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May 12, 2008


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Craig: I think your use of "Myst" in relation to Spurgeon's comments about "videogames and roleplaying games" is looking in the wrong direction. Chippendale's work seems a lot closer to the Dungeons & Dragons of old where there is no conclusions, no slick graphics, and it was primarily an exercise in wandering about and dealing with whatever showed up in your path. Actually much of Matt Brinkman's work seems even closer to this.


I dunno, I spent most of my D&D days as a dungeon master, and I was keen on building up environments that cohered on many levels, rather than just putting players through random encounters with "whatever showed up in [their] path." My ideal was always a larger campaign with a greater goal, not just wandering about. To be honest, the ideal was usually hard to reach -- playing D&D was a major time commitment, and it was hard to keep one group of players together for any length of time -- but I liked to put a lot of backstory into each campaign.

I don't get that same sense of coherent world-building from MAGGOTS, which to me feels more diaristic in form.

OTOH, I do think that reading the pages of MAGGOTS feels like wandering through an obscure, barely-torchlit subterranean realm; it's very D&D-like in setting, if only because Chippendale's palimpsest technique requires him to lay a lot of black over those catalog pages. And there are those occasional trapdoors, or other vague portals, in the book, which characters keep passing through; that too strikes me as D&D-like.

I was looking at NINJA last night, and it struck me that some of the pages (endpapers, or interchapters) were drawn over gridded paper. That too reminded me of D&D: we used to draw up character stats, and especially dungeon environments, on graph paper. The difference with Chippendale, though, is that the Panter-esque love of pure mark-making tends to work against the desire for verisimilitude, that is, the desire for a cohesive (and immersive) physical environment. It seems to me a lot of RPG players are striving for such immersive environments, whereas Chippendale is often engaged in a kind of automatic drawing, in which sheer physical output is more important that cohesiveness.

Derik, thanks for your comment. Craig, sorry for speaking out of turn! :)


I'm not saying that the world building, larger plot-type of D&D didn't go on, just that the really early stuff seemed much more geared to the "wandering through an obscure, barely-torchlit subterranean realm" that you mention (which is what I was thinking of in this regards).

It seems to me some of Chippendale's work (not necessarily Maggots, moreso Ninja and the Galacticrap minis) aims at an illusion of that world-building verisimilitude. He has the markers of some greater world coherence, but you never quite get the feeling it's all there.

Craig Fischer

Nobody's speaking out of turn, of course. I'm just glad to hear from Derik, and I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond. (I've been off the Net all weekend.)

Anyway, Derik, you're right that MYST is a poor example of what Tom was getting at when he described Fort Thunder's "video game" aesthetic. (If I'm not mistaken, Tom mentions Brinkman explicitly when he talks about this aesthetic, right?) I chose MYST for my example because it's really the only "video game" (to use the phrase loosely) I've ever really got lost in, but I realize it's an old and rickety example. (Derik, have you read EVERYTHING BAD IS GOOD FOR YOU? I'd love to read your take on its discussion of video games.)

Charles, your comments about Chippendale's "automatic writing" are fascinating because they show another dialect in Chippendale's art. My argument was that MAGGOTS walks a tightrope between promising us immersion in a narrative, fictional world and not giving us enough information to build that world in our minds; to do so--according to CH--Chippendale relies on tropes borrowed from popular media and genres (video games, D&D) but then undermines these tropes through his "automatic writing" style. Interesting!

Thanks again for writing, Derik. I read your blog religiously (including the "Future Manifesto" stuff), and I appreciate that you've been a real TB supporter from the start. If we ever meet in person, I'll buy you dinner and talk your ear off about David Bordwell's NARRATION AND THE FICTION FILM..!

PS: I haven't seen the GALACTICRAP minis, but I'm hoping to buy them at the PictureBox table at this year's Heroes Con...


Wow, thanks, Craig. I'm always glad to find out there are more readers out there than I think. I've really been enjoying Thought Balloonists from the get go. I wish I could maintain just quality and consistency.

I have read Everything Bad is Good for You (it's a freshman comp choice at my Univ. so I read it for reference purposes). I'm still not a big videogame fan, but I appreciate his argument.

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