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The Power of Video for GMs

Back in middle school, I was the player in a solo campaign set in the Forgotten Realms. When my character first entered the desert of Anauroch, my friend flipped on his TV and played a short clip from a movie he’d cued up.

It showed the windswept, rock-strewn badlands one often encounters at the edges of true deserts. As it played, he said “I wanted to show you exactly what the edge of Anauroch looks like.”

That was about 16 years ago, and while I’ve forgotten the name of the movie and countless other details from the campaign, I remember that 30 seconds of video with perfect clarity — and the video itself wasn’t even that interesting: all it showed was some featureless desert terrain.

But there was something powerful about the connection between hearing his description, seeing it in motion and combining the two in my head as the game continued. And whatever that power of video is, it’s different than GMing with pictures [1].

Have you ever used short video clips to enhance your game?

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#1 Comment By Telas On April 29, 2007 @ 4:29 pm

Cool idea. There’s a TV already hooked up to a computer in the room we game in (living room), so this would be a snap.

I could even use a cheesy “flight attendant” approach… “Please pay attention to the viewscreen for this short safety presentation on your trip to Moria.”

Telas

#2 Comment By JasonA On April 29, 2007 @ 10:05 pm

Yep. I ran a campaign set in the world of Final Fantasy X (basically the PCs were doing the same thing as you do in the original game – saving the world from the big nasty – but in a totally different way). During the campaign I played a number of clips from the game; in-game movies that showed what the new location they were visiting looked like, or in one case the results of a battle (where the PCs were just bystanders, and the good-guys got their butts handed to them).

It seemed to work well.

Jason

#3 Comment By John Arcadian On April 30, 2007 @ 3:30 am

Video works well, but I think it is hard to implement. Something like a final fantasy themed game comes with lots of pre-made imagery that you can pull from. Likewise there is plenty of fantasy stuff out there, as well as stock nature footage. Baraka was a particularly good compilation of evocative scenes that could work well for background snippets. You could also use some of the fractal 3d terrain generation programs with the animation fly-over features to make video as well.

There are issues with video however. Mainly the fact that it requires a bit more of a set-up. It can also cause some in-game distraction depending. You think the monty python jokes are bad in a game regularly, try showing a bit of Holy Grail and see if the players don’t go nuts :).

#4 Comment By Martin On April 30, 2007 @ 8:44 am

(John Arcadian) Video works well, but I think it is hard to implement.

I’ve made a TV part of my gaming space for the past couple of years, and never used it — this is part of the reason why. The key for me, though, is that I never think to use it. Finding an appropriate clip wouldn’t be that hard (we have a lot of movies), it’s just that it doesn’t occur to me. Which is kind of what led to this post. 😉