Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,

Loncon: Fallen London: Recreating London in Games

My first panel of today, though second writeup because I have to turn paper scribbles into notes.


This panel celebrates some of the ways that London has been represented in games; including LARP, tabletop, point-and-click and videogames. We also explore some of the darker aspects of seeing London with a player's eye.

Kate Nepveu, Jonathan Green, Frances Hardinge, Christi Scarborough (m)

Fallen London is basically the only game I play these days (though I did bump into someone last night randomly from my NetHack days!), so this was a panel I was very consciously intending to keep my mouth shut for most of. And the other panelists were excellent and all was well. (Those of you who really like Frances Hardinge's books, you'll be pleased to know she's very smart and interesting in person.)

I have more notes than usual for a panel I'm on, because I was scribbling to keep myself busy while listening for something I could genuinely contribute to. I'm going to re-order things a bit to make them make more sense in a static report.

We talked a lot about the predominance of Victorian London in games. Some suggestions for why: the prevalence of its architecture even today, which is familiar and grounding; that it is literally a very dark period; that Victorian Gothic literature is still very influential (the prior Gothic all took place somewhere safely distant, but Victorian Gothic brought it behind all those respectable-looking doors . . . ).

(Somewhere in here Frances mis-spoke "supernatural elephants" for "elements," which is clearly the pull-quote for the entire panel. As I have shamelessly used for my cut text.)

We also talked about how games often do not reflect the actual historical diversity of historical London, Victorian era included: port city! Massive trade! But, Victorian attitudes had this racist fear of The Other in the form of non-white people, and either people are still carrying that without realizing it, or they don't want to represent that in their works (so they . . . perpetuate a different kind of stereotype by erasing non-white people from history). I mentioned Fallen London's having a faction from the start of Asian-ancestry people (and how it eventually changed the name of that associations from Connected: The Orient to Connected: The Widow), and a reasonable number of non-white faces in the art.

(There was some discussion throughout about the dangers of adopting an imperialist perspective, and someone posited that you get over-the-top villains in steampunk and Victorian stories because absent random Nazis, you have to admit that the actual villain was the Empire.)

We talked about the visual language of London and what that brings to games: the very distinctive skyline, other recognizable elements like Underground stations, and then combine those with elements of mystery because London is still so dense and intricate even to those who live there, which may be related to a mini-trend of "wander London" games, some of which are in the mystery genre. Hellgate: London apparently fell afoul of this denseness, being unable to make London fully navigable because it's deceptively complex given its size.

(I have a note about the River Fleet, an underground river, as an element that people would like to see used, and the black swine that in legend live there.)

Christi asked the panelists what games they wanted to see. Jonathan wanted a Springheel Jack game (and also, I think, an 18th century-set game). Frances wanted an Elizabethan era game. I wanted a Fallen London-style game based in Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London books.

Audience questions:

Someone asked if London in the future was the setting for any games. People noted that generally London is thought of in the past. Hellgate was post-apocalyptic; an RPG called Agency Casefiles was set in the future. The Shadowrun sourcebooks were nominally future but very focused on mythical things because they're also (?) post-apocalyptic. (Sorry, I am rushing to finish before the next panel because otherwise I will never get done.)


Bookhounds of Cthulhu, set in 1930s, have to procure volumes used by Lovecraftian bad guys and avoid bankruptcy and end of the world

(My notes just say "Victorian RPG" and I'm not sure if that's a specific reference or not; a fast Google is unhelpful)

Golem of Brick Lane, a gamebook

a soon-to-be-published steampunk setting for Cthulhu, currently titled Steampunk Cthulhu

Ingress, which is not London-specific but is particularly good to play in London

The Walk, by the same people as Zombies, Run!

And I think that was about it.

I did not get to mention the gender selection text for Fallen London, which I will quote here because I love it:

May we ask whether you're a lady or a gentleman?

* A lady
* A gentleman
* My dear sir, there are individuals roaming the streets of Fallen London at this very moment with the faces of squid! Squid! Do you ask them their gender? And yet you waste our time asking me trifling and impertinent questions about mine? It is my own business, sir, and I bid you good day.

(That is about 85% of the reason I play as an individual of mysterious and indistinct gender, honestly. The spinoff, Sunless Sea, doesn't even ask you for gender, just how you want to be addressed.)

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Tags: cons: worldcon: 2014 (loncon 3), games: fallen london

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