Movies.

I know for a lot of folks, it’s books, but for me, it’s film and television. I’m a visual guy and I grew up going to the movies with my dad as a treat, then later escaped to the theater to get away from reality with the likes of Indiana Jones, Mad Max Rockitansky, the Goonies, and James Bond.

I learned the three act structure from movies. Learned that doing an action game could easily use the “three exotic locations for an action set piece” with exposition between of Bond movies. I learned when characters worked, and when they didn’t, and how to set a beat for a scene. This is too short, this is too long. Keep it simple. Move the story.

I went through a period in the late ’80s of getting into comics, and running superhero games. The tone, the beats, and the way to structure a campaign required a rethinking. Longer arcs, but more episodic in nature. This fed into the ’90s, where I started running longer campaigns, rather than ones that lasted a few months. This required a different type of thinking. Instead of organizing a game like a movie, or a series of movies, I started thinking in terms of television series.

About the same time, series that had overall story arcs that were (generally) well-planned were starting to show up. Hill Street BluesSaint Elsewhere, and the granddaddy of well-planned arcs, Babylon 5.

After Bond movies, Babylon 5 was probably the biggest influence on how I game, at least from the notion of having a metaplot that the characters can affect, and the effect of which also change the world and the characters.

There have been other movies and shows that have served as inspiration for our games, and a few books — some of Ray Kurzweil’s stuff from decades ago, the Flashman series heavily informed my Castle Falkenstein games, Greek myth always seems to creep in.

But from how I plot, to how I manage a scene between players, to how I describe things — “Smash cut to the plane over ocean superimposed on a map…” or “We pan down to see your characters moving through the building…” — movies are still my go-to inspiration for games.

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