Storytelling in Roleplaying Games is a great thing. Really, it is the whole point of playing them: you are building a collaborative tale that is contributed to by all the players and the Game Master. Remixing is a big part of that for both the player and the GM .
On a fundamental level remixing is taking something and modifying it into something new. It’s been happening in recorded music since the ‘60s, and since smartphones have become so prevalent it has been happening with pictures and videos with more regularity, though to be fair it is not hard to believe that it is as old as art is. Memes are remixed cultural texts. Some of the funniest things on youtube are remixed music videos, and some of the coolest are remixed music for TV show trailers…
Remixing is what a GM does when they mine a movie, book, or history for plot points and create a game at the table for it.
Say you want to have a great game of swashbuckling fun.You might look to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, or the novel Robinson Crusoe, or even a Clive Cussler book. You take the main plot of the movie, mix it up so that it fits your world and goals for the game, and then run the players through the narrative. It will never be just like the movie in the end because you have no control over the players’ choices the way a screenwriter does; instead you have remixed the plot into something new that forms the basis for a collaborative, spontaneous storytelling process.
I would even go so far as to argue that remixing is nothing new and we have been doing it for centuries in human societies. Many of the myths from Catholicism were remixed from pagan rituals. For example, “[a]t Christmastime, we often hear protests about the “real meaning” of the season from people eager to emphasize the Christian elements of Christmas…[i]n reality, this blending of Christian and pagan traditions is nothing new.” Superheroes in comics and movies were remixed from the myths and legends of the ancient gods, some even repurposed those gods in characters like Thor and Loki and Hercules. Most popular vampire stories started with Dracula, most art forms were trying to expand or differ from what came before it, most genres started at a root point. In my opinion, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the best examples we have of the early fantasy realm that we take for granted in the gaming world. So is, as my comic scholar friend Asher pointed out, The Faerie Queene. It is a Poem by Edmund Spenser written at the same time and equally influential in the development of Western fantasy literature.
Every time something is remixed something new comes out of it. This is especially evident at the game table where the players’ actions and input will directly affect and mix your story. I have run a scenario in many games where the players are on an airship and are suddenly about to crash into a castle in the sky. Every single time I run that adventure – that is my own insofar as I didn’t take it from a module, yet mixed together from many different sources – there is a different outcome.
The idea that creativity is dead and that there is nothing else new to say should be eye-rolled by every GM. The ones who say this are missing the point. The point was never to think that creativity was finite, or that you were responsible to come up with something brand new every time you played a game. The point was, how do I make this into my own version of what I love about it ?
This is not an excuse to claim someone else’s intellectual property as your own. I wouldn’t publish Hamlet as a gaming module and say I came up with it. However, if I managed to make a new story with elements from that, and made it my own, then why not?
It’s like writing a paper for university: while you may have a great argument, you still have to bring other people’s ideas to the table to back yours up. You have to give credit where credit is due, but in the end the paper you wrote is yours. Remixing is similar.