Monday, July 19, 2010

Out With The Old

I was watching an old movie yesterday - The Front Page, with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, based on the play written about eighty years ago.  I recommend it.  The significant point here is, however, that at one point in the film the diminuative fugitive from the law hides himself in a roll-top desk - and seeing that, I remember that once upon a time I had dearly wanted to own one of those.

My uncle had one, and I loved the feel of it - the polished wood, the rolling lid that would come down and lock, the enclosed writing space and all the little drawers.  I imagined myself filling drawers like those with pens, pencils, erasers, little rulers and geometry tools, clips, clamps, tape, little bottles of paint, brushes and a dozen other things.  Tools that would I use for writing, and making maps, and drawing tables and painting miniatures for combats yet to come.

At this stage in my life, where with a little scrimping and saving, I could afford a desk like this.  But I will never buy one.  The computer has killed it.

I no longer have any use for any of the drawers.  I don't draw maps by hand, I don't work with sheafs of paper, I don't need clips to hold them together and I don't have miniatures anymore - the computer does it all.  Every graphic design need I have is managed - with superiority - by the glowing screen and my deft, easy movements with the mouse.  I don't even write with pen and paper any more.  Once, I had a massive callus on the middle finger of my right hand.  I would show it to people, who would open their eyes and whisper, "wow ..." as it was the size of a raisin.  I built it up through thousands of hours with pen, scratching out pages and pages of material for fiction writing and for D&D.  But it's gone now.  I rarely use a pen more than once a week now - and it always feels strange to have one in my hand.

Moreover, the rolltop desk isn't designed for a computer.  It isn't deep enough and it isn't wide enough - none that I have seen would be.  I need space for the keyboard, the tower, the two monitors I always work with, the mouse pad, the desk lamp, the books piled on both sides of the keyboard and mousepad that I'm referring to as I create, the extra lap-top when one more screen is required ... and my coffee.  Working on anything is a complicated, crushed dance that demands I don't spill my drink into anything critical - which doesn't always work out.

I am a modern designer.   I apply all the same features of design to the game that I ever did when I was designing layout for magazines ten years ago - awful, thankless work that it was (avoid if at all possible).  It is getting simpler in that with the scanner I have (something else that wouldn't fit on a roll-top desk, not to mention the printer), the books are more practical to digitalize and then refer to on-screen.  Not always, but more and more often - as scanners have softly improved over the years.

So the process isn't nostalgic, it isn't comforting and homelike, it is brutally technological and getting moreso by the decade.  I need a room twice the size of the one I'm working in now just to stretch out and get comfortable - which isn't going to happen anytime soon.

What would be really fabulous would be a room so large that the desk where I always worked was automatically at the head of a table that would seat at least eight to ten people.  Where I could swivel one of the screens around and start playing without having to schlep my books or modify my daily workstation.

Sadly, I live in an apartment, with a marvellous view of the downtown core, immediate convenience to the heart of the city and without any rooms of real dimension.  It's all about trade-offs.

Still, I might get it together to move into a house someday, with a very large, single-roomed basement.  Sounds like heaven to me.


Zzarchov said...

In my city appartment (with a nice view of the river sprawling out the living room window), I used the spare bedroom as the main bedroom and the master bedroom as a game room/office. My desk against the wall and a nice poker table (leather bumper etc) as the gaming table (board, card, rpg). This allows the room I need, combined a netbook for the piecemeal rules (being 100% computerized) and I can use the monitors if need be to display information (though I may get a wall mounted flatscreen at some point to make it REALLY big).

I had considered getting a flatscreen and some plexiglass and making a table with the flatscreen pointing "up" so I could link in with a laptop and have a true digital tabletop. But the appeal of classic wood and leather won out with me (plus not wanting someones rugrat to destroy it somehow).

Carl said...

I've had two basements. Both were designated "the game room" prior to moving into the house.

I've my game room set up in a spare bedroom now. It's OK, but I miss my basements.

KenHR said...

When the lady and I get a house, she's already agreed to give me at least 2/3 of the basement as a combined gaming/music studio.

Sounds like heaven, indeed!

Mincer of Logic said...

I just can't do it - every time I try to change to using computers for campaign and idea management, I end up falling back to paper within the fortnight.

I'm definitely interested in changing but I have yet to find a toolset that works for me.

At what point did you change to managing everything electronically?