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not Halmath I 3019 (93?? ts??) Downfall XIII



The game-end proposal of a DRAW INCLUDING ALL SURVIVORS was passed, with no votes against (3 yes, 1 abstain) We'll do the final wrap next time. The deadline for game-end statements is FRIDAY, 24th JANUARY, 1997, to Peter Sullivan. E-mail address remains octopus@manorcon.demon.co.uk

For what it's worth, the rules for this variant are now available on-line and by the time you read this, they may even have been joined by the map.


a.k.a. Imminent Death of the Hobby Predicted (Film at 11)

Well, originally I was going to fill this somewhat conspicuous gap with some new waiting lists. I've been contemplating starting new games for a while, but so far lifestyle factors (as evidenced by my three COAs in a year) have meant that the time was never right. With "RICHARD M. JOHNSON" now finishing, I did actually get to the stage of typing up details for a new Railway Rivals list, and blowing the dust off the disc with the old C'est Magnifique Postal RR rules. For the moment, however, there are no new waiting lists in this subzeen. Why?

The Internet, as far as postal games is concerned, is moving beyond being just a snail-mail replacement. In its most basic role, it supplements the normal channels of communication (recognising all the provisos in the last issue of TAP by people like Rich Gorenson about its differential impact on communicating with non-net people.) However, the basic format of the zeen, as a collection of games, press and chat, doesn't alter under this model.

This is perhaps typical of the way that many forms of culture have reacted to the new media of the internet -- using it do do existing things better. For example, although business has embraced the World Wide Web in a big way, there is very little out there which represents a fundamentally new way of interacting with the customer. Most of it is effectively on-line brochures or (for the really daring) a "secure" credit-card order form. The chap who invented the Sears Roebuck catalogue back in the 19th century would have no real problem with any of that.

However, we are now moving to new paradigms, in the games-playing side at least. Diplomacy has already been there, done that with the development of the Judges. Judges may be unreliable at times, and the interface may reflect the clunky 1980s academic Unix tradition they sprang from, but they represent the first fundamentally new way to play Diplomacy since John Boardman (or was it Conrad von Metzke?) first thought it might be a really neat idea to run it by post. And, by hearking back to the originally concept of the zeen as a single-game flyer, they can be potentially destructive of the zeen-based postal hobby as we know it.

Of course, we have seen this all before. The Internet is just the 1990s version of the 1980s personal computing revolution which swept across the Postal Games hobby. At first, this was liberating. Editorkind was in chains, but the Amstrad set them free. The idea that you could type lettercol stuff up as it came in, and then cut and paste it together into topics, was revolutionary to editors who had hacked their craft out on typewriters up until then. Equally, the process of stripping down an adjudication so that it could be used as a template for next turn is something I for one rapidly learned to do virtually on autopilot. (I did once in a fit of madness contemplating writing a word processor macro to automate it, but soon thought better of it.)

However, the downside of the PC revolution was that it provided an alternative forum for games playing which the traditional zeen media couldn't compete with. This worked on two levels. Amongst the editors, Dick Martin was probably the most prominent victim of the "folded zeen due to excessive Railroad Tycoon" syndrome, but he was by far from the only one. Equally pernicious was the reduction in player base. A generation brought up on Sonic the Hedgehog and Lemmings is likely to be less that entranced by the prospect of pushing plastic blocks around a table, especially if it involves actually (yeutch!) talking to their fellow gamers.

Initially, the loss of the zeen from the Diplomacy culture might not seem particularly important. The most significant adjunct to the Judges is the Diplomatic Pouch. Although this started as just an on-line imitation of the (then defunct) Diplomacy World, it has evolved to become not just an online zeen, but a more general resource. However, as with Diplomacy World, it rarely strays beyond its bread and butter of strategy and tactics articles, or other games-related material, nor is there any reason why it should.

The problem is that this model of the hobby (be it online or snail-mail) is games-based. The zeen model is (or can be) people-based. It thus provides an incemtive to stay in the Hobby during periods when your interest in the games has diminished, either temporarily or permenantly (this ties in with Jim-Bob's aim to make TAP into the hobby's leading retirement home for former hobby hacks).The serendipity of coming across a well-written, fannish discussion about something you wouldn't normally read is one of the most significant pleasures of a good zeen. Probably the apogee of this for me was the article by Pete Birks in Greatest Hits which was a ten-page article on the history of the pencil. It was completely irrelevent to a purist games-orientated view of the hobby. But it was entertaining and interesting.

This is a more general problem on the Interenet than just for the games hobby. A lot of Usenet is deathly dull, as it is so subject-orientated (I realise this is tantermount to complaining that ice-cream is cold, or water wet, but there you go). There are a few Usenet groups which have become virtual serendipity providers - uk.media radio.archers, alt.folklore.urban and probably others I'm not aware of -- but they are exceptions. And, as the use of intellegence agents (computer programs that go out and search for things of interest to you, based on your pre-expressed interests) increases, this is going to get worse -- unless they include a "Random Link" button like on the main page of Yahoo, just for the heck of it.

Enough rambling. This was originally meant to be a sucint explanation of why I'm not opening any new waiting lists at the moment. Looking back, I'm still not really sure why, except it doesn't "feel right" at the moment. Who knows, maybe it will "feel right" when we get into the New Year. It's not as if I'll be idle anyway, as most of my hobby time will be tied up with handling all the bookings and other assorted admin for Manorcon, taking place for the 15th sucessive year at Birmingham in July 1997.

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