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Thursday, May 20, 2010

World Building - Helpful Hobbies

I’ve been a gamer girl since I was about two or three years old and could hold the joystick on the old Atari console. Some of my favorite games back then were Pitfall and Pacman. And let me tell you there is just nothing more fun than being “one of the guys” in a room full of men and playing video games. You get to see a side of men they rarely show the opposite sex. Boy, do you ever!

Then online gaming came out and whole new worlds opened up to me. Games like World of Warcraft, Eve online, Black Hawk Down, City of Heroes/Villains, Star Wars online, and sooo many more. If you’ve seen it, I’ve played it.

So as a writer, this experience has broadened my horizons so to speak in more than one way. First off, I got the chance to see men as they really are and what an enlightening experience it is. When you think you really know how they are when you’re away...chances are they’re ten times worse than you think. They’re more crude, more brass, more “manly” than even you can imagine. And I love it. Of course, I’ve got a crude sense of humor as well which is probably why I fit right in with them.

Being a gamer has also opened up world building in a whole new way for me. The worlds within these virtual games are endless, and it truly is breath taking. You get the sense that you know sort of what Lewis and Clark might have felt like as the vast new lands opened up to them. Vivid colors, in depth story lines, and compelling characters all await you within the world of games. You can learn a lot from kids sometimes. They love games the way we loved books while we were young. This is their creative outlet, so before you knock them for it. Try it yourself.
Gaming has also helped me with world building. Because not only am I a gamer, I’ve become a Simmer as well. What’s that you say? It’s a game called Sims. I play both Sims 2 and Sims 3. It allows my “girly” side to come out and play some too. Sims allows you to build your own virtual world in a way that brings you right into the stories. You get to build your own homes, so you can know exactly where every piece of furniture is in your characters homes and you don’t have to go magazine picture hunting to find one that looks similar to the one in your imagination. You can just create it. As you and your character see it. Brilliant.

The inside, the outside, the yard...everything is customizable. Even your playable characters. Here’s a few examples. I have one game for every book I’ve written. I know what they look like, where the live and even what their neighborhoods look like. There are even historically accurate player made clothes from the regency and Victorian era. It really makes the saying bringing your story come to life take on a whole new meaning.

It’s really worth the money just to be able to see your characters home in your own virtual creation. And on top of that you get to play the game and it’s a lot of fun. It’s kind of like playing a virtual Barbie doll.
This is how one of my hobbies helps me write my stories. So my question is this; what other hobbies do you have that coincide with your writing and help you write your stories?


  1. Melissa,
    This sounds so cool! I'm a very visual person, so this sounds great. My husband bought a shipping game for the PC, and I haven't tried it yet, but I'm looking forward to playing. From what he tells me, you have to pick your ship, cargo, all that stuff. That sounds helpful for the book I'm writing at the moment, because a lot of it takes place on a ship and the hero is the captain.

    As far as hobbies go, I enjoy most outdoors things like hiking, gardening, canoeing. I really want a kayak. How I think it helps me in my writing is it provides time for reflection. I notice my surroundings and I think it helps with world building too.

  2. You know, I have never played a single on-line game? I don't think I would even know where to start - lol. I think it is amazing that you can have such a wonderful visual for your own imagination. As for me, water sports hasn't really come in handy for my historicals ;) I did have fun including wakeboarding in my recent short story, however. I guess you never know where inspiration will come from!

  3. You'll have to tell me the name of the game Michelle, I played an online pirate game that had some very useful ship info that was very accurate called Pirates of the Burning Sea. You might want to check it out.

    My oldest boys and I go roller blading, biking and hiking alot too. We're talking about learning how to mountain climb this summer. We'll see. I'd love to try kayaking, sounds like a blast. That's the beauty of having two teen boys, they keep me very active lol.

    And Erin, that's the one thing I haven't done yet that I want. Watersports. It's on my bucket list girl. Sounds like so much fun. And I agree you never know where inspiration will show up.

  4. I live in a house full of teenage boys, so I have some knowledge of games, but I never thought about how they related to my writing. I like to spend time hiking/biking/rowing in the wilderness and many of my story ideas come from that hobby.

  5. I used to play Nintendo with my siblings (the original Nintendo, not any of these newfangled versions, LOL). But since those days, I really haven't been much of a game player. I'll do a few of the Facebook games for a while, but I always eventually give up on them because they take too much time away from my writing.

    My hobbies? I crochet and do counted-cross stitch, which allow me time to think about what I'm writing while doing something else. I also love to take my nephew out to a park or to other places in nature, and try to see the world through his eyes. It helps me to "see" the world in a new way, in order to better describe it when I'm writing.

  6. OMG! Those Regency video game characters are AWESOME!! My hubby and I had a concept for a Regency era SIMS type game that we were going to call Lords and Ladies. Not sure there's a huge market for that, though. LOL!

    Hubby was a pretty big WOW player, and I've done a little, but I mostly like designing the characters and dressing them. I tend to lose interest in the game play.

    However, I have used games in the past to keep my mind sharp and expand my vocabulary. I know, I'm such a nerd! LOL!

    Other hobbies include working out, which really helps me clear my mind and get focused. Of course, a clear mind and focus don't really matter when you have an infant. LOL! She has a way of foiling my writing time. *sigh*

  7. Omg Mindy, I loved Nintendo! Duck Hunt and Mario are my all time favorites! LOL I am such game nerd. I give you props for crocheting, I don't have the patients for it. I think I may have ADD lol, I cannot sit still that long unless I'm writing. And that only because my mind is going a hundred miles a minute.

    Jerrica you would be surprised at how much of a demand there would be for such a game. Simmers are mostly made up of female players who, like you, love to design, create, and play thier own made up characters. I'll bet Lords and Ladies would be a huge hit. I'd play it if you created it LOL.

    I love WOW, am considering going back. I like to design and dress them as well but I'm a huge pvper (player versus player.) You don't know what kind of a thrill it is to go into a male dominated arena and kick butt. They just cannot believe a "girl" could be them lol. I'll have to hook up with you later and find out what server your hubby is on LOL.

    I'll agree, working out is definitely a great way to get your focus. I tend to lean more toward yoga for the relaxing qualities.

    And you've got another two years or so before things can calm down enough for you to do anything at all. My best advice when the little one gets old enough is buy a movie like Thomas and friends lol. It's two hours of pure bliss for me LOL.

    So glad to hear everyones little hobby in some way help get thier focus on thier writing. It was a great way to get to know each other! Thanks for stopping by everyone!

  8. Neat post, Melissa. It's been awhile since I've played Sims 2 - didn't know you could find Regency and Victorian houses and characters! I tend to build my houses in real but miniature. I admit I'm a bit of a hobby-a-holic from crafting (miniatures, sewing, sculpting, crochet) to gardening and DIY stuff around the house. This allows me sometimes some depth to understand characters hobbies (I like old-fashioned, unusual hobbies, like tatting, and I have my own spinning wheel which I haven't tried yet though I do spin, as well as a wood-burning cook stove); I might do better writing westerns! ;) Neat post, and great idea for world-building - and discovering the "real" side of men. :)

  9. Melissa,

    I'm not a gamer at all. My husband loves to play Assassin's Creed and swears he has learned so much about Italy's history. I love to travel, and I do think traveling has helped me with building my worlds. I also love art, and I think that helps as well.

  10. I know this will come as a huge surprise, but my author is a gamer. Online and, yes, in person.

    For years she spent each weekend going over to this or that friend's house to enjoy the various escapades of all the different gamers who showed up. Some of her favorite campaigns had themes... such as the born losers campaign. No matter how noble or well intentioned the character was, the born losers were doomed to fail. But how they failed was randomly decided by the DM (dungeon master--gracious but that sounds like an omnious title with a little bit of kink) and the failure was usually hysterical. Like this one time (not at band camp), we were trying to break into a temple (the characters, not my author) and we had this halfing and suddenly there was this brilliant idea to toss the halfing up to the roof. Well wouldn't you know that the tosser chose that moment to roll a natural 20 (or a perfect roll of the dice) and, well... yeah that's how the game 'toss the halfing' became an overnight sensation in all the mythological kingdoms we roamed--except, of course, halfling world.

    A little confession about online games... before my author became a mother and when she was free to write whenever she wanted, she was addicted to Quake. There is just nothing like being a scantily clad warrior with a big fat gun going around shooting anything and everything to relieve some stress.
    Sigh--those were the days.


  11. Oh, almost forgot the whole reason I meant to comment--the gaming--online and in person--has proven to be invaluable in the creation of the worlds I build for my lovely stories.

    Hey, anybody know if there are any plans for any of those online gamer companies to make one where kids play to see who can clean their room the fastest and best? Yeah, I didn't think so either.