A conversation with Paul Czege, Worlding worlds, and the experiences and memories that we acquire in them.
Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded by @thejaymo
The Hybrid / Hyper Reality of Worlds
I’ve been thinking a lot about worldbuilding, worlding and memory this week. As I’ve been editing and taking notes on conversations I’ve had recently. Basically doing prep work and getting things set up for a self directed research project.
If you’re interested, you can check out the initial sketch of the project at worldrunning.guide.
We talked about Ian Cheng’s book Emissary’s Guide to Worlding. About Cheng’s comments on how successful worlds outlive the creators’ authorial control. We talked for quite some time about the edges of a world and it’s ending.
Until our conversation I had been thinking about worlds as something ongoing or unfolding. Worlds that Infinite Enough in the James P. Carse sense. Narrative platforms made up of complex elements that produce drama.
But Paul disagreed. Worlds can continue in retrospect.
A world can quote unquote ‘end’. The same way as a novel or movie ends. But if your experience of it made an impact on you, and it remains installed in your head – then it continues to be alive.
For Paul, this is also an example of a successful world under Ian Cheng’s definition of a world – surviving outside of its creators authorial control.
This shouldn’t be surprising of course. In 2003 Paul won the Diana Jones Award for his game ‘My Life With Master’. A role play game that treats the end of play as a narrative destination.
Several other of his games since have also done something similar. They are worlds with a half life, alive in their activation but continue to live on in one’s memory after the end of play.
This line of thinking has led me down a time wasting rabbit hole. Trying to think about the kinds of experiences we have whilst inhabiting worlds.
There seems to be a lot of writing about the importance of pretend/imaginary play in young children. Writing about the plasticity of memories and how they change and be reinforced over time. And I’ve read a lot about the creation of false memories.
But I don’t seem to be able to find any writing on the hybrid nature of memories created during play.
For example. I have intense memories of playing the GURPS Discworld RPG with friends in the early Naughties. Sitting around a student kitchen table, an overflowing ashtray at its centre.
But coexisting with memory of nights spent in that smoky room. Are very real memories of being in the cobbled streets of Ankh-Morpork. Vivid memories of the time we escaped the Guild of Trespassers after a long chase through The Shades. I can still look at a map of the city and pick out the location where we first met CMOT dibbler. And I can remember the weather was like when it happened.
I was both, in the kitchen AND in the Discworld. What is this called? this co-location of realities on top of one another. A hybrid or hyper memory?
My first introduction to RPGs was about the age of 9 or 10. School friends reading Redwall, Lord of the Rings, Robin Jarvis, and getting into Warhammer. We knew that Dungeons and Dragons existed and was something magical. But we had never played it. My friend Dan C had an older brother who he’d watched play it. Knightmare was on TV after school and we were borrowing all the Fighting Fantasy books from the library. From this heady mix of absorbed cultural influences we understood we needed a dungeon master.
And so I have all these hybrid / hyper memories from school built on top of one another. There’s Ben, Toby, Tom and I in our grey shorts and school jumpers following Dan C – LARPing our way around the school field.
The white lines of the football pitch became the dark dank corridors of ‘zombie dungeon’. Rooms with rotting beams and lichen encrusted walls. Dank banquet halls guarded by skeletons and monsters. We had no dice or anything. So when we needed to battle something, we play fought the monsters with swords, and arrows bows whilst Dan screamed at us about what was going on.
My memories of things that happened in class at primary school are snippets of events, or moments of emotional intensity. But these hybrid memories of LARPing around a fantasy dungeon on the school field in summer are so clear.
I have other memories like this. Like the cyberpunk inspired game we used to play when we were a little older. A game loosely built around the lore of the RPG Paranoia. A game we also hadn’t ever played but had poured over its rule book. This world had elements of the point and click adventures and text adventures we were playing on the school computers.
This imaginary world can actually be situated into a wider narrative of 1990’s globalisation. Whenever we would ask to inspect something. A computer panel, or whatever. If the Games Master and couldn’t think of anything to say, you’d just say it was ‘Made in Taiwan’ as a running joke. For a while, as a kid I’d get a little thrill whenever I’d get a toy and it was made there. We had noticed something about the real world in our own imaginary one.
Anyways, do you know what I’m talking about? These hybrid / hyper real dual located memories? Does anyone know of any writing about this? Do you have takes? Get in touch. I’d like to explore this more.
If it’s true that worlds are co created by their inhabitants then understanding this hybrid experiential reality is an important part of getting to the bottom of the role of a world runner. What it is they are doing with the audience when worlding worlds.
If you would like to help me find out, and would like to support my work, please consider a monthly contribution at www.thejaymo.net/support.
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the audio due to time constraints.