Yaruki Zero Podcast #8: Subcultural Contexts


In this episode I talk about the referential nature of geek subcultures, and how that affects and can be used by role-playing games. Nerds naturally reference stuff, and use that to communicate better by generating a shared subculture. The question is, how can RPGs take full advantage of that, in both play and design? This is another solo episode, because in some ways I like doing those better, despite the fact that it’s harder to come up with good topics for them.

Yaruki Zero Podcast #8 (42 minutes, 17 seconds)

Show Notes

  1. Introduction
  2. Intertextuality of Geek Subcultures
  3. Big Setting Games
  4. Otaku Culture
  5. Using and Creating Subcultural Contexts

This podcast uses selections from the song “Click Click” by Grünemusik, available for free from Jamendo.com. If you like the song, consider buying some CDs from Nankado’s website.

Very awesome caricature of Ewen courtesy of the talented C. Ellis.


12 thoughts on “Yaruki Zero Podcast #8: Subcultural Contexts

    1. Series/comics/whatever about otaku generally are. Akihabara@DEEP is very much like that too, not to mention Lucky Star, Dramacon, and Aoi House.

  1. Nice lecture, another fine example of a “shared world” might be one of the first- the Cthulhu mythos. Because of H.P. Lovecraft’s love of correspondence and networking with fellow fantasy writers, people took Lovecraft’s bleak setting and added on to it more and more, some making it a little more heroic than intended, and others more silly. It also helps that Cthulhu is *mostly* in the public domain.

    About “Fanguides”, or at least the one we tried to do, I think we can take some lessons from it at least from where I saw it:

    1. “In case of an emergency, tell the children in the school bus the following: Sit Down. Shut up.”
    Our group’s style is very chaotic, and we didn’t have much time to devote to the game. It was very easy to miss important things, sub plots or chances to interact with the other characters when there would be 2-3 in-character and out of character discussions and interruptions going on at the same time. A little more order and time so everyone gets a shot might go a long way so we know what is going on when when we take those scenes and put them to paper.

    2. Make the rewards meaningful. From what I saw some characters jacked their focused scores rather high- no real need to earn a lot of points because they’re at the top and might not want to branch out. Some other characters were able to do lots of things already. On top of that, the points given were rather spare – if only one or two points per session were given to only to one or two players and you needed 5 points to make something useful is very daunting. Offering a variety of in-game rewards might do the trick. Get back what you put in and all that jazz.

    3. Keep the ball rolling. Although no fault of the fan book idea was the constant delays and cancellations of sessions that I believed to lose a good deal of momentum into the project. One of my chief rules for gaming is “Real Life gets priority” of course, but why do this for rewards we will never be able to use since it takes forever to get people together?

    I’ll personally try to keep these in mind as I’m toying with the idea of making a replay to share to others.

    Once again, keep up the good work. More and more you’re breaking my “I don’t listen to single person podcasts” rule.

    1. It’s been a while since we last did stuff like that, so I hadn’t considered that it was indeed just in general a pain to try to keep track of everything that went on in the game well enough to write it down. This makes me wonder whether the medium of RPGs (at least as we play them) is suited to elaborate stories in the first place.

      I actually haven’t yet listened to a solo podcast I didn’t like. Of course, they’re rare enough that I’ve only ever found two, Have Games, Will Travel (which is one of the better gaming podcasts period), and Wap Caplets. The thing that turns me off of podcasts is when they’re overly long, but if I passed up every podcast that ran an hour or more (IMHO 20-40 minutes is the sweet spot) I wouldn’t have very many to listen to.

      1. I never really had a problem keeping up with the details. My issue with that kind of project is that there’s no reason to do it, persay. I’m playing in the story, so I already know what happened. I don’t need it re-iterated to me. Nor do I need to bother with writing it down to remember.

        Without any particular need to transcribe the details and no real significant reward for doing so, it became a huge chore. I don’t *want* homework in a game. It’s not fun to have to do bookkeeping while I’m not playing the game, so I never once looked forward to writing about our adventures.

        If anything, it was punishment for actually paying attention to the story. If I knew what was going on, then I became a valid target to dump the workload on. It was much better to simply goof off and not pay attention to anything, since it also came with the benefit of freedom.

        It’s obvious that some of us have more fun doing things than others, which is why this kind of project fails. Not everyone thinks it’s fun at all.

      2. I don’t doubt that you were able to remember what was going on if you say as much, but that’s definitely *not* the impression I got from the group overall. Details were continually being lost, and as often as not there were one or two people drifting off from the game for one reason or another. It was partly because people had had such a hard time remembering stuff during the prior campaign (myself included) that I came up with the idea in the first place.

        You’re definitely correct that it’s not fun for everyone, and that’s yet another reason why I’m thinking that any kind of archiving needs to be relatively seamless with the process of play. Although you say you don’t like doing “homework” in a game, the many hours you spend contemplating optimization options for D&D characters suggests that it’s more a matter of having particular tastes in such. It needs to be directly relevant to how the game is played, and the fan guide was decidedly not.

        Also, next time something is that unfun for you, please say so sooner, doubly so if it becomes a disincentive to fully participate in the game. It doesn’t seem like many people were really aware that anyone felt that way, as evidenced by how Mike Classic felt it appropriate to start a similar wiki for the D&D game, which has since been totally abandoned. I would’ve happily abandoned the fan guide, taken it on as my own solo job, or some other compromise, if I had been told.

  2. Hello Ewen,

    Good job there with episode 8 of the podcast. I listen to YKZ regularly as soon as I get an opportunity. Yesterday I listened to episode 8 on my MP3 player while walking around town, going to the post office to send away our office mail, and so on. I find the concept of replays as books more and more interesting. Do you think published, printed “replays” of game modules/adventures could sell in another country than Japan? I have seen the Queen’s Blade covers on Flying Buffalo’s website (an old friend of mine also used to play the original Lost Worlds a lot), but I wish I knew the video games from Japan you brought up. Those sound like a lot of fun.

    I have my own podcast in Germany that I hope to have something new recorded for shortly. By the way, selected episodes, specials and interviews will be recorded in English. It’s a bilingual podcast about comicbooks, movies, and games.

    Have a great day,

    1. Thank you for listening! :3

      Replays came about in Japan in part because of the way the subculture developed. Over there the need to be able to grasp how to play without having a mentor to teach you was and still is much more pressing. It’s that much harder to organize games in Japan, and I suspect some of the appeal of replays is in keeping some semblance of the RPG experience. I don’t think it impossible for replays to catch on in Western countries, but a lot of the factors that made them so integral to the hobby in Japan are absent in the U.S. (and I guess Europe too?) It also occurs to me that in a way technology has leapfrogged replays. If you want to share your game experience, it’s now relatively easy and cheap to set up a recorder while you play, edit the result into an MP3, and throw it up on a website for people to download.

      But mostly, replays just haven’t been tried in the West, and hardly anyone knows what they are. As I mentioned in the Japanese RPGs podcast, Jason Morningstar is thinking about doing one for his game Fiasco, and I’m very seriously considering doing some for my own game projects as well. More people need to experiment with and learn the medium, and we need to get the term to become a part of the lexicon of at least some part of the gamer subculture.

      I don’t know any German, so I will have to wait for you to do episodes in English, but I’ll have to remember to check them out when you do.

      1. Thanks for the reply. As for the replays, I see your point. I’d like to record one of my game sessions myself, but so far, I’m the only person in my gaming group who has come to appreciate gaming podcasts, including the actual play shows. My players are a difficult lot to deal with, and I think they would be none to happy about having their voices recorded and listened to on the web. On the other hand, I myself have no shame whatsoever and think about recording things all the time.

        On a related note, there are Western replay books. You can get several Tunnels & Trolls novels and story arcs from Noble Knight Games which are technically typescripts made from the actual T&T game sessions. I’ve only read the advertising for them, lacking the cash to buy them. Allegedly they do contain every word spoken, every action, every skill check and every die roll made during those sessions.

        I guess I should divide my podcast into an all-German feed and an all-English feed, so people can find the international portions of the podcast instantly.

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