5 things that made Journey to the End of the Night awesome

Runners preparing for Journey on the steps of the Powerhouse Museum
Runners preparing for Journey on the steps of the Powerhouse Museum

Last night I joined Grant and Bill Cohen in running a city-wide chase game called Journey to the End of the Night. It’s a US system, and it’s the first time it’s been run in Sydney, so we started off fairly low-key; in the end we had about 20 crew and about 60 players, which suited us pretty well. I ran & walked (mostly walked, admittedly) somewhere in the region of 7 miles around the city, coordinating runners by text message as we hunted down the players, and in the end we had 11 survivors who got round every checkpoint without being caught. It was enormous fun.

This is why it worked well.

The system

Journey is a very efficient system. It’s a simple, clear, uncomplicated ruleset that you can explain in a few words: run around all the checkpoints in any order, then get to the endzone, without being caught. If you’re caught, you have to chase the players. Catch three, and you can respawn back as a runner. Clean and crisp.

The core of the game is uncomplicated fun. It’s enormous fun to run around the city after dark with your friends hiding from people, especially when you know you have support nearby if you need it. It’s fun for fit people who enjoy running, and it’s also fun for people who like hiding and sneaking or thinking laterally about the logistics of things – it’s not always the best runners who win, it’s those who can avoid being caught. It’s a solid system that lends itself to all sorts of locations, and – because of the exponential nature of the catching system – it scales very well between small and large groups. Most of the success or failure of the game is down to the route you pick.

The route

We spent a lot of time ahead of the game scoping out potential checkpoint sites and creating a good route. There’s lots of variety in the areas we eventually picked – even if you don’t see a chaser for the whole time, you run through a mix of heavily-populated areas where anyone might be a chaser, and quiet back streets where there might be one around any corner. We picked checkpoints that weren’t easy to chain with public transport, though a couple of guys took an unorthodox ferry-and-tram route to save themselves some time. (I’m still impressed they did that.)

The checkpoints themselves were sometimes a little tricky. Two in particular gave us problems with spawn camping – player chasers lurking on the obvious entry and exit routes and ambushing runners, which wasn’t massively fair. It’s almost impossible to make rules to mitigate that sort of behaviour, so you have to rely on level design; when you don’t have the ability to manipulate levels yourself, because you can’t actually remodel traffic intersections just for your own games, sometimes you’re stuck with less-than-ideal areas. A good checkpoint is one that’s small but completely open on all sides, rather than large but with only one or two useful ingress routes. The best checkpoints are in the middle of huge open spaces with lots of potential cover, so players end up ducking in and out of hedges, trees and play equipment just in case there are chasers around.


Andy, aka the Terminator
Andy, aka the Terminator

Speaking of which: our star chaser, Andy, was a one-man army who managed to create exactly the right feeling of paranoia and fear right from the start. He’s a long distance runner. He went running before the game started, for fun. By the end of the night he’d acquired the nickname ‘Terminator’. One man hid under a car to escape him. Another vaulted into a construction site. Some people recruited passers-by as camouflage to help avoid his gaze. He was so fast and had so much stamina that hiding or outwitting him were your only options as players: simply outrunning him would never work. He was astonishing.

And from a crew perspective, he was invaluable too: he was checking in at regular intervals, letting us know which way players were scattering so we could set up less-manoeuvrable chasers to give them a good run. He was happy to go where he was needed most, and responsive to instructions. And, despite being the scariest thing in the game, he only caught two runners: the rest just had very near misses. Andy was incredible.


It’s been too long since I ran the sort of game that finishes up with froth. At the end of the night, we set up a couple of tables on Observatory Hill, a tricky-to-reach but beautiful park with gorgeous views across the harbour. By the time I got there most of the survivors had arrived and crew were still trickling in from across the city. I walked in to be surrounded by stories: the making of mythologies, happening around me. Many of them about Andy.

Froth is a LARP slang term for discussing events during a game, but out of character, afterwards. It lets you process what’s happened during an event, collaboratively building a single story out of the most exciting moments, turning what can be quite a disjointed experience into a coherent narrative.

GIving people space to froth after a game is one of the most important things you can possibly do. And lots of sporting events do it too: Tough Mudder, for instance, has a superb back-slapping and beer session once the race is over, which is all about frothing over what’s happened to you during your run. You make friends, you meet up with folks you lost on the way, you get to hear the stories of other people’s miraculous successes or so-close failures.

The view from the end zone
The view from the end zone

When I walked up to the hill last night, before I’d managed to get a bottle of water and say hi to the other crew, four different runners had already told me a little story of how they escaped a chaser or how they caught one of their friends or what happened when Andy showed up.

The players

People are amazing. People turned up last night to a random free event, excited to see what happens next, willing to suspend their disbelief and explore and create together. People turned up happy to play – playing to win, playing to have fun, playing to see what happened next.

That goes for the crew, too. We had a superb volunteer crew, all happy to take hours out of their Saturday nights to run around, sit about, sign papers, chat to players, and chase them around the city. We quite literally could not have run the game without those people, and they all made it better for the players by being so committed to maintaining the playful nature of the evening.

One woman got caught early on and then tried to head her friend off by taking a shortcut to where she knew he’d have to go. Then they had a tickle fight – he won, and left her giggling on the floor as he sprinted away into the darkness. With players like that, the game can’t help but be fun to run.

What’s next?

We’re going to be running Journey again in Sydney, I hope – there’s definitely appetite for it. But first, Grant and I are running a new game, Spirits Walk, in Melbourne in collaboration with Pop Up Players, on March 7, 8 and 9. You can reserve a space here.

Play requires consent

For any game to be a game, to work as play, it requires consent. Everyone has to agree to play, as individuals, and then collectively (or individually) agree the rules by which you’ll play, and the boundaries on the experience – the things that aren’t in the game, as well as the things that are.

You learn this, running live games or even tabletop ones. Playing with other people requires consent from all the participants, in the same way that sex does, and if it’s withdrawn then play with that person has to end. At live events we even set up safe words, ways to stop the fantasy and reassert the real world – we’ve always used “STOP THE GAME” shouted as loud as you can, for the avoidance of doubt – and that’s not just a safety call for injuries. It’s also a “get me out of here”, an “I’m not OK with this”, a withdrawal of consent.

In tabletop games, or at least ones with a good group that might touch on dark themes, it’s pretty common to have a quick discussion of hard limits up front. Some people are fine with body horror in their tabletop play, other people just don’t want to go there during pretendy fun time. Some people are terrified of spiders. Some people don’t want in-character relationships. It’s all fine, as long as you negotiate your boundaries up front and don’t make assumptions. (Sometimes you only find out where your boundaries are in the middle of a game, and that’s OK too. That’s when you step out.)

A fair few videogames forget that consent can be withdrawn, or assume that the act of picking up a controller is consent to anything that happens while playing. They forget to set out their boundaries in advance; they don’t signal strongly enough that this or that theme will come up in play and if that’s a problem you might not want to play on. I’ve yet to see a non-text-based videogame that acknowledges scenes players might not want to participate in, warns them ahead of time and lets them skip those scenes specifically without having to just stop playing altogether.

There’s interesting variations on the rule-setting elements of consent in things like permadeath playthroughs, speed runs, cheats and exploits. Some are players adding extra levels of rules for themselves, defining the experience more tightly than the game does; others are players implicitly trying to break the game’s own defined experience – effectively trying to do things the game itself doesn’t consent to. (Except that by virtue of not being sentient, games can’t consent.)

And there are interesting game spaces springing up in which consent is a serious issue. DayZ and Rust are games in which you can not just die but be taken prisoner, have your avatar’s actions dictated by players, and be put in situations to which you have not consented. The tale of a player imprisoned in Rust is funny, sure, but it’s also something they haven’t consented to. It’s only fun as long as you’re happy to go along with it, within the experience you want to have. It stops being fun, it stops being play, the minute you as a human being want out.

A few videogames that are played in group settings or party spaces sometimes run into problems; I’ve been witness to sessions of Johann Sebastian Joust, for example, in which people not playing were used as obstacles, or otherwise drawn into the game. That leads to issues, sometimes. The boundaries between player and not-player aren’t always as clear as who’s holding the controller, and one player assuming consent to play from a not-player who doesn’t want to can get tricky. It’s irritating at best.

But the worst culprits for failing to understand that play requires consent are not really game creators at all. Gamification in the workplace, which is still around and still annoying me, takes the idea of playful activity and participation and makes it compulsory. By removing the ability to refuse your consent you remove a player’s ability to play. Meta-game mechanics (note: none of these are actual game mechanics) like points, scoreboards, achievements and so on rely on a playable game to function in the game world. Without play, an achievement is not anything like a game, in the same way that an exam certificate is not anything like a game. It’s all just work, which you must now do while you’re smiling.

Ludonarrative Discodance: how to be silly in public

Because if you want other people to look silly in public, you have to get them started somehow
Because if you want other people to look silly in public, you have to get them started somehow

Ludonarrative Discodance is a pun that got really, really out of hand. It’s also, somehow, a game we actually ran this weekend in Melbourne as part of the Playroom at This Is A Door. I’m eternally indebted to Pop Up Playground for the opportunity and the time and the wine involved in making that happen.

Grant’s already posted an excellent write-up that you should read if you want to fully understand (a) what on earth we did at the weekend and (b) why on earth he now has that moustache. (As of current writing, he still has the moustache. He has shaved the rest of his face, but not that bit. It’s possible he thinks I haven’t noticed.)

LD was a bit of a shot in the dark, a silly idea that got out of control, but it worked. The core of the game is performing a silly dance and, across a crowded room, seeing the person who’s performing your dance too – then running up to them, confirming it, and smiling broadly before running off to collect another card. It’s clubbing rendered down into shorthand: a breaking-down of boundaries, feeling more comfortable with our own bodies and the bodies of other people, a game of connections and performance and acceptance. People told me it recreated the poor impulse control of being drunk, too, which I like.

Despite the daftness of it, it is a game which lets you say – “Do you want to dance with me?” and for the answer to be yes more often than no. Which is pretty neat for a lot of people, including me, who are used to the opposite. And for it to be a safe question to ask, too.

The gist of the game is paired charades with dancing. Disco music plays and you dance, while also trying to find the other person doing the same dance as you. Round one is nice and easy: you have to act out disco moves – the hip thrust, the hand jive, the Uma-Thurman-in-pulp-fiction. Round two is harder – the lost keys, the high-noon shootout – while round three has you act out films like the Lion King while trying to find someone else crawling around, roaring, holding small lions up to the sunlight etc.

We didn’t get chance to do a full playtest before we ran in Melbourne, which meant the first few plays needed some tweaking. More disco admin staff, different balances of cards – having both Dungeons and Dragons and Lord of the Rings didn’t really work, for instance, but Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean worked perfectly as foils for each other to make the game a little harder. (Both involve a lot of waving swords around, which can also be mistaken for Harry Potter.) I’d like to run other versions, other editions, perhaps tailored to different crowds or different themes. But there’s something about disco that really, really works.

The Matrix, obviously
The Matrix, obviously

Fundamentally, the game’s about being silly in public, and being rewarded for it. The more exaggerated and daft you are, the better you’ll be at the game – if you hold back, you won’t score so many points. So it’s in your best interests to throw yourself into things and shed a few inhibitions in the process. Something about disco music just works for that, somehow; lots of us have mental images of Saturday Night Fever (though not the rape and drowning bit, obviously) and memories of school discos to use as touchstones for that kind of dancing. If you don’t, well, there are instructions on the cards.

It’s equal opportunity silliness: everyone looks as daft as you, so you might as well have fun with it. And it’s a good way to get people mixing and mingling, talking and laughing – you present your silliest, most overblown, daftest self and then someone else dances up to you and there’s a moment of recognition where you both grin.Often people would add little flourishes, dancing together for a moment before coming to hand in the cards – synchronised disco pointing, putting on Cinderella’s shoe, twirling towards the disco admin team in time to classical music no one else could hear.

My personal favourite card from this play was the dad-at-a-wedding. Everyone interpreted it differently, but it was surprising how recognisable it was. I got to see people’s joy as they worked out what was going on and got into the groove; actively encouraging people to dance badly is, it turns out, a great way to get them moving and laughing.

We played perhaps a dozen other games – eight shows in three days, two hours each, with Ludonarrative Discodance just a small part of the proceedings. Rainbow Running has a similar physicality, but it’s competitive in a broad way rather than collaborative, and it’s definitely not silly. Impossible Book Club is all about discussing a book that doesn’t exist, so it’s performative and intellectual and silly in a slightly different way. But my personal favourite from the weekend was The Ride, a game about slow-motion fighting and Valkyries.

Victory. Also Valkyrie.
Victory. Also Valkyrie.

You start with a cardboard axe or sword. You challenge an opponent from the other army. Then you battle in slow motion, not landing a blow until the Valkyries decide who should die. There’s smoke and dramatic music and shouting, and dramatic deaths on the floor. Then you do it again, but this time the dead fighters are spirits who can help out their living comrades, by helping them throw weapons or carrying them across the battlefield or repelling enemy attacks. Even if you lose, you get to lose in the most epic and glorious way possible, and then you get to help your fellow players to achieve even greater heights of epicness and glory.

It is a gorgeous game, absorbing, entertaining and delightful. It is beautifully, wonderfully silly, in a way everyone can get behind, because once again everyone is being silly, playful and physical, in public together at the same time. That’s something we don’t get to do as adults nearly often enough.

Ludonarrative Disco Dance in Melbourne this weekend

A bearded man in a bright pink wig that has three different disco-related light settings
Grant has acquired a tasteful and attractive costume for the game

Serious Business is premiering a new game this weekend at the all day playroom at This Is A Door, an excellent month-long festival of interesting games and play run by the Pop Up Players in Melbourne.

The game is called Ludonarrative Disco Dance. It’s possible we started with the name and then worked backwards until we had a decent concept. If it all works as well as we hope it does, we’ll be running the game in other places, cities and quite possibly continents in the next few months.

The playroom is happening at Theatre Works in St Kilda, and tickets are $20/25 from the Theatre Works website or on the door. If you’re in the city, please come along, say hi, and let us know what you think.

Playful 2012: physical, concrete, super-real

It feels like a long time since Playful. It’s not, it’s less than a couple of weeks, but since then we’ve run a fairly difficult live game and then done a lot of real-world catching up. The day’s been percolating quietly in the back of my head, though, and I think it’s time to muse it out.

This year, live games – play in physical space, actual make-believe, play with physical objects – have started to Happen as a Thing. Not sure where we are on the Gartner hype cycle with this, but a long way from where we were this time last year, that’s for sure. Playful’s talks illustrated that beautifully, but tended to skim the surface of what’s gone before, focusing more on what’s going to be. There were exceptions, of course – Holly Gramazio on forms of clapping game brought a huge amount of detail and history to a highly specific area – but much of the day was focused on the fantastic future.

And that observation is definitely not a complaint. At the moment especially the world needs some lightness, some excitement about what the future offers, and Playful is a great space for that. At times the event felt like an explicit reaction against last year’s conference, where a nostalgic plea for a future that never happened failed to ring true with me, at least. This year the future was impossibly exciting, full of the invisible made concrete, creativity gone viral and vital, incomprehensible technology powering us into a far more exciting world. Anab Jain’s talk felt integral – she talked about imagining different futures, astonishing possibilities contained in the flesh of the present, prised free by imagination and given tantalising, half-realised forms. Glimpses of a world made wonderful by playfulness. This was the event at its best.

I wished, at times, that there was more context. Don’t get me wrong: these were all excellent talks, good introductions to the places where digital play and creativity overlap with tonnes of other stuff. Mark Sorrell’s talk on games in physical space was a plea for game designers to get people looking at each other, not screens; a manifesto for personal connections. It was a fantastic primer for people not already immersed in live play, but there wasn’t much time to acknowledge that those games are happening already. Outside the digital, in playgrounds and parks and city streets: it is digital that’s the newcomer in this playful space, not physical play. I suspect conceptual art people would have similar thoughts about Einar Sneve Martinussen‘s concrete depictions of invisible things – while for people like me with no awareness of that world it was fascinating and eye-opening. I am wary of this peculiar type of skeuomorphism, using tech to emulate physical forms of play, because I think tech can do so much more. I hope, as I’ve said before, digital play learns from other forms of play and builds on these elements to make better awesome amazing things.

This is a necessary stage along that road – and it’s superb to see it celebrated and debated. Playful this year was a big move in a good direction, because it opened up play to all sorts of interesting places I loved Simon Cutts’s talk precisely because it didn’t deal in the space between two disciplines, but sat firmly where it was; Holly’s talk, the Mint Digital graduates with their sourdough toy, and Bennett Foddy’s take on pain and suffering in games, too. Hannah Donovan on crafting talked us through a personal evolution of her pastimes that mirrors a wider shift in the world, from physical to digital – but without discounting the importance of either. Somehow, the whole day held both in the balance, and pointed up the possibilities of technology taken for granted, in meatspace, augmenting and supporting who we are and our very human, creative, curious lives.

Excellent day.

The Gobstopper Job: stereotypes, shortcuts and stealing sweets

The Gobstopper Job. Because everyone’s wanted to run a heist at some point in their lives.

We ran the Job in Bristol at the Interesting Games Festival, in Castle Park. We were part of the fringe – a raft of oddball, interesting, quirky games that worked in public and that could be played fairly casually, in a pick-up-and-play sort of way. I didn’t get the chance to play any of the others, due to being on duty in a large plastic police hat with a flashing blue light on top for most of the afternoon, but I saw a balancing game with hand turtles, a slow-motion combat game, a coloured-water-shooting game called Rainbow Rain, and a game about phone hacking that had people in trilbies running around the park looking for mobile phones. It was all rather bonkers and lovely.

Gobstopper Job
A very few of the sweets

Gobstopper worked in part because of the space we played in – bonkers and lovely – and because of the costumes and props Grant put together. I mean, it worked because of a load of other things too, but Grant (who was the main designer on this one) has already written an interesting post about froth and emergent stuff and verbs and what have you, which is well worth reading and has more pictures. This, by contrast, is a bit of an epic.

A note on live gaming vs LARP

Despite appearances to the contrary – such as the name Zombie LARP – I don’t really think of what we do as LARP any more. It differs in some pretty major respects from what I’d instinctively label “traditional” LARP – though I’m certain that’s the wrong label – it’s fundamentally neither plot nor character driven, but situation-led and responsive to player/character action. Its worlds are small, not entirely internally consistent, and exist only for short periods before they are dissolved; their parameters are fluid and they are never fully realised. The lines between player and character are deliberately blurred.

But neither does the term “live game” or “pervasive game” (whatever that is) suit us. Most live games I see on the scene at present offer limited or no opportunity for player characterisation beyond the opportunity to nebulously pretend. They are mostly unaffected by character action beyond the mechanical, and function within the real world – without a need for suspension of disbelief.

Cops and robbers
Cops and robbers

In Gobstopper, as in Zombie, I saw the emergence of distinct play styles. Some people come to Zombie to LARP – they bring characters, immerse themselves in a story of their own making, and use our world and mechanics as a way to play that story out. This is improv theatre with rules. Others come to live game – they are uninterested in roleplay, preferring to focus on the mechanics of the game rather than the story, and lose themselves in the adrenaline of the moment. Some come to do both.

The Gobstopper Job, like Zombie and like a few other games – 2.8 Hours Later and Incitement spring to mind, in different ways – operates on the lines between those two categories. There are no good terms for what we do, and it’s difficult to suggest any that don’t imply that other games that fit the genre boxes more neatly are somehow deficient. Story-driven live game might be one option; emergent short-term LARP might be another. Both are clumsy. At present, we lack the right terms.

Everyone gets a gun on the mantelpiece

Gobstopper was the first time we’ve really run a game outside a dedicated game space. We had a kiosk – the sort you get in parks, that might sell water or ice cream or sweets – at one end, and a base station at the other. Players dressed as robbers (well, with masks and maybe hats) had to get the swag bag into the kiosk, steal as many sweets as possible in 30 seconds, then get them back to base, all the while avoiding the police – four or five people patrolling outside, who could arrest them if they could catch them.

Policemen helping up a player disguised as one of their number
Policemen helping up a player disguised as one of their number and feigning injury

The players for each run had to pick a character class – a single thing they could do – and with it came a prop with which they could do it. Gunmen had a little bang-flag gun that let them incapacitate one policeman. Demo men had a bouncing cherry bomb with the word BOMB on it that could stun people in a radius. Conmen had big ridiculous white masks that disguised them as “Young Gavin”, the rookie, or “Old Bob”, who was only a few days from retirement. And Bag men had the swag bag, and had to get them into the kiosk – essentially a very low-tech hacker analogue.

Chekhov’s gun – the concept that if there is a gun on the mantelpiece in the first act of a play, it must be fired by the end – is a metaphor for foreshadowing, simplicity and dramatic necessity. It’s also a useful way to think about Gobstopper, and why it works. Each player gets a verb – a single mode of interaction with the game and with the world it creates – and extremely limited opportunities to use it. Every player gets to be their own dramatist, timing their climactic moment in their own personal trajectory through the game. This only works if players believe in the power of their gun to affect the world, and understand its importance. Oh, and remember to use it. Occasionally people forgot, in the excitement of the whole thing.

The Familiarisation Effect

A fundamental design problem for us is the necessity of blurring the boundaries for players between the states of being, doing, performing and playing. What we’re after is almost the opposite of Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt. Rather than using realistic props and costume to draw attention to the unreality of the performance, we’re using unrealistic, very stylised costume and props to create a sort of shorthand of familiarity. We are reliant on caricature and stereotype as tools to build identification between the players and the world we need them to inhabit – not a perfectly realistic, immersive environment in which they can lose themselves, but a working reality with fuzzy boundaries but basic concepts and rules to hold on to.

One of the Gobstopper Job teams post-game, with their bag of swag
One of the Gobstopper Job teams post-game, with their bag of swag

So, giving players a tool they can use matters, but giving them a tool they can instantly understand and relate to is even better. Using sweets to tap into the part of an adult that’s still six years old; using BANG-flag guns and BOMB-painted bombs; letting the only people who need to improvise a conversation hide their faces beneath enormous saucer-masks that both make it easier to act and also render it unnecessary – these are all tactics that tap into familiar childhood games, helping to minimse embarrassment and flow-jarring moments. That’s before we get into the psychology of costume itself, and the impact it has on roles – here, we wanted playfulness and fun, a cops’n’robbers feel, whereas when we want to make something more serious we’ll make it look and feel more lifelike and realistic.

Public play as performance

One convenient side-effect of this approach is that it gives the audience a simple way to relate to the game. With crew in giant police hats and players in robber masks, there is an obvious metaphor for viewers to grasp and to buy into. We found both sides got cheers from passers-by, depending on who seemed like the underdog at any given moment. As policemen, we spent a fair amount of time talking to random people who saw us wearing daft hats and wanted to know what on earth was going on. We fielded a couple of people who were oddly thrilled that someone was using the kiosk for something, and directed a few folks to the sign-up desk. Policeman hats and a slow walk seem to create an aura of helpfulness around you – and serve as useful ads for the game, too.

The carnage after players swept through the kiosk
The carnage after players swept through the kiosk

The other big thing they did was help the players feel less weird about getting dressed up. They were absolutely guaranteed that the people running the game would look even dafter than they did. Obvious signalling and the familiarisation effect combined together, along with a healthy dose of physical and mental activity, got players focussed on the game and served to make it easier for them to enter that peculiar place where being, doing, performing and playing all merge together and stories seem to naturally emerge, without anyone deliberately designing them, from the seemingly natural actions of all the participants.

The moment where I knew it had worked was when one run ended and it took five minutes of listening to the players talk through exactly what had happened when and how before I could get a word in edgeways.

Next time

We’re going to be running The Gobstopper Job again, given how well it seems to have worked – and given the fact that we still have about 15kg of sweets in our front room. London somewhere, probably. We’ll be putting out info on the Facebook page as soon as we’ve made up our minds when and where. Do come.

GameCamp 5: belated thoughts

I meant to write up GameCamp 5 the week after we went, but what with work and writing and venue hunting for Zombie one thing drives out another, as Barliman Butterbur would tell you.

It was different this time. For one thing, last time we felt fairly out of place as live game designers rather than video game designers; it wasn’t unpleasant, but there was a definite sense that we were in the minority. This time round lots of people were talking live experiences, and mixed sessions didn’t carry the same assumptions about the group. That’s a little fascinating – does it reflect a wider uptake in live gaming generally? Certainly seems so to me – there are lots of folks starting to do pervasive games and interesting live experiences, a burgeoning scene that seems to be moving towards LARP from other disciplines and landing somewhere in the middle. Critical vocabulary is missing here; lots of people (like us) are drawing on all sorts of theory and work in other fields and applying it to making games in the real world. That’s exciting.

The other big change was in the way people at GameCamp talked about stories in games. Last time around, Grant and I ran a session about emergent story, discussing the concept of procedurally and structurally generated narratives that emerge through player interaction with the game, but aren’t “told” by the game. This time I think every story-related session I went to invoked the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic stories, usually with an understanding of emergence. Again vocabulary is missing here; I heard the same (or similar) dichotomy expressed as extrinsic/intrinsic, imparted/created, creator/player, and even cutscene/gameplay. Perhaps that’s a reflection of the greater proportion of live gamers there – the split is much clearer when you’re playing with stories in that space, and it becomes impossible to ignore that the story you’re telling is not the same as the one players are experiencing. But I’m hopeful that it reflects a shift in thinking by video game creators too. Not every writer needs to engage with debates like the location of meaning and the nature of narrative – but if none do, the medium will stay shallow. GameCamp made my literary brain happy and my game brain excited.

Oh, and we made some games, too. Hostage was the most fun. I’ll try to write up the rules soon, assuming one thing doesn’t drive out another, again.