Thursday, August 09, 2012

You Got Your TWILIGHT in My Fighting Fantasy Style Gamebook, and I'm Glad.

When I purchased An Assassin in Orlandes, the first of Tin Man Games Gamebook Adventures, I did so out of a nostalgia for the old Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson and other excellent books in that genre.  I had recently acquired my first smart phone and was impressed that many of the old Fighting Fantasy books were available for purchase.  It was nice to revisit the books that along with Tunnels and Trolls solos had been my proxy game group during my middle and early high school years.  During that time, I was only able to play role playing games sporadically and the game books were a great substitute.  The smart phone versions brought back fond memories, even if it was harder to finish an adventure where one couldn't "accidentally" read future entries for clues.

The Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, and their eventual competitors, became a huge phenomenon.  One thing they never managed to do was expand their audience beyond certain market sectors which were mostly male readers.  TSR made a brief attempt at expanding the demographic with their Heart Quest books, but they didn't catch on for various reasons.

With the smart phone and the transition to ebooks, the gamebook has seen a resurgence.  One of the leading publishers in this resurgence is Tin Man Games, and with good reason.  When I began playing An Assassin in Orlandes, just to see how this "small upstart's Fighting Fantasy competitor" would fare, I was impressed with the thoughtfulness that went into the production. The book had a compelling narrative, a fun little game system (that also allows for a little "tilting" of die rolls which is a nice touch), and even had "Achievements" that could be earned by successful and unsuccessful play.  In short, it was clear that Tin Man was going to be big.  Their success continued with the acquisition of the license to produce future Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, taking them from competitor to partner, and the acquisition of the Judge Dredd license.  I've been playing around with their Judge Dredd gamebook app, and it is quite fun -- more on that later. 

Tin Man really seems to know what they are doing, and they are also doing what publishers should have been doing during the first boom.  They are expanding the pool of potential gamebook players.  While we geeks might be precious to protect our hobbies from "fakes," "hipsters," or "sparkly vampires," as John Scalzi points out -- we shouldn't be.  Whoever wants to be a geek should be allowed to be, and they should be welcomed into our hobbies with open arms.  One of the things that I've learned from living in Southern California is that everyone is a geek.  That's right...everyone.  Disneyland's profits are based on the premise, and have been working for years.  Walk around Disneyland one day as an observer of people.  What do you see?  People from all walks of life joyously expressing their love and affection for fantasy, science fiction, and cartoons.  It is a place where they let down their pretentious guard and allow themselves to have fun.  And that is what being a geek is about.  It is about never loosing the "Golden Age of Science Fiction is 14" attitude and making the Golden Age of Science Fiction right now.  The same is true for comic books, role playing games, or whatever else you geek out about.  When Vampire the Masquerade hit the gaming hobby, I remember those who wrong-mindedly poo pooed Goths coming into our hobby playing their "weepy Goth Anne Rice game."  While others were doing that, I was meeting some great friends who it eventually turned out happened to be willing to try playing Warhammer 40k and Globbo.  Trust me, if you can get someone to play Globbo you've won the pop-culture wars and I credit White Wolf with getting Vampire fans who would never think of playing Globbo in the first place to try it out.  VtM was the gateway game that lead to more gaming for a lot of people.

It appears that Tin Man Games is trying to give fans of the Twilight books and Vampire Diaries a gateway gamebook into my favorite hobby with Strange Loves: Vampire Boyfriends.  This is something we should be praising.  After all, how far is it from Vampire Boyfriends -- a book with game mechanics -- to Vampire the Masquerade?  And as I've mentioned already, Vampire the Masquerade can lead to Twilight Imperium play.

Check out Tin Man's book trailer for their new book Vampire Boyfriends, the first in the Strange Loves series.


You know what?  I think I might just pick up a copy of this book/game.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love how the ereader has revitalized a great bit of the hobby, a bit that gets kids who struggle to connect to reading at all interested in books and where they can take the imagination. And as much as sparkly vampires aren't for me, I do remember being a bit of a convert to VtM after also dismissing it early on as being a bit goth and whiny. It ended up being my most successful GMing experience and got a huge bunch of people into the hobby.