The Ink That Bleeds by Paul Czege

I’m not a terribly meta kind of person: I prefer to play games rather than read about them, and heaven knows, I’d much rather spend my precious time actually writing rather than reading about writing. So despite Paul Czege being a valued collaborator of mine, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to appreciate his latest zine, on the subject of writing out journaling games. I mean, I was definitely going to enjoy reading his discussion of my last physically published game, Honey Hex, alongside a number of solo roleplaying games he’s had the opportunity to enjoy over the past twenty years. But was I really going to find reading about writing games a good use of my time?

Oh, reader, in Mr Czege’s more then capable hands, it mostly definitely is! The Ink That Bleeds is a slim volume but beautiful, with an evocative cover and just the loveliest typesetting throughout. More importantly, it is an incredibly thoughtful look at solo journaling games, and especially the concept of bleed.

For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, bleed happens when the stories we create affect us viscerally in real life, often to our detriment. I’ve been intimately acquainted with the concept since building paracosms as a young teenager, so have often found myself hesitant to truly immerse myself in solo journaling games for fear of evoking the same feelings once more. Writing a story is one thing — I do that with solo journaling games quite often — but getting so immersed that I have trouble differentiating what I’m feeling from what I’m writing is something I’ve been careful to avoid for years. Heck, I even wrote a game about the concept, in an attempt to highlight the good parts of immersion and how players can and often do draw strength from their imaginations. Ultimately and unfortunately tho, my preferred method of avoiding bleed is by avoiding such games altogether, to the detriment of my groaning To-Be Played shelf.

Fortunately for bleed-susceptible people like myself, TItB offers a viable alternative to merely staying away from games that entice but whisper also, however faintly, of danger. While introducing to readers several recommended solo games, it also encourages us to play more, to write more, to be unafraid of immersion by… well, that would be a spoiler. You have to get the book to find out.

And you can do that now via Paul’s Kickstarter campaign, which just went live! Tbc, TItB isn’t just for players looking to avoid the worst of bleed, or for seasoned role-play veterans like myself. It’s also a book about getting started in the hobby, and best practices and general philosophies. It’s great for anyone looking to learn more about this niche genre, and is highly, highly recommended for anyone looking to start creating games as well. It may be the only book about solo journaling games currently out there, but it’s an outstanding start.

The Ink That Bleeds by Paul Czege will be published by Half Meme Press in 2023 and is crowdfunding on Kickstarter now!

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