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Imagination, Anticipation, and the Anti-Cost Equation of Play by Mail Gaming
On a personal level, I do not tend to view myself as either an optimist or a pessimist. Rather, I tend to view myself as a realist. This is one of the reasons why I do not feel that it I am being overly optimistic, when I discuss the possibilities for the dawning of a new era in play by mail gaming. And, yes, I am referring to gaming of the postal genre variety.

I think that it is beyond dispute that the postal medium is well suited to gaming, including multi-player gaming. Multi-player gaming has been one of PBM gaming's core assets and key attractions over the duration of the postal gaming medium's existence.

The downsides of the postal medium are well known, insofar as they relate to the running of, and participation in, play by mail games. Costs, delays, and poor graphics tend to be among the top reasons why PBM gaming seems, to many, to be going the way of the dinosaur.

The strong suit of play by mail gaming was never graphics. It was imagination. Even now, in today's day and age, video cards and computer graphics continue to lag well behind the imagination of human beings. Oh, sure, the computerized eye-candy has continued to improve, and new video cards dazzle and wow all who behold them. Some games even manage to garner a ten out of ten score form those who review them. Impressive, huh?

Not really. It's not that such games are not fun. Sure, they' fun. Games have always been fun. Games will always be fun. But, that's the inherent nature of games manifesting themselves before us as entertainment pieces. Games entertain. Games delight. Games make life a bit more pleasant.

Ask any die-hard Stephen King fan if imagination is dead. When you're not playing your favorite game, but you think about it, your imagination is likely to perk up and spring to life.Imagination isn't dead, in this day and age, and imagination was a primary ingredient in the play of old school PBM games.

As far as delays that have long been associated with postal gaming, we encounter delays in most every facet of our lives. Postal gaming co-opted delay, and turned what we often associate with being a negative in our lives (namely, that we have to wait for that something that we are wanting - i.e.: our PBM game's turn results) into a positive. What is the positive? It's called anticipation.

Checking your mailbox time and time and time again, as the days and weeks pass, builds the anticipation factor higher and higher. By comparison, in the electronic mediums, delay tends to retain all of the vestiges and trappings of being an inherently negative thing. That does not mean, however, that delay is incapable of being a positive in our lives - and in particular, in the entertainment aspect of our lives. Anticipation has, for decades on end, been a strong staple of play by mail life. It has not gone out of style, even now. Where inducing the anticipation factor into a game, modern computer games are still playing catch-up with postal gaming.

Costs, though, tend to be touted as the big killer of PBM gaming. There is no way, whatsoever, around some of the costs associated with postal gaming. Take postage, for example - it's just a ordinary fact of life that PBM gaming has to live with, in order for old school play by mail gaming to survive.

Why bear the burden of postage costs, turn fees, set-up fees, and whatever other fees and costs that PBM companies and their moderators pile high on your plate? Why not just skip straight over to various electronic mediums, and be done with the postal medium, once and for all?

Well, you can. The Internet and modern technology empowers you - the individual - to do just, exactly that. But, that's not to say that you don't lose something in the process, in the transition away from the postal medium to electronic mediums. Rest assured, you do lose something!

One of the reasons that I want to create, and run, a new PBM game of the postal genre variety is to demonstrate that very point - that and the fact that gaming by mailbox can still be a lot of fun, even in the mish-mash world of technology unfurled that we live in and stress in in the here and now moment of current existence.

I don't intend to use that game to save the genre. Rather, I intend to use it to make, and to underscore, a point about the genre. It's about fun, people - good, old-fashioned fun, the kind that requires no hardware and no software on the player's part.

The fun factor in a play by mail game is what ultimately trumps cost considerations, where PBM gaming is concerned. Fun is the anti-cost. Fun isn't dead. Fun lives on. Long live the fun factor!

NOTE: Originally posted in 2010 on the old PlayByMail.Net forums.

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