More about Gamenight

I ended up exhanging words with Jonny Nexus about his book I reviewed a couple of days ago. Negative reviews are never nice, so I wouldn’t have faulted him if he’d written a savage reply – as it was, Jonny had some reasonable points that I should clarify for the interested folks, myself included.

I also invited Jonny to set us up with some links to alternative reviews of the book that provide different viewpoints. I understand that the book has garnered some rather positive reviews from different quarters, so I encourage anybody who finds the idea of a rpg parody novel attractive to look for those and not trust in just my viewpoint.

How Gamenight ended up in my hands

I just reread my description of how I ended up reading Gamenight – I’ve been told by both Jonny and others that the segue to the review proper might be interpreted in some weird way as hinting something uncomplimentary about the author’s motivations in giving us the book. Being that we compared our experienced with Jonny and now know the truth, there’s little reason to not clarify: apparently the reason for us getting a complementary copy of the book was that a mutual acquaintance had suggested to Jonny that we might be interested in retailing the book in Finland, which had inspired Jonny to ask for an introduction so he could give us a review copy. When we actually met, both parties quickly realized that there was little grounds for cooperation, but as Jonny didn’t know whether the word had already leaked that he intented to give us a review copy, he felt that it would be discourteous to back off at that point – meanwhile at least I didn’t know that our short meeting had been planned earlier, so I was left mystified at Jonny’s move in giving us the book without any notable provocation – Arkenstone is an insignificant player in the retail business, the only reason somebody would give us a complementary copy of a novel would be because they’ve grossly and embarrasingly misunderstood what we do.

Understandably I was a bit confused by the whole event, but I wanted to answer a good deed in kind, which led to the review I wrote earlier. Jonny wasn’t very happy with me representing the review as some sort of favour, which is fine – I decided to write the review before I read the book, and I’m just not the sort to censor my own output. In practice I certainly hope that my review, as all publicity, helps the book garner more attention in the marketplace as well as a clearer profile – people who’d otherwise have never heard of the book will get to know of it, and perhaps buy it. All publicity helps in a product finding its correct position in the market place, which is a benefit for everybody in the long run, the author included. That’s what I’ve been taught about culture industry in this information age, anyway.

Factual clarification

Although I said earlier that Gamenight is self-published, Jonny tells me that his relationship with the publishing house is actually contractual. My mistake, I assumed too much based on the webpages of the publisher and the active hand Jonny takes in marketing the book.

Jonny has apparently made a name for himself in the gaming field by writing the sort of gaming humour Gamenight represents, so I hope nobody took my general speculation about this genre as implying anything about Jonny, specifically. I still think myself that we, as participants in the rpg culture, should take a long hard look at why rpg comedy always seems to consist of cruel parodies of old-school dungeoneering; however, if you like that sort of thing, that’s not only OK in my books, but I also hope that you’ll like Gamenight – its writing style is fluid, a bit like young Terry Pratchett, and I’m sure that if you don’t think that this sort of thing is old hat, you’ll enjoy the book quite well. My brother Markku did, I understand.

A bit of review philosophy

A little parting thought about reviews and stuff: Jonny was perplexed at why I revealed the ending to his book for no apparent reason at all. Reading over the text I think I know why it seems strange to him – I write, as a rule, from the perspective of criticism when reviewing, not marketing. The reason I work over the ending of the book in such detail is that I’m trying to understand what the theme of the book might be. Clearly there is something happening in Gamenight in those last few pages, but I can’t off-hand say what that something is. Either Jonny is giving us rpg advice (that’s what I’d expect, personally; why else depict his characters in such damning light, if not to provide catharsis and some sort of answer at the end?) or he’s resolving some character drama. Both are a bit puzzling as far as interpreting the book goes, for the reasons I explain in the review.


5 Responses to “More about Gamenight”

  1. Gamenight « Game Design is about Structure Says:

    […] sort of thing. The review has garnered some other discussion as well, so I recommend checking the elaborations post before trusting in anything I say […]

  2. markkutuovinen Says:

    Well, I read the book on the flight from the States, despite of having been up for some 18 hours and feeling the need for sleep. It was a comfortable read, since I work with similar issues in our games…

    The book is basically light entertainment about a subject that I care about, and that made it sufficiently interesting to finish. The storytelling was good enough to make me interested on Jonny’s other writings.

  3. Eero Tuovinen Says:

    Still, the part that bothered me the most was that the author did not really address these issues in any way insofar as roleplaying goes. How should you deal with this sort of players? Is there even a way? I don’t quite know whether the answers are so obvious that the author felt no need to write it out, or whether the ending of the book really does present his solution to inter-group strife.

  4. markkutuovinen Says:

    What is there to address? It was an obvious case of a conflict between agendas (“tell an epic story to get something to brag about” vs “enjoy the power to emphasize my mojo” vs “explore the game world to get artistic kicks” vs “try to get a good nap”), game mechanics (dice rolls get in the way of telling the epic and the other agendas) and social situation resulting in dysfunction…

  5. Eero Tuovinen Says:

    Well, I guess this sort of thing is obvious to everybody else, then. I found the complete inability of those players to improve their lot and resolve their differences, or even see that they had differences, distressing. The author’s solution of killing everybody off and quitting play in a barely concealed huff to save face strikes me as really cynical – at least if it’s supposed to be some sort of general blanket judgement of roleplaying. Which is how I tend to read this sort of thing, when no alternatives are represented and there is no exploration of what it means to be these people in this situation. The lack of detail in the characters really does drive home the point that we are not discussing some particular roleplayers here, we’re discussing all roleplaying and every gamemaster who ever wanted to tell an epic story. And the message seems to be that even a stupid nerd will, at some point, realize that he’s wasting his time playing with the rest of these geeks.

    Also, the author seems to really love strict character immersion as a value and goal – the GM made setting emulation a top priority in everything, and the “good” players (distinguished by their personal habits and social competence, as compared to the completely schizoid warrior guy) did likewise. I have no idea if the message here is that everything would have been fine if everybody had just taken the setting and their characters seriously, or that this sort of play priority is flawed to begin with, and will unavoidably lead to these tedious arguments about what my character would or wouldn’t know about. Either way, it doesn’t fit my experience with actual roleplaying.

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