“What to play?” “What to play?”

21Feb07

I was thinking about the “single-game engine that you can play any number of one-shot stories with” that I’ve wanted to design for a long time. Play Right!, my Game Chef entry, was a stab at it. I have numerous notes about it over the past 5 years. But, there’s a serious marketing problem with the entire concept.

People shouldn’t have to decide what to play TWICE.

If everyone else’s groups are anything like mine, deciding what to play next is a constant negotiation of shifting interests and priorities. Designing a game that would essentially cause people to say “Alright, we’ve discussed it and we’re going to play MSM’s Game. Now, what type of story are we going to play with MSM’s Game?” seems to set the burden too high. That’s one of the problems that WGP… struggles with.

Finding the perfect amount of player empowerment is a never-ending quest.

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8 Responses to ““What to play?” “What to play?””

  1. This is why I’m a “story gamer.”
    First, the universal enging to run all is the illusory holy grail of gaming. (This from the guy who’s writing a generic anime game.)
    Second, most story games are focused sufficiently to answer or at least guide these questions. I’m not really interested in psuedo-Mormon paladins in the Old West, but Dogs piques my curiousity enough as a game for me to want to play it. Choosing Dogs settles both system and series. WGP… at least narrows things down: it’s not geared as just a supers game, it’s designed to emulate Silver Age comics. That implies more constraint and limitations.
    What I’m doing with my anime game is making the first session about creating the premise of the series as well as the characters. There’s a lot of upfront discussion and advice that will guide players through both processes. My rolemodel in this respect is PTA, but I don’t think it goes far enough. Even though it’s a “generic” game, it is at least limited to trying to create or emulate anime. GURPS doesn’t even give you that.
    Ultimately, this is where a “generic” system fails – you only get the engine, nothing more. I can see coming at it the other way – “I want to do tell this kind of story or play in this kind of setting; what game facilitates that?” but not starting with a generic system. System *does* matter – it just doesn’t necessarily come first.

  2. The solution to your never-ending quest is easily found.
    It’s mind-controlling LASERs baby, yeah!

  3. This sounds to me like your answering a good need: The gaming group that gathers regularly, and maybe plays a regular game of SystemX most weeks, but has weeks that for whatever reason (down a player, say) don’t have anything on the agenda. What to play? (This, at least, is what “single-game… one-shot stories” says to me.
    I see it as an analogous situation to this one: I have a bunch of friends I play board games with. We don’t usually decide in advance what to play unless someone has a raging lust to play something that the hosts (usually me and Andrew) don’t have.
    So, make the deciding part of play, in the same way that Franchise creation in InSpectres, or World Burning in Burning Empires is part of play. I think I would be happy to play MSM’s Game of Games, if it started with a well-structured and very focused interactive setup that created the outline of setting, situation and so on for the first hour, and 2-3 hours of play later, out pops a resolution.
    [Silly Thought]How about a Make-Your-Own-Adventure style series of choices?[/Silly Thought]

  4. Nobody seems to complain about this much with Mortal Coil.


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