Captain Cursor is talking about reawakening his youthful passion for D&D, which got me thinking about collaborative storytelling…
D&D, which I used to play as a pup, is really a game of collaborative storytelling. Oh, sure there were always those geeks who got a little too into the elaborate die and math side of it, and I do remember almost dozing off at a large table with 10 other guys arguing about health points, but the most satisfying games were those played in my best friend’s Mike basement with my first boyfriend Carl, and the dice would sit unused between us as we told each other what our characters were doing, what we saw, what happened next… when I think of these times I not only can remember the slight pervasive smell of moldy carpet and see the 1960’s furniture, I can see us fighting monsters, falling in love, betraying each other, and then resolving bitter feuds just in time for Mike’s older sister to offer us Mac and Cheese and baked beans.
(anyone here forget I grew up in Iowa?).
Storyfuck is a dueling banjos of collaborative storytelling, in which two writers try to derail the other’s story in favor of their own– not too different than Mike, our eternal webmaster messing with Carl and me, the lively players. Mike would throw challenge after challenge at us, but he would always tuck an escape route into his plot so we could win. We were heroes, and in Mike’s heart he wanted the heroes to win– as long as it wasn’t too easy. I think a storyteller’s ultimate loyalty tends to be to the story, in boht D&D and storyfuck.com. Much as you want to win, you find your loyalty slowly shifting from your own interests to creating a compelling tale. It will be interesting to discover how the participants of storyfuck resolve the conflicting urges of bard vs. competitor.
Fray is an example of a community built on entirely on the pleasure of exchanging stories– a different kind of collaboration and probably the most common one; that between teller and listener… Derek has said that fiction is for the weak, and Fray is composed of true stories, making a bit different than the act of shared fiction creation. Fray is a sophistaticated version of truth or dare for grown-ups, the dare is to bare yourself before strangers in the hopes of transforming them — and yourself– into ordinary real people; people you can love. What D&D and Fray have in common is that they are both based on the understanding that a story is most powerful, most pleasing for the storyteller when one can look the audience in the eye, when you can refer to your audience by name.
Both Cluetrain Manifesto and Creative Company note the power of the corporate story; how it can bond together employees and engage customers. At CIQ we enjoy telling our creation story: Noel begins it “I thought, what if I brought together people who wanted to learn from each other?” and Gabe continues it “Noel asked me to do the logo because another guy flaked, and when I found out what the company was going to be…” and I tell the third chapter “Peter introduced Noel and I… said we both wanted to start communities of people to exchange ideas about user experience. Once Noel told me about Carbon IQ I said ‘Let me in!'” Quite a different story than a company blurb that starts “In 1998, Carbon IQ was incorporated…” Our stories let us connect with our clients as fellow humans rather than legal entities.
Stories, both true and fictional, are bridges for humans to touch each other. If we are lucky, we will tell stories to each other our whole lives and in every aspect of our lives. What’s the difference between D&D, storyfuck, Cluetrain and Fray? Less than you’d think.