Saturday, November 25, 2006

Games you Never Thought of

Here's a few games you Never Thought of.

First: I finally managed to get a group to play Primetime Adventures, which has to be THE hardest game to sell people on. I finally got a group together - five players, two audience members, and me. Fourteen scenes later, we had finished a comedic romp through a steampunk space opera.

It works very well, even if you have no plot planned. Our "pilot episode" plot was made up on the fly, and it still ended up being an enjoyable game. I wonder whether I can get anyone to play a second time, though. It's so hard to sell.

Second: For the past few years, I've been creating games with lower and lower levels of immersion - testing the edges of what the minimum possible immersion is. It's been a very interesting romp, striding the edges where games fail. I don't think it's too egotistical to say that Boogaloo has proven most of my theories in application: a minimum-immersion game that people like to play.

It falters, but that's expected given the fact that the game has not a hint of immersion. I can, should, and almost certainly will write a paper about it.

However, what I'd like to do now is work on games with higher and higher levels of immersion. There are dozens of possibilities, but most of them have some severe drawbacks. So far, all my ideas have had the big drawback that they take at least half a day. I think that's inevitable: you can only immerse so fast.

Here, however, are two interesting ideas me and my roomie came up with. These games would avoid most of the drawbacks, but there are still some.

A game based on road trips. You get four to ten cars (and their drivers) and 2.5 times that number of players. You then set off on a day-long road trip. Each leg of the trip is an hour or so, with all the cars meeting in various locations. The idea of the game is that it's some kind of Cthulu-esque experience where the passengers are slowly being driven mad (ar-har-har): each car ride is functionally an hour of role-play based entirely around conversation and occasional in-game paper passing.

The players would need to figure out where they wanted to go in whose cars to solve whatever their goal was.

I could make this game a lot of fun, but the downside: about $100 in gasoline per car. Yeowch.

The other game is similar, but you simply ship everyone to a nearby big town (Boston, in my case) and instead of road trips, they take trips on the local subways and/or busses. You get some of the local businesses to go along with the game - a used book store, a little restaurant, a pub somewhere, someone to play a crazed homeless person - and you have everyone check back with "central" every hour or two. Some kind of "event" that happens that they don't want to miss.

It's the same basic kind of experience. The immersion should be comparable to the road trip, but would likely be more erratic. On the plus side, day passes for busses and/or subways typically run $5-$10, dramatically cheaper than the $30 players would need to pitch in for the road trip game.

Why these game ideas evade many of the problems with immersive games is an interesting topic, but kind of a long one, and I've taken enough of everyone's time today. Feel free to muse about it in the comments: I'd be interested to see everyone's take on immersion.


Craig Perko said...

You can "reduce" the time you need to immerse and increase the chance of immersion by "front loading" it. The more excited everyone is about their character, the more immersed they will be in the game.

What this means is that you can play "skirmishes" ahead of time to work up to the full-on game. Generate characters. Run little mini-larps (or even informal talk sessions) to gear everyone up and get them excited. Then... release the hounds!

Otherwise, you "waste" an hour and a half on getting players to care.

This can be pregame or metagame... there are differences, but it's kind of geeky and nothing I've talked about here.

Craig Perko said...

("Reduce" is in quotes because you're not actually reducing the time you need, you're just staging it so that it's more palatable.)