It's time, once again, to head down the rabbit hole of PBM gaming, and snatch a few glimpses of things PBM-related. Also, while here, please be sure to enjoy the soothing sound and downright tranquility of my voice in text form - which is always worth the price of admission.
It is well-established by now in human history that the best laid plans of mice and men go astray. But for once, something did go right, and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulation the eternally-youthful Richard Lockwood on his divorce being finalized. Granted, divorce is not always something to be celebrated, but as Lockwood is PBM's secret agent, he ceaselessly strives to find the best in any bad situation. No word back from him, yet, on why Wayne's hair survived the loss of so many hundreds of PBM games over the years better than Richard's, but hopefully, I'll be able to provide you with details on that in some future issue.
PBM gaming actually has many voices, and with any luck, I can begin to showcase more of those voices, albeit just a few at a time. ACK! A notification just popped up on my computer, heralding the arrival of Turn #20's results for Alamaze Game 5703. For those PBM loyalists of you whose brain cells continue to hold together, you might remember that as a game of Alamaze where I am playing the Demon Princes kingdom.
But for now, those turn results must...(GASP! dare I say it?)...wait. Oh, goodness! What is this world coming to, when a man must now wait, before immediately browsing his turn results for a PBM game? What a strange and foul turn of events, indeed!
But speaking of Alamaze, I find myself not quite sure of what to think. For recent turn results have sent my mind wandering off in different directions, but whether my thoughts will coalesce in time for an article in this issue of PBM Chaos, that yet remains to be seen.
The notoriously quiet Davin Church of Talisman Games fame has awakened something within me, recently. Not content to allow sleeping PBM dogs to lie undisturbed, Davin has poked the bear of my slumber, and now I find myself sniffing around things of a Galac-Tac nature. But does this bode ill?
Davin and I engaged in a little bit of discussion about Galac-Tac online, recently. It's over in the PlayByMail Discord, if you care to dig deep enough to find it. Specifically, it took place in the Introductions channel, there, if I'm not mistaken.
Where once wars raged across the stars in the Galac-Tac dimension of PBM gaming, now there is mostly just dead empty space. This is a PBM tragedy in its own right, but was it an entirely unexpected unfolding of events? Is it reversible? Or is Galac-Tac destined to be relegated to a perpetual state of mere afterthought amongst the PBM living?
There may be a shortage of PBM games on the market, these days, but whether thriving or in stasis, PBM gaming is never short on irony. With some PBM games of a space warfare nature being saddled with a reputation for being overly-complex, Galac-Tac actually offers a space warfare gaming experience that doesn't require a PhD in astrophysics to grasp.
Alas! If only more people would play it.
If you want more players for your PBM game, then you have to work for them. While teeming masses of them could suddenly descend upon your particular PBM game from out of the blue, one day, you really might want to have an actual plan to increase your chances of attracting new players. Not that you aren't free to just stand out in the PBM cornfields and hope that they will see you standing in the endless Dark of Do-Nothing.
Remember, in space, no one can hear you scream. And if your name is Davin Church and you want your historically quiet PBM voice to be heard, then a change of tactics might very well be in order. Consider this to be a personal engraved invitation in digital form, Davin, if you're out there and you read this.
Write in. Submit something. Give the PBM gamers who form the body of our readership something to ponder and to consider. Write in each issue, every issue. And rouse Genny Carter White from her PBM slumber, that she might aid you in this cause.
For the time being, though, let us give Davin Church of Talisman Games some space. Let's not gather in such large numbers, that he even lacks space to breathe. Instead, let us all just observe things from afar, and see what efforts that Davin is willing to make, to get Galac-Tac before the eyes of PBMdom.
And while we're all waiting for Davin to rise to the occasion, and firmly grasp Galac-Tac's destiny in the iron grip of his hands, let me take a moment out to mention that Galac-Tac's rulebook is a grand total of fifty-five (that's 55) pages long. Whatever else might be truthfully said about Galac-Tac, it's in no danger of winning a PBM award for being PBM's lengthiest rulebook. In fact, it's nowhere in the running for that kind of an award.
While browsing this wanna-be beast of a PBM rulebook, I took notice, anew, of the copyright notice troll that guards the bridge of the pages of the Galac-Tac rulebook. GASP!! Oh, no, PBM friends and foes, alike. In a nod to fear-run-amok, PBM companies sometimes allow their fear that somebody might be "out there" (wherever there is), just waiting to "steal" (::ahem::) their great PBM creation.
Never mind the fact that a lot of PBM stuff, you couldn't give away, even if you spent the rest of your life trying, while PBM companies and PBM GMs alike continue to keep their heads buried in the sands of time, the rest of humanity has transitioned into the modern era of the 21st Century. Now, we live upon the multitude of digital seas of the Age of Social Media. And yeah, it's not all that it's cracked up to be.
On the one hand, PBM companies and PBM GMs want people to play their game, but with their other hand, they want to threaten anyone who might stumble upon their PBM wares against sharing the very PBM stuff that they find. In a day and an age when sharing is the PRIMARY mechanism for raising awareness on social media of every sort, the textual trolls of copyright worship continue to prowl the PBM landscape. This inane (and hopefully, unintentional) worship of copyright idiocy taken to the Nth degree really could do with a bit of reining in.
Oh, to be sure, there's always the concept of fair use that plays a very prominent role in copyright considerations, but I can't help but to just roll my eyes at the things that PBM companies and GMs put into writing, in the from of their copyright notices. If everyone in all of PBMdom literally followed the exact wording of PBM copyright notices, then such needless overreach would effectively chop PBM gaming off at the knees.
No part...blah blah blah...may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
The true and actual reality is that PBM gaming, PBM companies, and PBM GMs actually NEED people sharing all kinds of stuff about PBM gaming - including excerpts from PBM rulebooks, and including the sharing of ENTIRE PBM rulebooks. Indeed, many PBM rulebooks (the vast majority of them, in fact) are available as free downloads on the Internet. Such copyright notices that overreach by proverbial miles are a sterling example of how PBM companies and GMs ted to remain a step behind themselves, in their unintentional bids to preserve PBM gaming is the past.
Agema is a good example of a PBM company that routinely charges for a variety of its PBM documentation. Now, one can openly question whether, in this day and age, that is a wise approach or an approach that is wholly counter-productive to getting their gaming materials into the hands of the gaming masses and/or PBM-interested, but it is unquestionably an option that is well within their rights.
Me, personally, I am highly unlikely to ever try a PBM game offered by Agema. Charging for PBM rulebooks is one of the surest ways to ensure that I avoid giving a given PBM game a try. Heck, I don't even try the vast majority of PBM games that offering their rulebooks and other game documentation a try, so in this day and age, why would I want to pay for a copy of a PBM rulebook, and especially since the most common practice that has evolved across the PBM realm is to provide PBM documentation for free.
Make no mistake about it, though, I think that Agema has some very tempting PBM games on offer. Fee structures aside, Agema has long been a fairly innovative PBM company - more innovative than most PBM companies, for sure, for certain. And I like advertising their PBM games, and I enjoy trying to raise awareness about their PBM games. And the fellow who runs Agema, Richard Watts-White, I have no issues with.
Richard Watts-White has been doing what he has been doing in PBM gaming far longer than I have been doing what I am currently doing in PBM gaming. He knows more than a thing or two about PBM gaming and PBM gamers and the PBM market, and his decisions are based upon his first-hand extensive knowledge and experience.
Myself, I come at PBM gaming from a different perspective, a different vantage point, a different set of first-hand PBM experience and PBM philosophies. I seek to raise awareness about all kinds of PBM games, even ones offered by a variety of competing competitors. My role isn't to choose the winners and losers from amongst the PBM industry and hobby. Rather, my guiding light, if you want to call it that, is to promote and advocate for PBM gaming as a whole, and to try and grow the overall and individual PBM player bases that exist, now, or which could exist in the future.
If Agema can sell its PBM documentation, instead of giving it away for free, all the more power to them. Maybe they offer something so unique in PBM circles, that they can get away with that and players remain attracted to their PBM products in spite of whatever prices that they seek to charge. Indeed, I do believe that there is room on the PBM spectrum for certain fees to be charged, and if they were, certain segments of PBM gaming might even notice an immediate uptick in the number of PBM games that players sign up for. As an example, I think that Hyborian War is a game where RSI could charge a set-up fee independent of its existing turn fees to launch a wide variety of Special Variant Games that allow for an old favorite PBM game to yield a host of new experiences.
Hyborian War players frequently exhibit strong brand loyalty to that PBM game. And with Special Variant Games (games which feature some manual changes made to certain things in the game, and which require no changes to the game's underlying programming), there are a veritable sea of possibilities that could open Hyborian War up to a new dawn of gaming experiences. And because such changes would have to be done manually by RSI staff, I think that imposing a set nominal fee makes sense, even as I generally think that PBM companies screw the pooch and screw themselves, with their sometimes poorly chosen, hobbled approaches to free structures.
As each game of Hyborian War has 36 player positions, a one time charge of $5 per player would yield $180 of additional revenue, per game of Hyborian War started with the Special Variant Game model. Special Variant Game set-up fees could also be increased or decreased, based upon the amount or complexity or time-consuming nature of the particular manual changes requested by players for any given Special Variant Game of Hyborian War.