Letter Games

26 May

Video Killed the Radio Star

Email killed the hand-written letter. (SMS seems to be killing email, but I’m hoping this post will go live sometime before we transition from text messaging to a thought-based internet messaging system)

Letters, for the younger crowd, are when someone sits down (possibly even with arcane tools such as decorative stationery and a sharpened graphite stick) and creates a message that they then place into an envelope, add postage to, and then mail using their local postal service.

The lucky recipient of this letter would then be treated with news from friends or family far away.

These days, “snail mail” tends to deliver advertisements, newspapers, magazines, and whatever bills haven’t moved on to electronic payment methods yet.

In short, “mail” is becoming garbage. A process of creating, shuffling, filtering, delivering, and throwing away garbage.

Rage Against the Machine

I am saddened by this change of events.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE email. I love the swift exchange of ideas and news. I love the ease of use and immediate response.

I know I sound like a sentimental old fogey here (get off my lawn!), but there’s a MAGIC in letters that’s missing from emails.

There’s something about opening your mailbox and finding a little treasure folded in amongst the coupons and classified ads.

I don’t want to wait a week to find out that my brother’s new baby is a girl, or that my grandfather’s surgery went well … but I am positive that there is a way to resurrect the nearly-lost art of letter writing without invalidating the technological advances of our age.

Games Writers Play

My favorite solution?

A letter game.

What is a letter game?

I’m so glad you asked!

A letter game, as I understand it, is an offshoot of roleplaying.

An Example

Let’s say you and I were going to start a letter game.

We would chat (briefly) about setting – time, place, genre, possible magical rules for fantasy letters, that sort of thing – and then we would each develop a character.

Our characters need only two things:

  • A reason we begin writing to each other in the first place
  • A reason to continue writing letters to each other

We would decide who sends the first letter, exchange mailing addresses … and then the game begins.

My character pens the first letter to your character – in her voice, her tone, herself. She writes a letter to your character, telling you of some important or interesting events in her life.

Then I mail it off to you.

When you receive it, your character pens a response.

That’s it. That’s the game. That’s the FUN.

We both get LETTERS – real, paper letters. We both have fun writing our characters and their story in a laid-back, undemanding format.

Some Real Letter Games

I’ve done a few letter games over the years – one that failed because my partner got busy, one that failed because I lived in the same house as my partner and the time delay in letter arrival is somewhat key to the sanity aspect of this thing, and one that’s still ongoing.

Let me tell you, opening up my mailbox and finding a brilliant, sky-blue envelope addressed to “Francesca diMarvo, C/O Tami Moore” makes my whole WEEK.  (It’s my turn, by the way, and Cheska has SO many marvelous and distressing things to relay back to Amelia, I really can’t imagine how she shall manage to distill them into a single missive! *fans self, adjusts parasol*)

My favorite PUBLISHED (*seriousface*) letter games are:


If you’re a writer (budding, published, unpublished, anguished, hobbyist, or otherwise) and are friends with someone of a similar mindset, I cannot recommend letter games highly enough. They’re addictive, fun, inexpensive, and are like a cat stretch for the artistic soul.

What’ve you got to lose?

Anyone else ever tried a letter game or heard of one?


8 Responses to “Letter Games”

  1. Tart May 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    I love this idea. Being a bit of a stationary whore, I find myself trying to find reasons to send letter to people, but sometimes it’s sadpanda inducing when they don’t write back. Now, which of my friends to poke about this….

    • Tami May 27, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

      *high five* LOVE stationary. I need to be able to buy it in single-use packets or something, because I’d much rather have randomly-themed letters than to keep using the same stuff till it’s gone. I only have one non-lettergame penpal, so she’s probably getting used to my stationary rotation by now. (I creative write better using a word processor than by hand, so I print my letter game letters out and mail them)

      My penpal, on the other hand, has yet to use the same stationary twice, which is AWESOME and always a thrill to see what’s in the mail THIS time. ❤

  2. Charleen July 2, 2011 at 5:42 am #

    Ooh, that sounds like so much fun!
    I’m a terrible person when it comes to writing letters, and I’ll readily admit it. But this idea is brilliant – I’ll gladly write volumes when it’s not about myself 😉
    (Been writing personal statements and study proposals lately. One more mind-numbing and exaggerated line about how awesome I am, and I think my head might explode.)
    Now, how to find someone to play with, though? I guess a bit of geographic distance is very helpful, or else it might be too tempting to save on postage and just exchange the letters during lectures, which would be disappointing. And that, plus a steampunky or urban fantasy mindset… huh. Not easy to come by this side of the pond 😉
    Still – a great idea to keep in mind!

    • Tami July 3, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

      If I wasn’t already strung out with projects, I’d probably snatch at the opportunity to write with you. Do love some steampunk/urban fantasy!!

      • Charleen July 3, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

        Aww, you’re taunting me. Dangling possibilities like that in front of my nose like a cheese cube in front of a labrador, then pulling them away just like that. Can’t you feel the patient, yet accusing lab stare drilling into your back? It’s okay, I can wait, I know that cube’s for me… *wags tail*

      • Tami July 4, 2011 at 8:21 am #

        I can see the cube, but I also know just how many writing projects I have right now. I know I can’t take on another. I SO wish I could, though.

        That’s not a cheese cube, it’s rat poison and I’m saving you from it.

  3. Charleen July 4, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    But – but – it smells cheesy! And delicious!
    Oh well… I understand your position, I really do. And I don’t want to keep you from any other writing projects just to play a slow-going letter game with a German weirdo girl that would say, do and write anything to get around studying for exams! But, you know, should your writing situation change in the future – you’ve got my email, just in case 😉
    And now this puppy is done stalking and trying to guilt you. Promise. Swear on my favourite chew toy. …Uhm, yes, the ruined one, why do you ask? *innocent puppy eyes*

    • Tami July 6, 2011 at 8:42 am #

      I wish I could, I really, REALLY do. *grin* Even just the comments are fun. Perhaps I shall win the lottery and be able to quit my day job. *wink*

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