“Going viral” is such a weirdly unpleasant phrase for content spread on the internet. Like, the metaphor works of course – except for the bit of the metaphor that equates a funny youtube video with getting really sick. Ah well, I guess it won’t be too long before the association between “viral” and “sickness” becomes so obscure it becomes a pub quiz question.
(Of course there will be pub quiz nights in the future. They existed in the past as well. What do you think all those mysterious hooded strangers did to pass the time between handing out quests to brave adventurers?)
I had a wee taste of virality last week when my 200-word roleplaying game “Holding On” suddenly started getting shared around Facebook and Twitter by people in the roleplaying hobby community. And I’m being a bit silly by even using the v-word, because the community is small and the section of it that shared my game was a tiny subset of that – this Facebook post had eighty-plus shares, this tweet had around a hundred. I have no idea how many people actually saw it, but I scanned through many many comments, and I was contacted by a few people saying “hey, is this yours?” Very gratifying.
The game is a funny little thing. Two people play, and one of them is hanging over an abyss. The other is holding on to them so they don’t fall. It was intended to work as a metaphor for any situation where someone is slipping away forever, but primarily as a very literal representation of the subject matter: someone is hanging on with nothing below them but a very, very long fall.
This isn’t the first time I’ve played with this imagery. Many years ago I wrote a very short story called “Hanging Tough” in which some teenage guys are trying (and failing) to impress some teenage girls by, you guessed it, dangling themselves over an abyss. I intended this as a shorthand caricature of the kind of dumb risktaking engaged in by Those Foolish Youths – again, a metaphor, not something real. Somewhere in the back of my head was that scene in The Lost Boys where they hang on to the underside of a rail bridge and one by one lose their grip, dropping into the mist below. Of course, Kiefer and his gang could fly. Real people wouldn’t so easily take that sort of risk – even for Those Foolish Youths, this is surely a step too far.
And then those photos started coming out of Russia.
Oh heck. I can hardly even look at them.
Anyway. I’m not really going anywhere with this. I guess the takeaway is, hanging over an abyss is some potent stuff, and I’m pleased I made a game about it. That’s right, I have the lucrative “perilous dangling” subgenre all sewn up! Yay for me.
Those climber pics are from here. Rolling Stone talked to these climbers in 2014.
You can find the game Holding On, and some designer’s notes, at my Taleturn site. (Taleturn is where I put all my game/story/interactivity stuff. Check it out, and follow me on Twitter…)
And you can find the story “Hanging Tough” in the anthology Urban Driftwood, which is now available free in PDF from Dan Rabarts’s site.