Play Unsafe

Play Unsafe - Graham Walmsley Play Unsafe was not what I expected - not what I was promised when I read the back of the book. I wanted information about Improvisation, tips and tricks for keeping things going. What I got was a set of proscriptive guidelines that in many cases seemed to be simply the author's personal taste presented as set-in-stone rules.

Taken as suggestions for trying new things, some of the material presented wasn't too bad, though it wasn't exactly novel. I'd never heard the idea of building drama by starting during an 'ordinary' routine called a "platform" before, but the name he gave it was the only new thing about a very common idea.

The real problem with the book is the tone it is written in, and the fact that it is simply incorrect in places. He states that true drama can't be created without the platform technique, that starting amidst the action doesn't work. However, beginning a story in media res is not only a very common, very useful storytelling technique, it's arguably a more dramatic way to begin things. What better way to challenge a player and build a fascinating story than to start him or her in the middle of a difficult situation and allow them to narrate not only how they got out of it, but what got them into it in the first place. It works well in novels and stories, creating a sense of mystery as we wonder the why and hows of the situation, and it can work just as well in games.

The short of it is, I didn't get anything out of this book at all. It is full of a lot of platitudes (play unsafe! If something scares you, do it!) but you can get that from countless blogs and any number of self-help books. This book claims to help you improve your improvisational skills, but all it actually does is tell you to "do it." To me, less than useful.