a rising mist
The Goodly Mist
A Workingblog for Rob Sherman
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March 29, 2012

The name PlaGMaDA reminds me of Peskajumba, Biarmaland, or other conjunctive inventions that mankind fall into. But it’s not. It’s our wheezing, rickets-laden friend the anagram. The Play Generated Map and Document Archive. A worthy ephemera, yet again, a shelf found in a crowded library. The Internet brings us things that matter entirely in their not mattering.

In their own words:

PlaGMaDA’s mission is to preserve, present, and interpret play generated cultural artifacts, namely manuscripts and drawings created to communicate a shared imaginative space. The Archive will solicit, collect, describe, and publicly display these documents so as to demonstrate their relevance, presenting them as both a historical record of a revolutionary period of experimental play and as aesthetic objects in their own right. By fostering discussion and educating the public, it is hoped that the folkways which generate these documents can be encouraged and preserved for future generations.

I believe that the archive is physical as well as digital; people disappearing into their lofts to retrieve kilojoules of effort rendered onto stamp paper. Dungeons and Dragons, and its ilk, generate effort, more than anything else.

This effort is important, and it is important to document it. This represents the collective development of hundreds, if not thousands when one includes the adventuring groups that were influenced by these maps. It doesn’t matter if these players went on to be writers, or fishermen, or tax clerks, or government officials, or firefighters, or even failed writers. The things they see when they look across a road and see an unusual configuration of organic matter; two people arguing, a woman riding a horse, a smug man driving a classic car, are directly influenced by the play they did as a child. Part of this, of course, includes the maps they drew and read. These maps probably occupy a greater imprint in their minds than the maps of their neighbourhoods, of their own house. They know where their character’s bunks are, could trace their steps with their arms by their sides and their eyes closed.

To matter so much to someone, no matter how young they are, means that there is a psychological force that occupies these things. And to see them as museum exhibits both removes us from their significance, artifacting them, and highlights what they meant. How they have aged, how the acid in fingers has digested them slowly, how smeared chocolate could have caused the death of an entire ideology.

They matter. And PlaGMaDA matters.

If we want to exist as a species, we need to remember them, and put pen to paper that was meant for writing letters, or cheques, or calculations.

A note: All images from the archives were used with the permission of the tireless Timothy Hutchings, curator of PlaGMaDA. I truly think that what he is doing has worth beyond catalogue. He told me about some exciting events involving his work: Everything is DOLphins, a successful Kickstarter relating to PlaGMaDA itself, and a Delphinidae-themed RPG. PlaGMaDA art is on display here, and Tim’s own art is to be found both here and here. I’m not the biggest fan of abstract art, or merely non-figurative work, but I really liked these. They are bright, technical and intricate. This is my favourite.

Addendum: I’ve just discovered these as well. They are very appropriate.