Why there are no sequels to The Terminator (1984)

The only Terminator film that could ever exist

I had a lovely time watching The Terminator with the 13yo. (Who is categorically too young for this film, but actually not really, except for the sex scene which is never something you want to watch with your Dad and the skip forward button may have been deployed by them at that point.)

I noted something that hadn’t stood out to me before: the story is entirely and definitionally complete. You know everything that happens by the end of it. (That is: computer nukes the planet and proceeds to try to exterminate humanity, humanity fights back led by brave leader John Connor, machines are defeated, but just as humanity wins the machines send a killer back in time to change history.) The entire future history is defined; the only question mark is whether it can be changed. The film shows that it cannot, and in fact (by way of a bootstrap paradox) it never could have been.

The Terminator‘s narrative is a perfect and complete circle. It leaves no questions unanswered, and no space for any sequel. The war with the machines is done! It’s a brilliant piece of science fiction writing that successfully tells a complete future history mostly through a series of chase scenes in the 1980s.

And that’s why there was no sequel to this cult hit film. How could there be? Creator Jim Cameron did too good a job with the construction of his film, and left no avenues open for further exploration. How foolish!

Breaking: i am advised there somehow HAVE been sequels to the terminator 1984 ?? seems fake ?

So it seems someone released a film called Terminator 2 Judgement Day after The Terminator? A sequel? And apparently one of the most commercially and critically successful sequels in cinema history? Hmm. How?

T2, as it was styled, managed the seeming impossible because director/writer/auteur Jim Cameron is very very VERY good at what he does. To make a decent sequel to The Terminator, you need a very strong new idea, and Cameron understood this. In fact, I would argue he managed to thread the needle with T2 because he didn’t just stop at one good idea: instead, he had no less than five separate strong new ideas, each of which could have been the basis for a decent sequel by itself.

Strong New Idea One: What if we make a sequel to The Terminator but this time Linda Hamilton isn’t playing the resourceful ordinary person, instead she’s a full-on action star, holding space like Arnie and Sly do in their big films?

Strong New Idea Two: What if we make a sequel to The Terminator and we build the concept of the enemy robot around an entirely new form of special effects that no-one on the planet has ever seen before?

Strong New Idea Three: What if we make a sequel to The Terminator and we make the point of view character a kid so it’s kind of a Spielberg/Goonies action adventure? (To be fair this one is not necessarily a good idea but it is the kind of strong new idea that you can build a sequel around so.)

Strong New Idea Four: What if we make a sequel to The Terminator and Arnold plays the robot again but this time he’s a good guy?

Strong New Idea Five: What if we make a sequel to The Terminator and it’s all about whether the foundational concept of the first film, that the future is set and therefore no sequels are possible, can be broken?

Jim Cameron was the right kind of maniac at the right time, and T2 absolutely justifies its existence as a result. But also, it kind of closes off the space for strong new ideas. Where else can you take The Terminator as an idea? A bunch of sequels followed but none of them had enough strong new ideas to stand tall. Some of them didn’t have any strong new ideas at all (I think, I haven’t watched a single one of them all the way through).

Tentative proposal, then: to make a truly great sequel, you can’t get by with just one good idea executed well, you need a whole stack of good ideas executed well. I think if you look at the acknowledged Great Sequels – Godfather 2, Toy Story 2, Aliens, Empire Strikes Back – and compare them to the acknowledged Well I Guess This Also Exists Sequels – [too many to list] – this will be seen to be true.

But I’m not going to write that blog post.

Thanks to Katherine H for the conversation that inspired this post!

Just Do A Meow Wolf

Photo of Meow Wolf Las Vegas by Kate Russell, taken from this article

Simon Arcus, chief executive of Wellington Chamber and Business Central, thinks the city could do with some new attractions, such as the previously pitched World of WearableArt (WOW) museum or the interactive and immersible creative installations of Meow Wolf, a Sante Fe arts collective.

Cruising the Capital: Why the ‘Must Do’ list needs a shake-up

This paragraph deep into a newspaper article about Wellington’s limited offer to tourists caught my eye, or more correctly, it made both my eyes roll right back into my head while I laughed incredulously. The city’s big business guy throwing down Meow Wolf as a new attraction possibility, even as an aspirational example of original thinking (or however you might generously frame it), lands with a massive clang, the clang of failing to really understand what you’re talking about.

Short version: Arts is hard, business guy.

Meow Wolf is an arts project (originally a collective, they incorporated somewhere in the last decade-half) that specialises in huge, immersive experiences featuring the work of large numbers of artists. Based in Santa Fe, they have also opened permanent exhibition locations in several other US cities. The vibe is like Disneyland meets Philip K. Dick, at least that’s as I understand it from far away, i haven’t been lucky enough to visit a Meow Wolf. They do cool stuff.

Wellington, of course, has a bunch of stuff that directly overlaps with what Meow Wolf do: we have lots of artists here. We have a busy games/tech sector. We have a huge engine for creating fantastic worlds in the Wētā studio system. We have smart creative people. Can’t you just see a Meow Wolf-type thing working in Wellington? I can! It seems to fit right in!

Here’s why the idea clangs: to get a Meow Wolf you need a lot more on your side than ambition.

Most obviously, a Wellington Meow Wolf has a size problem. It has to be big, not just to copy what worked overseas, but because if you’re doing an immersive attraction, it needs to have some breadth to it, or folks are going to wander through in ten minutes. And it also needs some depth to it, or it isn’t delivering on the ‘immersive’ side. So you’re right away looking at a large (not huge, but large) installation, and the investment needed to fit it out to a high standard and keep it refreshed and engagement-ready. Embedding the work of artists, and paying them properly, too. None of this is cheap but that’s fine because we’re going to get an audience of cruise ship passengers and return visit locals and out of towners and…

Not so fast. Scale is the devil for immersive; the economies of scale don’t kick in like they do on other projects. Even when you don’t have performers, as is normal for the Meow Wolf model, you still need to hand-feed every experience to a certain extent, and the more people you include, the more uncertainties dilute the reliability of the experience and make it impossible to actually do what you want to do.

A local Meow Wolf is devilishly hard. We’d need some big installation spaces, and a lot of customers willing to pay significantly to offset the rents and ongoing labour involved, as well as covering off the heavy investment of setup costs. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard.

But this is actually the wrong end of the conversation. Because all this assumes that you are doing a Meow Wolf by taking an overseas success story and just copying it here.

The truth is, you don’t get a Meow Wolf that works without growing it at home. It’s artwork, and artwork has to cook from local ingredients or it’s going to leave a bad taste.

And here’s where the real clang comes from, for me. Because to get a Meow Wolf, you need to cultivate and support a community of artists over many years. You need a city that gives them space to live affordably, and allows them to mix and develop. You need to put money, real money, on the table for artists to try things and explore and do stuff. A lot of those things will fail as commercial attractions.

Put it this way: the road to a local Meow Wolf is through dozens of failed local Meow Wolfs.

So my eyes rolled back when I read Mr. Business Guy tossing out Meow Wolf as a thing we would love to have. Because where is the support for artists in this city? Where are the business leaders advocating for the kinds of conditions that would allow artists to survive? Where are the businesses putting money for emerging artists to make the city more interesting? Where are the business notables lobbying local and central government for the kind of support that would make art viable here? Where are the rich business folk putting money on the table for art collectives to try weird stuff?

It’s easy to say we should have a nice thing. Harder to recognize that the nice thing is the output of years of effort and risk and support. Even harder to say “if we want Wellington to be a good destination we need to invest in our artists”. Ultimate difficulty level to say all that and add “And I’m demanding our government make changes that would help this situation.”

Because that’s it, right? Unless you engage with the politics, it’s all just smoke, You want a better Wellington, business guy, well the National government you love so much isn’t gonna get you there. Be honest about it.

(I’ve been involved in a couple of attempts to develop some kind of immersive something for Wellington. Both of them ran out of steam early on because the difficulties are substantial. But I do think – no, I feel – there’s going to be some clever hack to circumvent all those logistical limits and set something up that could work here in a sustainable way. I haven’t found it yet myself, but, you know, I’m thinking.)

Enjoying old stuff

Podcast Where Eagles Dare has returned to their loving, detailed coverage of 1980s British kids adventure comic Eagle with the dramatic moment of its merger with the long-lived Tiger. I remember it well from the first time around. I was 9 years old when this landed in NZ, and listening to the podcast describing these stories (and pulling out the issues from a box in the shed) brings me right back. I remember walking to the local newsagents where I had each issue put aside for me, I remember the shocking panels of death and destruction, and I remember the taste of the muesli bars with the little pieces of dried apricot that I’d eat while I flipped the pages.

I’m closing in on 50 now, so I’m the perfect age for nostalgia; indeed, it sometimes seems that the entire entertainment industry is tilted towards monetizing my generation’s hazy-fond memories of a simpler time. (Mostly I find that trend frustrating. The exceptions are, I think, instructive: Doctor Who never stopped (even when it was off TV) and has always operated on a healthy disrespect for its own past; Twin Peaks The Return delighted in thwarting any nostalgic impulse a viewer might have sought, resolving its past in a more profound way; Slayers operated as an act of redemption and penance for the failings of Buffy The Vampire Slayer; the Dungeons & Dragons movie was an honourable return to the deeper themes of the final episode of Freaks & Geeks.) Mostly, I’m not interesting in reboots and reimaginings and returns, but in the original material itself.

So, returning to the Eagle comic, and also enjoying dipping into old Doctor Who episodes, and The Twilight Zone and The Prisoner and classic Star Trek and more.

I suspect that my renewed interest in old stuff is partly due to the age of cultural overload in which we live. There is simply too much content these days. I long ago stopped trying to keep up. (In fact, I stopped trying to keep up in the 90s, I still haven’t seen Star Trek Deep Space Nine or The Sopranos.) But it’s not just that: there’s also something pleasant in the pace of this old material.

Old TV was created to a different plan, serving a different social need. It’s distant enough from the present, and I’m old enough now that I can disentangle it sufficiently from my own direct experience, so that I find part of the pleasure of old stuff is seeing the implied world created by what’s on screen.

When I watch old TV, it almost feels like I get to sit alongside a family gathered around their giant television at teatime, tuning in for the latest episode of a show they like. The old episodes invoke their own perfect audience. I get to experience the past, reflected on the screen.

There’s just so much there there, packed into the cultural products of the past. You can unfold so much from them (TV show as an unfolding text, one might even say). And when I watch or read things of which I have personal memories, like those comics, that historical moment is overlaid with personal sense memory. It’s a rich sensation. There’s an appeal to it, a kind of seeing-clearly, holding the weight of the past in a different way. It makes me more kindly disposed to the past, and to its denizens. They tried, we all tried, and they all just wanted to be scared by the slimy monsters Under The Mountain and laugh when Billy T James showed up for an incoherent cameo.

The golden age of science fiction is 12, and the golden age of music is 17, and there’s no mystery to me why we keep returning to these things as we age, why I go back to them now: we’re not done with them yet. The worlds and emotions and sensations created by art go deep, unfathomably deep. We’ll never touch bottom. I can return forever to Nirvana’s In Utero and Stephen King’s The Long Walk and Jim Cameron’s The Abyss and I’ll never scrape bottom. Other generations have their own touchstones that go just as deep, and I’ve been enjoying watching them, imagining the way they burrowed into the hearts of their era’s audience, but these are mine, and I’ll treasure them.

In Eagle & Tiger there’s a story about an alien who manufactured a plague to destroy humanity and was defeated but escapes death and sets about murdering everyone he meets. There’s also a story about an alien who comes to earth to ride a BMX because BMXs are cool. And that’s just the way it should be.

When I went to Palestine

Twenty years ago this month Caroline and I went to Palestine. We travelled with a group called Olive Tours, whose mission was to give people an opportunity to see directly what was happening there, and the nature of the occupation of Palestine by Israel, by meeting people (both Palestinian and Israeli) working for peace. It was a time of change in the region: the recent deaths of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall had turned international eyes towards the behaviour of the Israeli state, and the separation wall was in the process of being assembled, transforming the nature of security between Israel and Palestine.

The twenty years since have brought little further change. Arafat died, then Hamas was elected in Gaza, and things calcified into an ongoing situation of ratcheting oppression, countered by continuous peaceful protest, studded with acts of violence; until October last year, when everything changed again.

Looking back over this now, what stands out to me is the defensive crouch Israel entered as a result of its role as an eternal occupying power, to the point that we were interrogated in foreign airports and felt the need to dispose of a copy of Private Eye magazine before it was spotted; and the utter ordinariness of the Palestinian people we met everywhere, enacting the shared act of resistance that is holding on to their humanity.

I sent eight emails to my travel mailing list describing this journey. They’ve been unavailable for many years but I’ve pulled them out of archive and added them to this blog on the appropriate dates; also added are the photos from the trip (which had to be smuggled out of the country by sending the memory card separately so our images of Palestine wouldn’t be discovered by soldiers at the airport).

These are direct links to the eight parts:

Part 1: Welcomes

Part 2: Facts on the ground

Part 3: Barriers

Part 4: Painted eggs

Part 5: Pushes

Part 6: Green spaces

Part 7: Tough situation

Part 8: Bumps in the night

Enjoying Flow

One of those basketball moments where all my teammates were like “whoa what a move” and the opposition guy I scored on was like “whoa nice move” and I have no memory of what I did

Last week I fell over

I posted the above on social media a few days ago, and I’m still thinking about it. That version is obviously tuned for self-deprecating comedy, but there are a few more layers. Like:

I love playing basketball right now. I am not the player I was, unsurprisingly now I’m in my late 40s, but in some crucial ways I am as good a player as I’ve ever been. Raw athleticism was never exactly a strength for me! Solid old-man basics work well.

This particular game did not start with fortune smiling upon it. I was caught in a traffic jam, presumably an accident somewhere in the dense network of Wellington, that saw me arrive when the first quarter was well underway. I hate arriving late, and it has been years since the last time I did so! Apart from letting the team down (at least we weren’t short that night) it means I miss the warm-up period, getting some movement into my body, taking some shots, moving the ball around. Anyway, I do some stretches as the quarter winds down and take the court for the start of the second, pleased to be there, pleased to see everyone. It’s a good team, a friendly and supportive team, and I truly enjoy getting out and playing with them every week, even the games that don’t turn out so hot for me. Like last week! I fell over, all right, lost my balance as I sprinted up the court for a long fast break pass, lost my balance as I lost any sense of where the ball was going so it bounced off me as I tumbled to the floor. Far from my finest basketball moment!

I was on the court for less than a minute before I set up at the top of the key and the ball was passed in my direction, and in perfect rhythm I caught and shot a lovely mid-range jumper that I knew was going in before the pass had even reached my hands.


Overall it was my best game in a good long time, a year probably. I made passes that turned into easy baskets, I hit shots when I had them, I defended well. I was feeling good about it all when in the last quarter I took a position on down low with my back to the basket, another spot in which I’m comfortable, and their biggest and best defender locked his body against mine as the ball arrived in my hands, and

and then I was under the hoop and the ball had gone in and the defender told me that was a nice move.

Dropping the left foot past the defender, shifting weight, quickly pivoting to the basket, all while controlling the ball so it isn’t a walking violation; there’re just enough moving parts you have to line up just right that it’s hard to think yourself through it. I remember being 16 and in the St Bernard’s College gymnasium with Coach Tony Brown and doing the drop step over and over again (and trying to finish with a little jump hook shooting motion that I never really got on with). I remember thinking it: move my foot… plant it… and now turn…

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi described a concept called flow in his work in the 1990s: a state of perfect engagement in a challenging task, where both time and reflective thought disappear. (Recently it has acquired a lot of prominence in research around video games.) It’s the absence of deliberative/conscious thought that strikes me as interesting about a flow state. There can be quite sophisticated navigation of knowledge and decision-making processes, but it happens so smoothly and easily, there’s no sense of working at it, of choosing. Linking back to my conception of free will (i.e. our cognitive system manages difficult processing tasks by bouncing them through an experiential/reflective system that is consciousness, our conscious experience functioning as a control and mediation device, what we experience as conscious choice is the unconscious sum of these conscious experiences), the connections are pretty straightforward: flow is highly active processing that doesn’t need to pass through the consciousness. And it feels good.

Basketball is a reliable highlight of my week because it gets me to this place. Even better for me, it gets there in a small group context; experiencing harmony with others is profoundly satisfying (in the psyc literature it’s called synchronythis Nature article has an overview).

In the role-playing games I create and play, flow is also achievable, but trickier to find. The level of abstract manipulation required in these games is a block. Compare improvisors who perform imaginative tasks together without the underlying reference structure that RPGs usually impose, and who can hit a flow state more easily. But it happens often enough, when the wind blows the right way, where game and players hit the right rhythm together.

I’m not really going anywhere with this post, just tapping down a series of thoughts, but maybe I’ve arrived at a personal call to action. If flow is important to me, and it clearly is, maybe I need to make that more of a priority in the games I play. I’ve been doing so much gameplay as work for years now – constantly testing this or that new game system, layering cognitive work into the experience – perhaps I need to put flow on the table a bit more prominently, and try and create those conditions a little more purposefully. Sounds like a good aim. Okay then.

(While I’m thinking about basketball and flow: the deliberately ungrammatical title of my novel about four teenage boys renegotiating their friendship, in move, is an allusion to this kind of unconscious action – their various connected friendships shift into a new configuration with the the same kind of instinctive flow and adjustment their basketball coach is trying to introduce to their teamwork. I put in move into creative commons some years ago, read it online or download it as a free ebook for your kindle or iphone or whatever)

Government of Reckons

They reckon the governmental budget is like a household budget.

They reckon ‘tough love’ is the way to motivate beneficiaries.

They think boot camps are going to fix young offenders.

They reckon the clean car discount didn’t actually work.

They reckon world-leading smokefree legislation wasn’t going to work.

They reckon Three Waters co-governance was anti-democratic.

They reckon giving ACT the nod to undermine the constitutional basis of the country won’t actually matter because they’ll stop the bill eventually.

These are the reckons you produce when you don’t actually know what you’re on about. These are reckons that get embarrassed by the most basic research. These, of course, are reckons most loudly voiced by idiot racists and arrogant populists.

Either the new government are proudly sharing these genuine reckons because they are that stupid; or they are cynically sharing their pretend reckons because they are eager for the support of bigoted fools. (There is no shortage of reckon-happy voices in the media who will be happy to protect this government from the consequences of its failures.)

Either way, they must think it doesn’t matter whether or not they are wrong, and who will be hurt as a result. They don’t care about families doing it tough, or people on a benefit, or anyone hurt by youth offending, or meeting climate change targets, or reducing smoking in communities, or the nature of democratic participation, or the importance of the Treaty at the heart of this nation.

This is easily the most embarrassing and pathetic and inadequate and unserious government this country has endured in my lifetime. Probably for generations before that as well.

Bunch of eggs, the lot of them.

Doctor Who: Tennant outcome

In December 2022 I wrote about the surprising return of David Tennant to Doctor Who, and made a prediction about the theme RTD wanted to explore:

It is my expectation that this return to the role of Doctor is explicitly intended as a continuation of this thread: RTD will frame this as the Doctor’s own psyche giving himself a chance to resolve his resentment and frustration, come to terms with the end of his time as Doctor, and to accept his final regeneration with positivity (just as the 13th Doctor managed to do).
So I think we will see the marvellous Bernard Cribbins (RIP) again, as it was his life Tennant’s Doctor died to save beforehand. And I think his Doctor’s final line will be a satisfying rejoinder to the words that ended his previous incumbency:
“I’m ready to go.”

What we got in November 2023 was:

Never mind that. Just mend
yourself and come back fighting
fit. Cos the whole world needs
you, more than ever.
It’s time. Here we go again.
(final words)

Close enough!

(Source: the amazing Whoniverse section of the BBC script repository)

In which I solve the problem of free will

I enjoyed listening to two episodes of Adam Conover’s Factually podcast, in which he hosted guests with competing perspectives on the existence of free will, a profound question that has vexed thinkers of all stripes for centuries. We have a strongly developed intuition that we choose what we do, and our theories of morality rely on this intuition. And yet, as we understand more about what humans are and how we work, it seems there is no space in us for a choosing agent.

The first guest, philosopher Robert Sapolsky, argues strongly that free will doesn’t exist. The second guest, Kevin Mitchell, argues strongly that it does. https://headgum.com/factually-with-adam-conover/free-will-does-not-exist-with-robert-sapolsky

Well I’ve been meaning to do a bit more writing for this blog, so what better way to do that than by solving free will.

Here’s me: ‘free will’ in the absolute sense is, as both Conover’s guests agree, a nonsense. Human action is never freely determined, there is no master-ego within us with an open field of action, there are always profound constraints on the behaviour we produce. The real question is whether human action is fully explained by summative forces of domino-chain neural firing across synapses, which instantiate all the prior experiences and learning that shaped our brains; or whether there is some gap to fill.

Dr Kevin Mitchell argues persuasively that there is a gap. The future is made fuzzy by tiny proportions of randomness that multiply over time. The domino chains must admit uncertainty, which in turn allows for the imposition of some system of evolutionarily-developed cognitive control. (I am, of course, oversimplifying his account wretchedly, and compounding the crime by doing so from memory.)

I have my own account. I have not done the reading on this; it’s just the operating assumption I’ve landed on that satisfies me. Maybe it will satisfy you as well. It’s this:

I don’t think we experience free will at all. Examining our experience of conscious thought can never actually locate a moment of choice. We can experience need to make a decision; we can experience the decision as made. The transition is not something we can actually locate. This is because it is not something we do with conscious thought.

To restate in a doubling down sort of way: our choices are not conscious.

What we are in fact doing, and what we experience with our consciousness, is cycling through information, refreshing it, reweighting it, experiencing it in a new present context; and then, this process eventually tips over enough dominoes to take us down a path of having chosen. Our experience of conscious choice is actually the process of assembling sufficient information that a choice becomes made within us.

The process of considering – what we call thinking – is just dominoes. A decision-making process is itself triggered by prior dominoes, some conscious, some not. Everything that happens in that process can be causally traced: our eyes take in photons that our brain assembles into a person’s face, that trigger associations with that person which we associate as memories, which in turn weight other dominoes so they fall this way not that. Our cognitive systems cycle through pass after pass of neural patterns firing, which we experience as thinking, because that is what thinking is. One thought leads to the next, we manage to focus on one issue above others, we discard alternative hypotheses, we make a choice – that’s the conscious experience of the domino array. The hard thing to wrap your head around is how complex those dominoes are: the number of inputs is so vast, and the fuzzy outcomes and uncertainties that flow within them are so deep, that a control system that is a huge evolutionary advantage to generate behaviour out of chaos.

And we experience those vast domino arrays in our brains as consciousness. So it could be said our conscious experience is, yes, fundamentally epiphenomenal. But, and here’s the trick to that: so what?

For what it’s worth, I don’t think this perspective does require an epiphenomenal consciousness. I think the thing we experience as consciousness *is* the process of tuning and filtering that produces our behaviour. In the same way we experience a kick to the shin as pain, we experience neurons working shit out as consciousness. That’s phenomena, not epiphenomena!

That intuition of free will still isn’t satisfied though, right? It’s all just dominos and even if some of them are wobbly, where is the decision? Where’s the moment my inner self stretches out a finger and chooses whether to knock over domino A or domino B? Well with all due respect to this intuition, I think it is unproductive. And not even based on what we actually experience introspectively. What it is, is a nice story, a narrative explanation that sews together all kinds of elements of life into a single useful tapestry (this is not mixed metaphors, a narrative can be a tapestry and vice versa, also HELL YES a tapestry can be useful, have you ever tried to decorate a wall in a medieval castle???). What we’re really talking about here is, in the statement “I think about this problem and then I come to a decision”, who is “I”? Is I my conscious self, whatever that might be? Or is it the sum total of all the thinking processes I have, some of which I can talk about and experience and some which I can’t? If you’re too precious to admit there’s unconscious stuff as a fundamental part of everything you think and do, then I can’t help you baby… and if you do admit there’s unconscious stuff in the mix, then how can you account for that except by admitting that some of “I” is not within your awareness? In conclusion, consciousness might not be an epiphenomenon, but the story we tell ourselves of a willful, agented self sure is. That’s a whole other blog post though.

As for the question of how the ‘lack of free will’ affects morality: no of course it doesn’t follow that since all our actions come from wobbly dominos not a willful agented self then we should let the murderers go free. All behaviour is part of a great matrix of social information, and by enforcing rules we are tuning society to better suit our needs. So lock ’em up! (Actually carceral systems are bad for society including for most murderers.)

Anyway that’s what I was thinking as I went for a dog walk this morning. (Also, the problem of free will kind of goes away if you don’t think moving time exists, moving time I have my eye on you, I am not convinced)

20 years of ORC

Twenty years ago today I was in the long-departed Ottakar’s Bookshop, in Edinburgh, wondering if anyone would come and play games with me.

It was not the best time for tabletop roleplaying games. They had fallen off the cultural radar completely during the 1990s, with an aging player base and no signs of transformation ahead. But I still loved them, more than ever in fact given the exciting experimentation of the indie scenes in the UK and the US, and when I found a high street retailer who wanted to make space for the games, I saw an opportunity.

Only a handful of people turned up to those first meetings of what became the Ottakar’s Roleplaying Club, but they kept coming back, and slowly the numbers grew. Soon my Saturdays had a reliable date: we’d meet at the bookshop, wander over the road to a giant internet cafe with lots of empty tables, and then play games all afternoon.

In time, the Ottakar’s Roleplaying Club morphed into the Open Roleplaying Community, and other people stepped up to steer it as I departed to the other side of the planet. (Dave! Bill!) And it’s still around today! Although it is very different in form these days, it still does the same job: it’s a welcoming hub for all people who want to come together and play these wonderful, ridiculous games together.

And of course, in that same time, tabletop roleplaying games have become a legitimate cultural phenomenon, attaining a level of cultural presence that would have shocked me that day in Ottakars!

I’m really proud of ORC (the acronym was entirely accidental!), and grateful for the wonderful friends I made there, many of whom I’m still in touch with today. I learned a lot. Some of those lessons are top of mind right now in fact, as I’m busy community-building in the TTRPG space again, this time for the glorious KiwiRPG. Just can’t help myself!