An active Call of Cthulhu/Cthulhu Lives LARPing group, the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, sells an impressive range of 1920s-era .PDF documents and Lovecraftian period fonts the group created as props for their live games: an Arkham bank checkbook, bank statements and passbook, library card, news clippings, a full newspaper, toe tag, asylum record, auto registration, luggage tags, burial permit, driver's licenses for four states plus London, dues stamp, hunting license, insurance documents, matchbooks, Miskatonic University letterhead and diplomas, police documents, press passes, private eye license, pulp magazine covers, stock certificates, streetcar transfers, telegrams, airplane and zeppelin tickets, union card, Army ID cards and secret messages, U.S. and British passports circa 1923-1937, a Brazilian visa, and membership docs for the Ku Klux Klan. Many of these props and fonts are displayed in the terrific HPLHS fan-produced silent film adaptation of Lovecraft's signature story, "The Call of Cthulhu."
Still, reading .PDFs printed on your laser printer can't match the - not to sound overwrought - palpable pleasure of handling an actual feelie. If publishers won't create them, the next frontier is custom fabrication. One interesting option for the future is OGLE, "an open-source software package by the Eyebeam OpenLab that allows for the capture and reuse of 3-D geometry data from 3-D graphics applications running on Microsoft Windows." In other words, you can pull your World of Warcraft gnome out of the game and cast it in plastic using a "fab," a 3-D printer such as the Dimension BST 768.
Don't get excited yet; OGLE still has quirks. Programmer Michael Frumin's candid list of OGLE's shortcomings confesses, "So far, none of the data captured from any application has been clean and well-formed enough to go right into our 3-D printer. We have, however, achieved meatspace with manual cleanup of some models."
Meanwhile, it would be nice to see feelies back in our games. By neglecting them - not even offering a .PDF or two on the game disc - today's developers are missing an opportunity. Feelies lend dimension to a setting. They establish atmosphere and locale in ways unmatched by even the most realistic graphics. Interactive fiction author Peter Nepstad, whose historical murder mystery 1893: A World's Fair Mystery has sold over 3,000 copies - a remarkable number for text games these days - included a wide array of feelie-style .PDFs on his game's disc. "Quality feelies help transport the player to the world you are trying to create," he explains. "I remember with Infocom games, I used to read every word of their packaging and feelies before even booting up the game for the first time. These things were an important part of the game experience for me, and so naturally, as a writer, I want to carry on that tradition.
"All of that said, I wouldn't say feelies are a must-have. If they aren't there, well, that's sort of to be expected, and not really a big deal. But if they are there, then that's better. Feelies are always better."