While it’s still in memory, some notes about WisCONline, which happened at the end of May.

Six abstract figures in a variety of colors arranged to appear like a videochat.I was part of the concomm, doing a bunch of work behind the scenes, so I’m kinda biased. But at the same time, none of my opinions are official or anything like that — I’m speaking for myself here, not the con.

The gaming folks had arranged a huge slate of games, but the way things worked out, I didn’t get to play in any of them. Largely down to what shifts I was on.

However, with our tech setup, I was able to watch some of the games after the fact. (I have a lot of thoughts about people broadcasting games for other people to watch, and parasocial gaming, and similar things, which I may write up here at some point.) All the games I saw were really cool!

  • Atop a Lonely Tower is designed specifically to be played in a Discord channel, with the GM as an old being of magic, using leading questions to very gently guide the narrative, and all the players drifting in and out as ravens, acting as the GM’s eyes and ears and taking most of the narrative control. The players all really went with the conceit, and it worked brilliantly!
  • Are You There, God? It’s Me, the Quarterly Earnings Report is about a group of angels, all having a business meeting to discuss who’s going to take over the department for the next 1000 years. It’s designed to be played as a videochat/conference call, using the quirks of this technology as innate parts of the game: players can deliberately mute themselves, accidentally drop calls on purpose, etc. If all the players understand that it’s a playfully passive-aggressive game, it works beautifully; and all the players at Wiscon did. It worked gorgeously, with some superb roleplaying on the parts of some players.
  • I saw even less of Court of Ferns, but what I saw again seemed brilliant: A game played entirely through a Google Doc spreadsheet, with players as part of a (dysfunctional) bureaucracy.

I assume the other games were equally neat. The gaming folks did a great job of planning and running things. It was also really cool to see how games are expanding into and embracing entirely new kinds of media (a game played through an interactable spreadsheet! omg!).

There was also some cool discussion about gaming and RPGs elsewhere. bankuei from Deeper in the Game pointed out the websites Roll For Your Party and Playing Cards.io, which look very handy for online gaming. And there was a lot of other wonderful geekery — too much to detail here.

Overall, it was really cool to finally see, and help, a con go online. It would of course be nice if we didn’t have to, but it’s very good that we can.

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