As Digital Communities Seep into Meatspace

Someone told me that each equation I included in the book would halve the sales. I therefore resolved not to have any equations at all. In the end, however, I did put in one equation, Einstein’s famous equation, E = mc^2. I hope that this will not scare off half of my potential readers. — Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time

John and I would often kick this quote around while writing Dungeons & Dreamers. Of course we weren’t writing about the quantum nature of the universe, but we knew that too much talk of computer games and Dungeons & Dragons would scare off general readers. The more we focused on the history of games, the less we’d tell the story about the people who were making and playing the games.

Our story is decidedly about the people who played, and the communities those people built. Our reasoning was simple: If you want to understand the 21st century digital world, you need to understand how and why people use these virtual spaces to enhance their own lives.

Eleven years after the first edition and on the eve of the second edition, we can see how these games have seeped into meatspace more than ever. And one of the aspects that I want to capture on the blog is just how diverse those community interactions have become.

Unpaid bill in fantasy world carries enormous cost for ‘EVE’ players: “He wasn’t scheduled to work in real life Monday, so he spent the entire day sending virtual ships into the fray. He said dozens of his alliance members took off work to join the fight, which is being waged by more than 4,000 players — and spectated by thousands more on the game streaming service Twitch.”

Why I think I’ve tired of MMORPGs and what might change that…: “I want to be just someone fighting the good fight. Is that too much to ask? I play MMOs to play with others, not for the single person story line.”

Logan’s Run…the Run: “This February, The Multiverse Council brings you Logan’s Run, brought to life as an epic live-action street game in the alleys of San Francisco.”

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January: The Year of Focus Update

We know that the best way for humans to change their behavior patterns is through tracking mechanisms. If you want to lose weight, you have to count (somewhere) what you are eating. If you want to get stronger in the gym, you have to count what you are doing.

Without that tracking mechanism, we lose accountability.

So each month, I’ll update the blog with an summary analysis of what I have tried to do in the Year of Focus, in which I have laid out 4 broad goals.

Phase I: Know More

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

In just 6 weeks, Dungeons & Dreamers will hit the bookstores. You can order a signed copy today (with an eBook), you can wait for the book to hit stores, or you can sign up for our giveaway at Goodreads.

We’re giving away 10 copies of the book between February 1 and February 28. All you have to do is sign up, and then let the computers do the rest.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Dungeons & Dreamers by Brad  King

Dungeons & Dreamers

by Brad King

Giveaway ends February 28, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Don’t want to buy the book or enter the contest? You can also read the first part of the book here instead.

Thoughts about D&D from Across the Web

On February 1, we’ll launch a month-long contest on Goodreads. We’re giving away 10 pre-release copies of our book, Dungeons & Dreamers: A story of how computer games created a global community.

One of the narrative threads in the book is how the game Dungeons & Dragons influenced game developers for twenty years, and how the elements of community and storytelling from D&D have permeated virtual worlds.

In fact, it’s hard to understate how important the game has been beyond the world of computer games. In celebration of D&D’s birthday and its importance in understanding virtual culture, here’s an ever-growing list of people writing about their experiences with the game. (You can read the first part of the list here.)

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The Great Kingdom, a Documentary

**UPDATE** I was chatting with Andrew Pascal, who is producing this film, and he clarified a bit about The Great Kingdom. He’d been to my house to shoot footage for Dungeons & Dragons: The Documentary, but that is a different project than The Great Kingdom. So…we weren’t left on the cutting room floor for The Great Kingdom.**

Several months ago, we were interviewed for a documentary about Dungeons & Dragons. While it looks like our thread in the film ended up on the cutting room floor, the resulting film — The Great Kingdom — is gorgeous.

The Great Kingdom (Trailer) from The Great Kingdom on Vimeo.

This is the first look at our documentary, THE GREAT KINGDOM. It tells the story of the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, how its success affected the lives and families of those who created the game.

Thoughts from Across the Web on the 40th Anniversary of D&D

In just a few days, Dungeons & Dragons will celebrate its 40 anniversary, which has prompted people across the Web to reflect on what the game meant to them over the years.

Obviously, John and I have written a book about the impact of the game on computer game culture, which is one of the dominate digital entertainment forms of our lifetimes. We even hosted a little contest where people told us their favorite role-playing stories. But it’s interesting to read the game’s impact of individuals, whose stories all have similar themes.

I’d love to hear your stories and recollections about the impact of Dungeons & Dragons, or role-playing games, on your life.

Thinking Better with Machines, Part II

I’ve long ago given up arguing with people who say it’s not imperative to understand the history and philosophy of network software tools in order to use modern tools effectively.

I disagree with their point of view.

Certainly their lack of historical understanding doesn’t preclude them from using modern tools, but it radically decreases the likelihood that they will understand how these new networked software tools can best be used. Isaac Asimov has the best consideration of this topic in his seminal essay “The Relativity of Wrong.”

Fortunately, their arguments don’t hinder my ability to teach, and so my students have technological philosophy foisted upon them. My students are first introduced to Vannevar Bush, who argued in 1945 that we needed technology tools that help humans Think Better with Machines.

Then they are introduced to J.C.R. Licklider, who argued that we must consider how software and hardware tools can be used to better gather data and information so that humans can do what they do best: think and make decisions. If we use technology properly, we should have more — and better — information available at our fingertips.

The second part in my student’s exploration of social networks is my presentationEverything You Think about Social Networks is Wrong.

Thinking Better with Machines

I’ve been teaching a version of my Introduction to Social Media course since 2002. Throughout the years, I’ve vacillated between a course on thinking and a course on building a social website. After years of experimenting, I’ve finally settled on a course that explores how we can use social technologies to think better (with a nod to students then building a self-hosted WordPress site to house these processes.)

My absolute favorite lecture in this course is Thinking Better with Machines(Google Drive PPT with links and embedded videos), which is an exploration of the philosophies behind the construction of social technologies so that students can better consider how to use these powerful tools. Since I teach this course online, the syllabus and lectures are available to everyone, but I thought I’d post the Thinking Better with Machines lecture.

Dungeons & Dreamers: The Final Cover…Finalized

The geek world is atwitter as Dungeons & Dragons is turning 40. We are too, but mainly because our book about the game’s impact on the world of computers is turning 11.

Just like D&D Next, which reboots the tabletop game, Our Second Edition  of Dungeons & Dreamers is more than 25% new, radically re-organized, and brings the story of D&D and computers games full circle.

The book will be available in most retail stores in sometime in March, but you can pre-order the book and have it in your hands weeks before that.

Why would you do that, you ask? We’ll turn that over to the experts.

Dungeons & Dreamers tells the epic story of the rise of the games industry from its geeky roots to its mass market dominance. None of us who were there at the beginning had any expectations it would rise to overshadow all other communications media combined…but it has.” — Richard Garriott de Cayeux, creator of the Ultima franchise and creator of Shroud of the Avatar.

“Most people think social gaming started with MySpace and Facebook. Dungeons & Dreamers puts the lie to that myth. The community of gamers that led directly to the online social space we inhabit today got it’s start in the 70s, grew in the 80s and became a phenomenon in the 90s.” — Warren Spector, creator of Deus Ex and the Program Director, Denius-Sams Gaming Academy at the University of Texas at Austin.

For now, here’s a sneak peak at the new cover, courtesy of our designer Katelin Carter:


“The Truth about Dungeons & Dragons”

**Update**W.D Prescott  just posted that he just shared the video, and that DKlarations actually compiled it. I blame the Internet for communications, and we still think W.D. is awesome for sharing it.**

The video lays out one of the best (and most entertaining) explanations of the game. For years, I’ve tried to explain to people that dice, books, figurines, and all the extras aren’t really core to the game. They are part of a different type of D&D experience than the one I had.

Watch + learn:

The Winning Storytelling Competition Entries Are…

The new year is upon us, which means we’re just a few weeks away from the book nearing publication.

Before we get there, though, I wanted to announce the winners of our storytelling contest. The top 3 will receive a signed, print version of the book (and an eBook), and the 4th and 5th place winners will also receive a copy of the eBook.

While this sounds cliched, we really did have some great entries in our little competition (and we had a few stories given to us that people didn’t want entered). Personally I hate making decisions like this, but that’s how the dice are rolled.

Without further ado, The Top 3 entries, in no particular order:

  • Brian Green’s “Their Adventure Continues to This Day” was just the kind of happy love story that makes for a great end of the year read:
  • Marcin’s “The Last Game” was a heartfelt, melancholy story that reminds us to enjoy the moments that we have.
  • Chuck Hagerman’s “The Tarnished Paladin” reminds us just how much control DMs have over their games. (Also: bonus points for playing the game over the phone!)

Our Honorable Mention, in no particular order:

Thanks to everyone who entered the competition, retweeted it, shared it on Facebook, and generally have been supportive as we head towards launch. Even if you didn’t win, you can still purchase your own copy of the book AND receive it before it hits retail shelves.

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