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Ideas for increasing the popularity of PBM
#1
"PBM needs to be experienced rather than explained."

- Tod Lewark


So, who is Tod Lewark? Well, I never met him. I don't know him. I never knew him. Yet, here I am, quoting him. Go Tod!

The quote in question is from an article titled "The PBM Manifesto," which appeared in Issue # 84 of Paper Mayhem magazine. It was an article sub-titled "Ideas for increasing the popularity of PBM." That was a little over 13 years, ago. Fast forward to the present date.Tod was right, you know. There really is no good way to explain play by mail. It inevitably tends to come across as dry, tedious, and boring. The subject tends to get bogged down in a swamp of details, as one grasps for straws necessary to explain the concept to average, ordinary people.

In that article, Tod also suggested that, "For the good of the PBM hobby, every player, company and magazine should promote and publicize PBM in any way possible, especially outside the gaming hobby.

"Tod makes a lot of sense, you know. Or, at least, he did, all those many years ago. Tod's words of wisdom have outlived even the very publication that they appeared in - Paper Mayhem. It is unfortunate, indeed, that Paper Mayhem is no longer with us. Long live Paper Mayhem!

So, does anyone know where Tod Lewark is, these days? Is he still around, I wonder? Why did no one ever make a Tod Lewark PBM game, anyway? Ah, the opportunities that we have missed, lads and lasses. The opportunities missed, indeed!

Here I am, trying to follow Tod Lewark's advice, and good old Tod is nowhere in sight. Well, at least, I think that this site - PlayByMail.Net - qualifies as "promoting" PBM. What do you think?

So, it seems that I have answered Tod's call - even though I read his words after I started the website. But, we can still give Tod the credit, if you like.

And that brings us to you. Tell me, ye fellow denizen of play by mail, what are you doing to promote and to publicize PBM? Toss off your respective veils of secrecy, and enlighten those of us gathered here in the light of the present day of your noble undertakings and tales of derring-do.

The mad scientist, Mark Wardell of PBM Gamer fame, can be heard late into the night, conducting bizarre experiments with creating a PBM wiki. I just hope that he doesn't call it Frankenwiki.

And Sean Cleworth of Gad Games has agreed to stick his neck through the hoop of a PlaybyMail.Net interview. The guillotine should drop on that one fairly soon, I think.

And Walter? Well, good old Walt is thinking about creating a PBM game of his own.

But, what about the rest of you? Are you out there? Are you reading this? Are you listening? Will you answer the call?

Don't just do it for yourself. Do it for Tod - Tod Lewark.

He's not James Bond. Hell, he's not even Gold Bond. But, he did feel a bond for PBM gaming, and he felt it to be a form and a medium of gaming that was well worth preserving.

All hail Tod Lewark!
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#2
Personally I have often informed people of my hobby and how I play. Some times there is the reaction "oh its games is it" till I explain a bit more about it how it works and the types of games available. Then its how much is it to play or thats sounds quite interesting and they ask for some deatils of places they can look on the web.

Some will remain to be convinced or even consider I take the hobby seriously and think of thier nerdy mates playing D&D at school.

But on the whole the usual reply is positive.....
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#3
You could have tried Google. That's how I found this thread. I'm Tod Lewark (with one d).
I appreciate your appreciation. That's about the only feedback I ever got on that article, which took me ten days to write. I never heard from David Webber ( who was busy dying), but a few months later there was my article in an issue. I think I got a free one year subscription. I'd like to have a copy of the article in some form, as my magazines were damaged in a flood, and the original is on a floppy for an Atari 800XL computer which may also have been damaged. Maybe you should post it on this site. When I Googled Paper Mayhem, I saw a result where someone claimed to have all the rights to the PM material, but I never signed anything about transferring rights. I just sent off the article because I had something to say, and any small magazine always needs filler.
I haven't played PBM since I finished the game I was playing when I got married 8 years ago, but will go back to it when I retire in a few years, if not sooner. I'm out of touch with the current scene.
I was one of the top ten players in Nuclear Destruction, from Flying Buffalo. It was the earliest PBM game, and is still running. The mechanics of play were so simple (it was originally programmed on a 4K Raytheon computer that used paper tape) that the maneuvering and diplomacy became the star of the show. Simple but subtle. And cheap. I played a dozen or so other games over the years (since 1977) (I could rarely find chess opponents, not that I'm very good), but my all-time favorite was A National Will, from Simcoarum Systems in Salt Lake City. The premise was that to field a strong military, you need a strong economy. Theoretically, you could win without fighting. It was not super detailed as some games are, just enough that you had to have agricultural labor to produce food points, and a food point, oil point, and iron point to produce a tech unit, and so on. The military was just ships and soldiers, I think with tech levels. The various maps were fictional. The moderator was collecting material for a WWI version when they just gave up. He had trouble getting programming done by the partner who was doing that (they were all part-timers with real jobs), and I think they saw increasing competion coming from video games. I don't know of anyone who got rich doing PBM. I considered it once, but I'm not a programmer, and you can imagine what the banker thought when I wanted to borrow $1,000 for a PC to run games in the late 90's.
Anyway, if we had a game something like that, maybe where the food module or soldier module or whatever could have more detail in the advanced levels according to the player's interest, updated to the modern era, with computer NPCs until there is a large group of experienced players, that's the game in which I want to see the scores of the presidential candidates every four years. I think it would quickly weed out the blatherers and nitwits, and we'd have some capable candidates to choose from. Let them all play out their pet theories in the media for months, and we'll find some things that would actually work. That's one good thing about PBM, it calls for long-term real time planning and pondering, not quick shoot-'em-up reactions.
And yes, I assure you that I will be a benevolent despot when the time comes to acclaim me Emperor.
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#4
One "d" it is, then, Tod.

Welcome aboard! Glad to have you join us here.

You still have time to squeeze in an article submission for the new PBM magazine, if you hurry. It doesn't have to be a lengthy on, necessarily - though that's preferred, of course.
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#5
(11-16-2013, 03:16 PM)GrimFinger Wrote:  One "d" it is, then, Tod.

Welcome aboard! Glad to have you join us here.

You still have time to squeeze in an article submission for the new PBM magazine, if you hurry. It doesn't have to be a lengthy on, necessarily - though that's preferred, of course.

Can someone post that article here? Or reprint it in the upcoming magazine?
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#6
(11-16-2013, 03:16 PM)GrimFinger Wrote:  One "d" it is, then, Tod.

Welcome aboard! Glad to have you join us here.

You still have time to squeeze in an article submission for the new PBM magazine, if you hurry. It doesn't have to be a lengthy on, necessarily - though that's preferred, of course.
It has been 15 years since I read the article I wrote (which was a long one), but I expect most of what I said still applies, and ought to be reprinted. Look how it inspired you. I quit playing about six years later (Dad died, property sold, moved, got married, it really diverts your time, money, and energy) , and don't have much new to say. I hope you have a copy, because I probably don't. As for publishing rights, I never signed anything giving them up. Just mailed the article in and it was printed. If there was nothing in the fine print of the Paper Mayhem masthead about printing rights, then I should still have them. I sort of expected some kind of letter back first, but he just printed it.
It would be good to have a look back at the origins and high points of the past. Though my article was looking forward, none of that has come to pass, and the great potential of PBM remains unfulfilled. It could be so much more.
I read the Kickstarter page about Takamo Universe with great interest. I played that for a couple dozen turns around 1990, but got tired of paying for every single action. I never had much money to spare. The morph to a full MMORPG would have been great, but it seems that isn't happening. PBM continues to exist in its shrinking bubble having little contact with the rest of the world. That's what has to change, public awareness, and then participation from a new type of player, who didn't grow up playing games. That will be hard to achieve in a faster world of instant gratification.
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#7
The article that you wrote spans pages 16, 17, 18, and 20 in issue # 84 of Paper Mayhem. In the small font size used in Paper Mayhem, it's rather lengthy. It's not something that I can retype in just a few minutes. But, I'll see what I can do to help a copy of your article find its way back to you, Tod.
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#8
A copy for me isn't urgent. Are you putting it in the magazine? Maybe the second issue if not the first. If so, I'll have a copy that way. The question is what needs to be done to get it in the magazine? Optical Character Recognition on a scanner? Read it to voice recognition software? I could retype it into Word if I had a photocopy or legible scan.
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#9
If I can comment on the original question of Grimfinger, I think it needs some clarification. What do we mean PBM, games played only via post mail, or generally speaking turn based gaming between human players over distance?

Grainpaw said : "PBM continues to exist in its shrinking bubble having little contact with the rest of the world" and I couldn't agree more. But he also says "That's what has to change, public awareness, and then participation from a new type of player, who didn't grow up playing games." If it is hard to put a gamer into PBM, is it not going to be many times more difficult to put a non-gamer in the hobby?

"That will be hard to achieve in a faster world of instant gratification" Precisely. Playing by Post for me is a dying theme, not because gaming is dying (far from it, it will be the drug of the 21st century according to certain theories), but because *communication* between people is no longer by post. I don't even remember the last time I send a letter by post, even cards I send them electronically these days. Which is why I am asking "What do we mean by PBM". Turn-based gaming for sure has future in many forms. But if we ask for ways to "rebuild" on play by post, then I am afraid I lack ideas. The world has moved forward since late 80s and 90's and gaming is making leaps. Its not an issue of finding a gamer these days, after Lord of the Rings movies, World of Warcraft online "revolution" with 11 million players and more, EVERYONE knows gaming, and most people play something (from silly facebook games, to more sophisticated RPG or Wargames).

What PBM needs if you ask me, is to evolve, not to try and bring people into the old ways.
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#10
Let's not get hung up on semantics. When I started playing in 1977, it was called PBM because that was how people communicated then. Mailed dot-matrix printouts and magazines, lots of postcards (I had my own printed once), and occasionally phone calls (I toyed with the idea of starting a lower-cost long distance service for gamers. as it seemed the phone companies were making more than the PBM companies per turn). There was no reason some simpler games, like Diplomacy couldn't have been played in the 19th Century, had they been around then. From about 2000 on, I played by email, unless I wanted to pay extra for paper and be put in a slower game. By all means let's use appropriate tech. We have to look forward, be creative, and evolve. The Postal Service is falling behind the times when they can't even maintain stamp vending machines in P.O. lobbies. The term turn-based gaming is new to me, so it didn't come readily to mind when I was writing a quick note.
There are many potential TBG gamers out there, but they are involved in what they are already doing, and TBG is so obscure that it is off their radar entirely.
Unrelated tidbit: Here's the dialogue from the 11-19-13 Pearls Before Swine comic strip, illustrating that we need more options than just "shoot 'em up."
Rat: Want to play 'Halo' with me? The guys in red are our enemy.
Zebra: Okay.
Rat: Dude, what are you doing? Why aren't you shooting at the enemy?
Zebra: I'm looking for a button that lets us talk it out.
Rat: Perhaps you don't understand gaming.
Zebra: Is there a way to send flowers?
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