Book Culture in IRE Games
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As alternatives to the book have increasingly become the focus of intense marketing efforts from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple, among others, a subset of book lovers have gone into revolt, straining to express what it is about the book that they can't give up. Some point to the eyestrain from backlit screens. Others like the tactile feel of pages, or the smell of the paper. Most argue that the book as an artifact has an irrevocable place in literate culture.
The MUD, as a digital-text-based form of entertainment, might seem at first glance to be one among many factors in the decline of the analog world of books, newspapers, magazines, and board games. Yet a closer look shows a more complicated picture. Achaea has a thriving book culture, one that honors all the book's beloved cultural apparatuses, even though these apparatuses are represented in a string of ones and zeros instead of in leather, twine, pulp and glue.
Each House in Achaea maintains a library, as does each city. That makes for a minimum of 31 libraries, before even beginning to count Order libraries and personal and clan-based collections. Some libraries are modest, while others hold hundreds of volumes. Houses, clans, and orders, including the Crystalline Circle, the Occultists, Quaero Coelementatus, and the Order of Lorielan, pride themselves on their extensive collections.
Visit the rooms where these collections are stored and you'll find dozens of variations on bibliophilic library fantasies. Bookcases stretch into the distance. Silent librarians maintain the shelves. Sunlight streams in through floor-to-ceiling windows--or the only relief from the dank blackness of the library catacombs is a sputtering taper.
The books themselves range widely in subject matter, from history and theology to fiction and poetry. Most would be considered little more than pamphlets if published in the real world, but the heavy tomes that contain them in Achaea lend them gravitas. And all told, the hundreds of titles produced by players across Iron Realms are an impressive body of work, lending great depth to the worlds and adding a valuable sense of history.
I've heard that in "open world" games like Skyrim, people meticulously assemble libraries--even though the books don't have any text. It's clear that books won't disappear from RPGs, including the offerings from Iron Realms. The question is if they will come to seem as archaic as other elements of the medieval setting.
Author: Azor of Achaea