Even if City of Angles is finished (and you’ll definitely want to finish it yourself if you haven’t already) there’s plenty cooking here at the Fiction Factory.
I’ve been doing considerable research and preproduction work on Floating Point. This is a pretty ambitious undertaking for me, dangerously so, because I’m planning to turn a magnifying glass on the Internet and reproduce its various ills through the scope of a scifi cyberpunk setting. There’s been plenty of juicy content lately for those who want to study online mob mentality — crowdsourced purging of unorthodox thought, systemic campaigns of character assassination and harassment, e-sleuths seeking justice against real and perceived slights.
Honestly, I’m a bit concerned that this story is going to be a mistake for two reasons.
- I may end up being targeted for daring to suggest that loosely organized mobs of enraged individuals are probably not the most impartial juries around. Hopefully by speaking in parallel parable through a fictional setting, rather than directly talking about a specific issue — because the specifics aren’t important, honestly, only the overall patterns — I won’t earn the ire of some website or another. The goal is not to slam the left, right, or middle of your favorite bugaboo issue, it’s to slam the slam itself.
- I might be a lousy writer and simply screw up my presentation of a very tangled and thorny issue. This actually worries me more, that I’ll give it short shrift and end up doing more harm than good as a result. But, if I’m ever gonna GROW as a writer, I need to be willing to tackle bigger fish than just themes of “People should be nice to each other!”. I’m eager to get out of the perceived YA ghetto and even if I may never get there because I really enjoy writing Special Young People characters, grappling with serious issues is still a good start.
Odds are I’m gonna throttle back my plans a bit — use the seeds from reality to plant a scifi tale, a context and framework, while focusing in on these particular characters and their lives as the lion’s share of the text. And that’s fine too, since anything that’s 100% about insane beheading revolutionaries is probably not gonna be enjoyable to read. I AM trying to entertain along with my ponderances, after all. I suppose we’ll get a better idea of how this hot mess will work as things start to come together.
For a lighter side of mob rule, let’s look at a game I’ve been playing the hell out of lately: Town of Salem.
If you’ve ever played Mafia or Werewolf, it’s basically a quick ‘n casual implementation of that type of mechanic. Everybody has a secret role, some are working against the town, some are working for the town, you have to suss out your enemies and deal with them before they deal with you. Because it’s browser-based and free to play you get an amazing smorgasboard of idiots, lulzy trolls, incompetents, serious players, comedians, and more — and that chaos actually helps feed the game, since you have to play off everybody’s wildly diverse personalities and attitudes in addition to playing off the in-game mechanical rules.
Here’s an example. In one game, I was an Executioner, secretly tasked to getting Bob lynched. I cajoled and pushed the crowd to kill him, which was easy because he was immediately taking charge and throwing out tons of theories, annoying them… until he declared he was a Sheriff, someone who can correctly identify roles, and he did have solid evidence on another player. Now the crowd trusted him. But the Executioner has a secondary trick… if your target is killed by someone else, you become a Jester, who wins by getting himself lynched. So when the mafia inevitably came after the Sherrif and killed him… I looked suspect. Perfect! I screamed and ranted and yelled at everyone and played like I was guilty of being a mafioso and getting desperately defensive about it. The crowd immediately killed me… and as a Jester, that meant I won. Huzzah!
Studying manipulation, crowd direction, and negativity through a positive and wacky game-themed light can be just as useful as reading acres of articles about the dire social situation of the Internet. It also keeps you from going insane. I encourage folks to check out the game, give it a few rounds, see what you think. It’s free to play (pay cosmetics only) so why nots.
Next week I’ll be back on the blog with more Floating Point news and other issues to discuss. In my exit poll readers indicated they wanted to know more about my views on writing tropes, so we’ll likely start there; also you’re keen on “off-topic” views on games, movies, life, philosophy, what not. I shall provide, if that is what ye seek.