The next issue of Suspense and Decision will be Issue # 14 Anticipated Publication Date: September 2016



Monday, April 7, 2014

Play By Mail: Getting your game on for the 21st century!

7:01 AM

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Welcome to our humble abode!

We occupy a very small space on the real estate map of play by mail gaming. We are but a single location out of many possible PBM destination spots that you could have chosen to go to. We appreciate you dropping in, and our hope is that you will explore our site a bit, and take in at least some of what we have to offer potential visitors to this, our site.

Most of the sites on the Internet that deal with the subject of play by mail gaming pertain to either a certain game, or to a particular stable of games being run by a particular company. Our site, however, isn't quite so specific in our orientation. We are, I suppose, what one might call a bit more general in our orientation.

At times, it feels as though our site is too small to even qualify for a cameo appearance on the proverbial Twilight Zone of your everyday life. Play by mail gaming is older than many who use the Internet, today. For some, it is a form of gaming entertainment that strikes them as being a bit dated. Yet, does being entertained really ever go out of style?

The 21st Century, this century that we're all living in, right now, has much to offer the gamer in any of us. My son regularly plays Minecraft, and he has his eye on obtaining Grand Theft Auto V. He is a video gamer, for sure - although he has enjoyed a few computer games, over the course of his eight years. Notably, there's a Jurassic Park Survival map for Warcraft III that comes to mind. My son is not a play by mail gamer, though to be certain, his dad has had an active interest in the hobby for just under three decades.

As one who edits and publishes a magazine, Suspense & Decision, I regularly ponder all sorts of things. Some of it likely is pretty much what David Webber (of Paper Mayhem fame) and Carol Mullholland (of Flagship fame) would have thought about, in their roles as editors of their respective PBM magazines.

I dare say, however, that some of the things that I ponder were likely never on the mind of David or Carol - though the end result of what I seek to accomplish by thinking about such things was probably something very much on their minds throughout the course of their lives as magazine editors.

In the old days of play by mail gaming, one simply had to become aware of a PBM game, and then sign up for it. In the contemporary age, nothing has changed, as far as that goes. The difference lies in how one becomes aware, in the first place.

So, one of the things that we do here at PlayByMail.Net is to try and raise awareness.

The name of this article is Play By Mail: Getting your game on for the 21st Century! So, what - exactly and specifically - does that even mean?

It means that PBM is not dead, that play by mail is not extinct. But, it also means more - far more - than just that.

For us at PlayByMail.Net, it has special meaning. It means upping the ante on our unceasing efforts to raise awareness of PBM as a valid and viable form of entertainment for a modern society of gamers. And the HOW associated with doing that is heavily implicated in the proposition of getting our game on, where play by mail gaming is concerned, in this day and age.

So, of late, I find myself doing research and studying all sorts of things, and I end up looking at all sorts of numbers in the process. Along the way, I try to sift through all of those numbers, in an attempt to discern what matters from what doesn't.

Did David Webber ever concern himself with Google page rank? Did Carol Mulholland ever worry herself to death over long tail keywords for search engine optimization purposes? Somehow, I doubt it. Publishing a PBM magazine was work, enough, I imagine. Who needs the headaches associated with all of that other stuff?

For PBM companies and game moderators, having turn-based games that run off of programming code probably helps to keep things running smooth. They receive turn orders, and they process turn results. How much easier their lives would be, if they didn't have to worry about marketing their games. It's the "other stuff" that invariably wears you down. It's the "other stuff" that proves to be endlessly tiring. And for what reward?

And, so, much like them, I find myself dealing with all sorts of "other stuff." Do I neglect it? Or do I pay it some attention? If none of it really matters, this "other stuff" that I am talking about, then why am I bothering with it, to begin with?

Why, indeed!

I mess with it - I involve myself with it -for the very simple reason that I think that it's important, in the overall scheme of things, where play by mail gaming is concerned. It is integral to getting our game on, for play by mail, both as a hobby and as an industry of entertainment - and does not become any the less important, just because many across the industry may choose to focus their energy and their attention elsewhere or on other things.

It is important for PlayByMail.Net to get its game on for the 21st Century, not for the sake of Flying Buffalo or Agema or Alamaze. The play by mail industry is bigger than the name brands associated with it. The true vitality of the hobby runs through them, and others like them, to be certain - but, its headwaters emanate from none of them, either individually or collectively.

The enduring vitality of of PBM gaming lies where it always has - with the individual gamer. And the importance of the individual gamer is not diminished, simply because we entered the 21st Century a few years back. There will always be technology to be sorted through. There will always exist change to come to terms with. But, where play by mail games are concerned, where turn-based gaming, itself, is concerned, the individual gamer remains the focal point of importance.

In gaming, as with many things in life, relevance matters. Trying to determine PlayByMail.Net's relevance from looking at an assortment of numbers, is an exercise akin to reading tea leaves. What am I looking at, and HOW and WHY is it relevant to WHAT we are and WHERE we are trying to get to?

It requires a sleuth, and I'm no Sherlock Holmes. Hey! How come there were never any PBM games about Sherlock Holmes, anyway?

From time to time, part of the feedback that I get about the magazine end of things, Suspense & Decision, is that I should be careful about getting burned out. More than once, in fact, I have been encouraged to cut the size of the magazine, and to reduce the frequency of its publication. Such advice is well-intended, I'm sure. Yet, it fails to take into account the underlying math of why I do it.

Have I ever gotten burned out, playing PBM games? Oh, sure. Yep. Absolutely. Positively.

Have I ever gotten tired of writing about play by mail gaming? Never.

It is a subject that commands my attention and my interest. That others do not fully grasp or appreciate that interest, or that they may sometimes underestimate it, does not alter the underlying equation. The numbers of the math associated with that equation remain the same, regardless of how one chooses to look at them.

The same holds true for getting our game on with play by mail gaming, going forward even further into the 21st Century.

Certain numbers hold the key to success. These numbers of which I speak do not change. They never change.


So, while I look at numbers an awful lot, that is not to say that every number matters, or that the numbers that I am looking at on any given moment are due the weight that they seek to give themselves, simply by virtue of them being numbers.

When all is said and done, the number that matters most is the number one. This site, the entirety of it, is all geared towards getting just one person interested in the subject of play by mail gaming, in order to try it. On a purely personal level, it really doesn't matter to me which PBM game that you are interested in - as long as you are interested in at least one.

Because, if I can't reach just one, then everything else is irrelevant. And, if I reach just one, and succeed at that level, the industry and the hobby of PBM gaming will be all the better, for it.

If that number grows beyond one, then it's simply icing on the cake.

Why does play by mail gaming, this PBM that I often speak of, retain my interest, after almost three decades of first becoming aware of it?

Quite plain and simply, because PBM is a lot of fun.

An awful lot.

1 comments:

  1. Well said, Grim - the passion comes through.

    I suggest a chance to reach potential players is to change the name of the hobby from "PBM", which or course it was in the 1980's, to "Episodic Strategy Gaming". I don't think "Play by Mail" does either those of us who understand the term in its historical place, or those who might enjoy the games they have yet to discover, any justice, and is in fact a drag on progress, and just lazy to keep calling it something like "The Horseless Carriage."

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