Raph Koster: Game developer, and now published poet

    
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People wear many hats in life, and noted game developer Raph Koster has donned another one that most folks aren’t used to seeing him wear: published poet. For the last 10 years, Koster has posted a poem on his personal blog every Sunday. Now, he’s compiled a number of those — and added a few others — into a book you can hold in your hand (and peruse while spawn camping!). The subject of the poetry extends far beyond the realm of gaming, covering whatever was happening during that week, from the news to music to even his children’s homework. Of his musings, he said,

As I wrote, I found myself bending the writing to suit the audience: rather than confessional or deeply personal work, I tended towards light verse, towards musings on history or science, or even on programming and video games. And of course, the sort of subject matter that still carries echoes of the world of geeks: ghost stories, real world mysteries, mythology and magic.

More than just poetry, the book contains a series of digital pen-and-ink illustrations Koster made based on various photographs he’d taken as well as cameo appearances of blog commenters in the extensive end notes. Titled Sunday Poems, this compilation is available now in paperback and is available for pre-order on Kindle. Not a fan of poetry? Keep your eyes peeled: Koster blogged that this book was written “in preparation for hopefully putting out a few books of game design essays, the first of which [he hopes] to be a collection of [his] postmortem pieces on Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, and other games.”

 

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raphkoster

DemonicPossession raphkoster There is a poem in the book dedicated to Forche. “Valley in Ancash.”

raphkoster
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raphkoster

DemonicPossession raphkoster crawlkill The thing is… Theory of Fun is, for a game design book, a real bestseller — over 40,000 copies by now, and it has had very long legs. But I get $1.25 per copy (which is actually up a bit from what it used to be).

By comparison, a self-published book can net me 70% in digital form, and, depending on pricing, around 60% in print. Given that Theory of Fun and my speaking and writing effectively acts as the marketing anyhow, financially, a publisher doesn’t really necessarily make sense. If I had less profile in the industry, then yes — they’d open distribution doors, visibility, etc. But given how well Theory of Fun did… it may very well tilt the other way. A fraction as many copies would actually be more profitable.

raphkoster
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raphkoster

DemonicPossession I have certainly read enough of the aforementioned poets. :) Workshopped once with Simic, actually.
That said, I was influenced during college by the whole New Formalism movement, Gioia and Dick Allen and others — Allen’s daughter Tanya, fine poet in her own right, was a classmate and we workshopped together as well. So that’s why the callbacks to traditional forms are in there so often. I enjoy “playing the game” of the metric feet and so on.

After that, though, I ended up in the rather more experimental program at UAlabama, with Robin Behn, Hank Lazer, and others. So a bit more exposure to different approaches including language poetry, talk poetry, and more.

Are you reading these on the blog? A few have seen minor revisions for the book…

What’s your writing background? I like what you are getting at in your piece.

raphkoster
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raphkoster

crawlkill These days, with Createspace and the like, setting up a small publishing company and doing POD doesn’t really work like oldschool vanity publishing scams anymore. The additional cost to do the print version (and with illustrations, the print version really is much nicer) is negligible — layout costs, pretty much — and thereafter, the POD house just acts as a printer, with a royalty split to the author that is considerably more generous than what a typical publisher would give.

Because of this, a lot of authors are choosing to “go indie.” 

In my case, since the plan is to put out some books of game writing, and those books will have an audience that prefers them in print (schools, in particular), it made sense to go ahead and learn the process, since it costs me very little to do so.

(I know you don’t recognize my name, but I am pretty confident that there is a readership for the game design material. :) )

crawlkill
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crawlkill

pubisher: RaphCo, LLC.

author: Raph Koster.

I have zero feelings about this person, don’t recognize his name and unsure if I’ve read his postmortems, but self-publishing in print is a vanity at the expense of the self-publisher to the benefit of the people they license to print their stuff. this is what ebook publishing is FOR. c’mon, man.

raphkoster
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raphkoster

Ceder It is indeed self-published. I did it as a practice book to learn the process so I can put out books of game design essays, in particular the postmortem essays on SWG and UO and others. I got several requests to make those a book, when they came out early this year.
While I could probably find a publisher for those (heck, probably for the poems too), in these days of indie entrepreneurial publishing, it doesn’t seem to make sense. Publishers don’t provide much marketing value add anymore, and the cut to the author is a multiple of what the royalty rate typically is.

Ceder
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Ceder

Given the ease now to publish, this really isn’t a big deal.

raphkoster
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raphkoster

DemonicPossession Never thought of myself as a modernist…! A lot of the poems use traditional forms, or tweaks thereof, and there are also plenty of free verse things.

The backstory here is that the poems were written weekly on my blog to an audience that by and large didn’t like or care about poetry. So it’s deliberately aimed at those folks: poems about geeky things, about when they killed off Marian on the BBC Robin Hood… etc. Quite a shift from the sort of thing I wrote when I was getting my MFA!

elixabethclaire
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elixabethclaire

* “Keep your eyes peeks “