Monday, March 21, 2016

Monday Blaaagh!!!! On the physicality of books in gaming

This is physicality in the sense of "having a physical presence." We're talking, of course, print books. There's a division in the gaming hobby between people who can and do function quite well in electronic media, and those who really need a print book for the table. In the middle of this Venn Diagram is a segment that needs both (I'm square in the middle).

Some people can navigate their tablets and laptops with great ease and find PDFs that aren't properly bookmarked and indexed to be intensely annoying. Others find it quicker, easier or maybe just more comfortable to pull out the physical book and flip to page X. These are both styles that work great for most....but in the middle of it all are people like myself (I assume I am not alone in this corner) who actually quite enjoy access to both mediums for different reasons.

With an electronic edition I can read it on the go without hauling around a metric ton of tomes. I can read the PDF at lunch, on break, in environments or conditions that otherwise make it prohibitively difficult to drag out a 300 page hard cover to read. Those places are surprisingly common, and you don't notice how many places you can read until you have a convenient tablet allowing you to do so.

But at the game table I really need a physical book. Navigating PDFs on a tablet continues to be an obnoxious process and I am probably part of the last generation to feel that way, but at least for now it's still something that comes more naturally to me with a print book. The biggest reason, of course, is that I can have multiple tomes available and in front of me with no effort of loss of functionality (just clutter) whereas on my tablet having 5-10 books open at once is taxing my poor Nexus 7 in ways it does not like. Even my bigger Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 gets annoyed with too much stuff open....they're fine tablets, but they don't really grokk what a tabletop gamer needs to function properly.

I expect a lot of my problem is just one of my generation....the bridge/gap generation between old and new, there are probably a lot of 40-somethings falling on both sides of the fence, those who are quicker to adapt the technology and figure out how to work with it, and those who are not. To some extent, I wonder if the versatility of these devices works especially well in conjunction with the OSR movement and other gaming factions such as the FATE crowd or the -World crowd, where the games themselves function quite well on tablets by virtue of having a design that doesn't require a lot of page-flipping or multiple monolothic tomes remaining open. I am pretty sure, for example, that I could have run White Star from my tablet with minimal fuss had I not still preferred all the awesome little books I had lying around.

This is what your tablet looks like on the inside


  1. I'm OK with only having an electronic version of the rules, but I need a physical copy of the adventure.

    1. Yep, that's an absolute must....I have not at all mastered the art of running a game from a PDF unless it's really simple (like a few pages long).