Seeing is believing
A picture is worth a thousand words
This old adage is especially true when it comes to fantasy worlds, where so much of the setting is a product of the GM’s imagination. Take a classic fantasy trope, the dragon. How many ways are there to picture a dragon? Does it have four legs or two? Wings, or just fly magically? A thick, muscled body, or a long, serpentine one?
Showing your Players a picture is so much simpler than providing a lengthy description that they will forget as soon as the dice are rolled. By showing them a picture, you will all be seeing the same dragon.
Players are accustomed to seeing images through their exposure to films and digital games. Thus, they almost expect a visual component to their games. To meet this need, a GM therefore needs a convenient way to harvest and organise images online, ideally with the possibility of seeing what images other GMs have found.
What the GM needs is Pinterest.
What is Pinterest?
Online pin board
Essentially, Pinterest is an online pin board. You can upload your own images, copy from other Pinners or harvest from the wider internet. It is possible to arrange your images into categories, or boards, and label them as desired. You may even keep a few boards private, allowing you to keep secrets from your Players who may otherwise see all of your images online.
Like any other modern social media, there is also the option to follow other users, or just specific boards. This creates your own feed page, where you can see all the latest Pins from the Pinners who you follow. The contents of this feed can be a bit hit-and-miss, but you are likely to find some users whose tastes match your own and thereby ensure a generally high standard of images in this feed.
Of course, once you find a Pinner who seems to share your interests, you can then trawl through all of their boards and harvest any images that you like, transferring them to your own boards. This re-pinning is handled smoothly, and Pinterest often suggests another source for the image, thereby giving you more potential Pins to harvest.
This can certainly be very addictive, as you follow a trail of users through the vast Pinterest archives. My wife spends a lot of time browsing Pinterest, and there are a great variety of images on Pinterest. Obviously, arts and crafts are well represented, but there are plenty of categories that can help a GM.
Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror and Steampunk are all very well represented on Pinterest. For any GM searching for visual images, Pinterest is definitely worth a look. It is easily as good a resource as, say, Google Images, as there has already been some editorial input when a user has chosen to upload an image.
My take on Pinterest
It would seem that for many users of Pinterest, the idea is just to keep harvesting images. There are some boards with vast numbers of images, which is fine if that is what you want. Just browsing the images can be a great aid to brainstorming.
However, I primarily use Pinterest to hold images for my Tales of the Hero Wars Campaign Wiki. Thus, I have organised the images on my page into the following boards;
Crop This – for images needing to be cropped
Tales of a GM – for the Thought for the Week images
The exact breakdown of folders is up to you, and will vary according to the type of game that you are running. My aim is to group images thematically, so that I can better find what I am looking for, and to easily compare images to decide which one I want to use. However, there is something to be said for mixing up the images in the hope of making some interesting juxtapositions.
I have chosen to use Pinterest as a temporary holding pen for images, rather than as long-term storage. Thus, whenever I use an image on the Wiki, I delete it from Pinterest. This ensures that I do not reuse an image. While I may find that I portray my GMCs in a similar way, they are not going to end up with the same portrait on the Wiki.
The downside to this method is that I can struggle to find suitable images for anything outside of the fantasy mainstream. It is easy enough to find one good image of a non-white female warrior wearing sensible armour, but five becomes more of an issue, and to find ten is quite a challenge. Yet, this does ensure there is no repetition on the Wiki, so it is worth the effort.
Furthermore, I have set a cap on each folder of 100 images. Otherwise, it is all too easy to spend time pinning images, when my primary goal is to source pictures for the Wiki. Thus, my Boards are more of a rotating set of images, which keeps them fresh. I find that many of the images on the larger boards are lost at the bottom, and thereby wasted.
Pinterest as Social Media
Let others do the work for you
Pinterest also offers some Social Media functions. The most basic is that once you have found some boards to follow, you can sit back and allow other users to find useful images for you. This does speed up the process, but only once you have located users who share your tastes.
As Pinterest is a vehicle for images, it is not ideal for the promotion of blogs. There is no harm in establishing a presence on another platform, but I doubt that it will serve to promote a blog in quite the same way as some of the other Social Media options.
However, some of the luminaries of the gaming hobby are present on Pinterest. It is rather cool to be able to see, say, Monte Cook’s favourite images.
Judging by some of the boards on Pinterest, there are clearly a number of GMs already members. There are some amazing images on the site, and you are sure to find some cool pictures for your Wiki, or just to use as Player Handouts. Furthermore, you may find an image that can spark an entire scenario, or just an awesome location.
Pinterest gives you more story and faster prep.
Give Pinterest a try, and share your thoughts in the comments. Or perhaps you already have a Pinterest account, if so, then tell us where to find you.