probably needed a few years ago.
The focus may be crowdfunding, but the lessons are exportable to the life and work of independent creators. Going from before you ever hit the launch bunch all the way to the wrap-up of the campaign, Cook and Germain discuss the pros and cons of crowdfunding, campaign failure, and how to improve your visibility. I’d happily recommend it to people unfamiliar with running crowdfunding projects, anyone who needs a crash course in managing social media during a campaign, and anyone who’s run a campaign already. I’ve been finding it really useful for sorting through and processing a lot of the lessons I’ve been learning as someone who’s both supported crowdfunded campaigns, and as a creator running them. Kicking it is available for purchase online.
Penguin Books. 2011.
I recently purchased Reality Is Broken, and it has been an unanticipated catalyst in my life. I’ve been taking time to take out and assessing—or reassessing in some cases—things I think about games, their role in my life, and what games I want to leave behind in this world. McGonigal covers a lot of ground. She takes apart ARGs she’s designed, goes point by point through explaining how she feels reality is broken, and offers up examples of what emotional rewards we get from gaming. Until I read this book, I had no idea what fiero was in relation to game design, or how the desire for an epic-scale sense of involvement and community drives us. McGonigal never states that the exodus of gamers “from reality” is in any way a moral issue. She does point out that many of our skills and talents would greatly benefit the world, but we’ve been left unfufilled by reality. We use these skills in gaming because games are designed to make us feel good when we play them.
Reality is broken because it often lacks the emotional payoffs we get in our games. So McGonigal’s book isn’t a screed about how we should stop playing games. It’s a thoughtful catalyst to consider exporting those skill uses, and emotional satisfaction, back out of games into day-to-day lives. Games bring an immeasurable amount of joy, peace, challenge and satisfaction to their players. Gaming communities are full of brilliant people, and we can use games to unlock our abilities to change the world for the better. I didn’t agree with everything in the book. There are large passages highlighted in my copy of things I found absolutely untrue to my experiences. But the book has me assessing what I want from myself and from reality, which is a pretty big deal. Reality Is Broken is available online for purchase.
Edited by Markus Montola, Jaakko Stenros.
Fëa Livia, Stockholm. 2010.
I was gifted a copy of Nordic LARP in April, and have been slowly picking my way through it. It’s a 300 page hardbound, and the amount of information and photographs is massive. Montola and Stenros are game researchers, writers, editors, and part of the worldwide community that loves and is fascinated by games. It’s a detailed, very frank look at many aspects and stories about Nordic LARP. The culture of play in Nordic LARPs is very distinct, and I think fundamentally different from much of the American LARP cultures.
There are emotional, intellectual and cultural lessons in many of these LARPs, and I think that’s something we don’t see happen as often here. The first time I heard about some Nordic LARPs recieving government funding for LARPs that explored poverty, health, our relationship to our cities, I was blown away. Why not fund those things? Those are invaluable topics to explore and understand, and how those things are tackled in these LARPs are different from how we might have tried to address them here in the States. Whether or not you’ve heard about Nordic LARPs before, or have interest–or no interest at all–in playing them, it is very much a worthy time investment to read. Through the stories in this book, Montola and Stenros have managed to showcase the very unique player experience in these LARPs. If you want to learn about how many of these LARPs explore the human condition in a fictional, liminal space, this is a book for you.
Have any favorite books on games, crowd funding,or life as a creative? Drop suggestions for my summer reading shelf in the comments!