The Wilderness Years

I’ve lived all my life in the county of Essex in the south of England. It’s bordered by London to the southwest, Suffolk to the north and the Thames estuary to the east. It’s a beautiful and varied county, and I love it. Many assume it’s more urban than it is, whereas it’s actually very rural. Where I live I’m surrounded by woods, fields, hedgerows and rivers. In the autumn it’s absolutley stunning. 

What on earth has this got to do with gaming?

I think that the environment you growe up in has an enormous effect on the way you visualise the wilderness ihn your gaming. It has long struck me that where I live, and where I played as a boy, and where I take my long walks with the kids these days, is pretty much Tolkien’s Shire in every respect. The village a few miles from me is exactly how I imagine Bree to be. Even Peter Jackson’s movies didn’t deviate from my imagination too much. It’s perhaps telling that the locations for those movies were New Zealand, a country with very similar geography to the UK.

When I play RPGs and the GM tells us where we are and what it looks like I can’t help but filter that imagery through my own memories. That makes it perfect for fantasy gaming of a certain ilk. But here’s the rub, it’s not so easy to envision scenery that I’m not exposed to an a daily basis. So far, so obvious you might think. I mean, there’s not many people alive who have walked on the moon, and that’s one of the least exotic environments that gaming could take you to.

The vast majority of the games I play are written by Americans. I wonder how much of the American landscape is assumed in play? If you’re from Vegas, do you have a better buy in with Dark Sun that I ever will? How about if you’re from New York or any other big metropolis, doe that influence the way you see urban adventures? Any Alaskans? Is your idea of ‘light woods’ different to mine? Hawaiians?

And that’s just one part of the world. I’d love to hear about the view from your door if you’re Australian, Japanese, Russian, Brazilian. Whatever and wherever.

Because at the end of the day, when I walk through my local woods down to the river where the fish swim under the bridge, I always, without exception, imagine an orc ambush at the final turn by the dead tree. Is it just me?

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Wilderness Years

  1. schlossblick

    Even though I’m unable to offer new insight regarding that matter, I fully support your impression. Having grown up in a village surrounded by forests, every time I visit my parents nowadays, I realise why I developed a taste for certain things, for fantasy rpgs as well as fantasy and weird literature as well as for black metal. These early years pave the way for many later decisions, for better or for worse, and the very nature of the environment one has become familiar with plays a decisive role in this respect.

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