27th August 2000
HELLO, good evening and welcome to issue 50 of Octopus's Garden, the subzeen with its very own semi-century special editorial. An html version of this subzeen is available on the Web at http://www.manorcon.demon.co.uk/octopus/index.html. It's also sent to the TAP mailing list, which you can join automatically by sending the message 'subscribe tap' to email@example.com. The message 'unsubscribe tap' sent to the same address will get you off the mailing list.
I can't be bothered to include the general opening cliches about how the Internet has affected society, and in any case I'm tired of them as much as you are. What we need, as Sam Goldwyn suggested, is some new cliches. So, I'll just wade into the main theme of this piece. In our Internet society, who are the potential citizens of a modern postal games hobby?
Firstly, there are the Luddites and neo-Luddites. (I'm not sure exactly what neo-Luddites are, unless they are Luddities who go around with a big neon sign above their head saying "I am a Luddite." However, the idea of using such new technology as a Luddite is almost self-contradictaory - similar in concept to the Amish web site.)
Secondly, and possibly overlapping the first group, there are the Tactilists. These are the people for whom, as per Marshel Mcleun, the medium is the message. Part of the pleasure of reading a zeen, and even more of producing it, are the physical atttributes involved.
Of course, editors who use mimeo (who are, in the UK, now down to zero I believe, with the fold of Springboard), also have the physical reality of the mimeograph to deal with. To steal a quote from William Whyte, the process of watching a mimeograph machine is somewhat akin to the way a God of a deterministic universe must feel - every part is chugging away doing what it's meant to do, and you understand what every part contributes to the whole process. Of course, the God of a deterministic universe never had to deal with a paper jam, so we must be careful not to enter the realms of over-extended metaphor.
Potentially, modern society is more condusive to Tactilists than in the heady days of the mid-1980s. Office supplies and stationary shops are now part of our mall-based shopping culture, on both sides of the Atlantic. With the possible exception of bookshops, there is probably nowhere that my wife and I will spend as long looking around a shop together as Staples and/or Office World. I occasionally wonder about re-starting a zeen solely so that I can have an excuse to buy those reams of neon-coloured paper (does this make me a neo-Tactilist?) , or the ingenious little device for securing pages with their own punched selves rather than use a staple. Usually, a cold shower is all that is needed to stifle these unnatural urges.
The third group are the Slow-and-Steadies. With the aging of the hobby, the phrase "get a life" is no longer necessarily an insult, but rather a description of the process we have gone through. Matrimony, children and especially work loom much larger in the life of the average hobbyist compared to 1985 or even 1972.
Ironically, in the 24/7 culture of technology and "Internet time," the ability of gamers to remain focused on things for hours at a time that are ostensibly pointless is what has lead a disproportionate number of them into IT as a career. And gamers in general (zeen editors in particualr) have already got used to bashing away at a keyboard in the early hours of the morning. The difference is, of course, that no-one ever became a dot.com millionaire from designing variant rules for the War of the Ring.
The Slow-and-Steadies have a lifestyle where the Hobby is a relatively small part of their lives, and one which has to defer to other priorities. Therefore, a game of Diplomacy with 3 or 6-weekly deadlines instead of 48-72 hour deadlines available on the Judges is ostensibly attractive to them.
However, because many of the Slow-and-Steadies have access to the technology, they are unlikely to remain as pure postal gamers. If only because the Internet and new technology generally are so much part of their lives, that they will use these channels almost by default. It's only if they have also Luddite or Tactlist tendancies that they will stay with the postal zeen scene, instead of the high-tech/slow-pace combo option offered by such as our own erstwhile editor.
So, is a hobby made up of a combination of Luddites, Tactilists and Slow and Steadies viable? I believe that it is. The postal games hobby in both the British Isles and North America were probably at their peak, both in terms of players and zeens, during the mid to late 1980s. We shall not see those sorts of numbers again, not in a purely postal scenario. But, if the postal games hobby can live in symbiosis with its upstart e-mail cousin, it can both survive and thrive with its three potential client groups.
For Round 12, you may enter up to 4 races. Could you all let me have Round Twelve orders by FRIDAY, 15th SEPTEMBER, 2000 to Peter Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
GOOCH: Are you aware that, by using the @ symbol to denote special races, you have (in the e-mail version) converted Race 33 into an e-mail address? It's underscored and highlighted in blue on my screen - am I being asked to send it a message asking if it would like to have me enter? (Doesn't work with Race 35, however, presumably because the @ comes first and not in the middle.)
TURN - All: Suddenly things are looking up. Second place, here I come!
GOOCH: Well - I tried sending the message, and indeed Race 33 wishes me to enter, so...
TURN - PEAT: Sorry about the builds last time, but you have to admit they're paying off.
GOOCH: In the past week I have:
(There is no reason to suppose that the two are related.)
I'm sure you're thoroughly excited by these facts, particularly the third....
Note that TSR and BOURBON have an XRP in races 25/26 (TSR uses BOUBON's track in 25, BOURBON uses TSR's track in 26), but that they both also entered the "other" race individually. For Round 11, you may enter up to 4 races and build up to 6 physical points of track (i.e. payments to rivals do not count against the limit, although of course you still pay them.) Could you all let me have Round Eleven orders by FRIDAY, 15th SEPTEMBER , 2000 to Peter Sullivan, email@example.com
BOURBON: A park employee just died and two others got badly scalded when they fell into a hot spring I used to visit in Yellowstone. So I have no humor or chitchat to offer right now.
RULE QUESTION: (no rush, I'm not gonna change this turn based on the answer): Must an XRP involve only one race on each player's track, or could it include more such as "I use 20 hexes of his track race 2, he uses 15 hexes of my track race 4 and 5 hexes of my track race 6"?
GENEVA: I will check with David Watts if necessary, but I am sure the correct answer is that an XRP (eXchange of Running Powers) must be a straight one-for-one swap - you can't have one race on one side and two on the other. Of course, in the above specific scenario, there is nothing to stop the players doing the XRP for race 2 and 4, and the player just paying as normal for the track in race 6 (as it is less than ten). Bear in mind that the XRP for different races in the same round is purely a postal oddity - it isn't possible in the face-to-face game, where the XRP must be for the same race.
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