Did anyone else play Monopoly religiously at Thanksgiving? Just me?
We had a Star Wars edition of Monopoly at my grandmother’s house. Whenever the extended family came in from Colorado, we’d pop the game out and do a round or two. I loved it. I never won, of course, but I’m not really a competitive sort. Just spending time with loved ones was all that I really needed (and cue sappy music).
Up until Betrayal at House on the Hill, I’d never realized there could be board games beyond the ones from my childhood. Scrabble, Pictionary, Monopoly, Taboo–they were fun and all, but, in my mind, meant for children. Not adults. Certainly not a group of twenty-somethings determined to stay in for a Friday night.
Then my brother rode in on his white stallion, the game held aloft in his hands as sunshine filtered down through the clouds and illuminated him with a single, blinding ray of light.
Ok, no, that’s not really how it happened. But he did drive up in his white Tahoe with the game tucked under his arm before flinging it down on the table and saying we should play with him.
Thus I was introduced to the startlingly wonderful world of indie board games.
Betrayal at House on the Hill combined everything I loved about games: it was co-operative, challenging, and fun. But, more importantly, it told a story. A story. Scrabble is all well and good, but there’s not over-arching story, no role-playing, no plot. With Betrayal at House on the Hill, you get a story each time you play. And more than that, the story changes each time. You might fight a leprechaun one time and then aliens the next. A demonic music box might come into play. One of your fellows might turn traitor and betray the other explorers. With the mechanics of the game, it’s different each time.
Ahem. Now that I’ve done my shameless promotion, allow me to tell you a story…a story of how my life got flipped, turned upside down…wait, not that story. A story about how this impacted me as a writer.
I’ve always liked a good ghost story. To be a little spooked, the wonder at the paranormal–that really sells me. Up until this point, though, I hadn’t really thought others shared my weird interests. I mean, who else wonders about what would happen if you were trapped in a dilapidated house with aliens on the way to convert you into fish people?
My point is this: the world is so wide, and so vast, that someone out there is sure to love whatever story you’re writing. I had just played a game about a leprechaun chasing a small child through a creepy mansion. And I’d liked it. So then, imagine my surprise when my brother had said this game was selling well. Like, really well.
That really struck home to me as a writer. If you write your story, and you genuinely love and believe in what you’re doing, then others will respond to it. After we’d finished up for that night, so many years ago (ok, no, maybe like 5 or 6 years ago), I really got to thinking about my own stories. And I realized I shouldn’t limit myself to what I thought other people might like, but that I should write about what I liked.
The rest will follow. But you’ve got to embrace your own weirdness first.