Mar 31 2010

Game Poem 11: Awakening

Gather a number of players. The players are asleep. A reader will guide their awakening.

Reader, read the following text aloud in a strong, calm, clear voice. Be gentle, take your time. Players, just listen, and do as the reader says.

Everybody close your eyes. Be still. Breathe. You are asleep now. You have been asleep for hours and hours, and you are dreaming.

Your dream is a very pleasant one, and you are enjoying it greatly. Your sleep is a deeply satisfying one, and your dreams bring you happiness and comfort. With your eyes closed, still sleeping, you are completely aware that you are in your dream world, and you are able to imagine and recognize every specific detail of your  that brings you enjoyment. Is the dream constructed of your own memories, or is it entirely created anew from pure fantasy? What are the people, places, objects, and feelings in the dream that make it so pleasant for you? Are you bodily present in the dream, or observing it from a distance? Sit for a few moments and be with your dream, knowing that you will wake in a few moments, and appreciating the dream while it remains.

(Reader, pause for a moment, maybe thirty or forty seconds, then continue.)

Stay with your dream for a few seconds more, but you are feeling the pull of wakefulness now. Your body is beginning to stir, drawing you from the dream world, and back into the waking world. Still calm and happy, you begin to emit a few sounds, a low murmur of incoherent words that describe some elements of your dream. Whisper, mumble, let the soft, indistinct vibrations of the sleepy mind out into the air. You know that morning has arrived, but you want to hold on the your dream for just a little bit longer before letting it slip away.

(Pause again for twenty or thirty seconds.)

Soon, you are hearing not only your own murmurs, but the stirrings of the other players, and the sounds of their dreams start to seep into your own. Let your dream be affected by their words for a few moments, incorporating their thoughts into your own until the elements merge in such a strange manner that they jar you just enough to tip you into waking slightly.

Your dream-talk stops, and the images fade from your mind as you return from sleep.

Slowly, very slowly, with your eyes still closed, your body begins to stir. Your head rises from where it had fallen, you begin to sit up and feel life return to your body, and you stretch a bit to allow your blood to flow through your limbs again. Stretching, and slowly waking up. As your body comes to life again, maybe a sound comes out of your mouth – a yawn, a groan, or perhaps one last word from your dream, reminding you of the images that you were immersed in just a moment or two ago. Peek one eye open, just a bit, but do not focus on any person or thing just yet. As the world comes into view, squint and squish your face a little, and force the other eye open, not looking around, just just relaxing and staring softly into the space in front of you. Your dream has almost entirely slipped away, but your mind is still fighting to hold on to a snatch of it, something that stood out especially, setting this dream apart from others.

As the world begins to come into focus, you slowly realize that the other players are there with you, and recognize that they are also waking, and that their dreams have escaped them as well. Meet the eyes of another sleeper, another dreamer, and silently acknowledge that you have both returned to the waking world. Smile at them and nod, maybe with a touch of sadness, because you both know that your dream will fade away completely, perhaps only resurfacing for a moment sometime in the future, maybe days or years from now, when your mind is drifting.

Say to your waking partner, “Good morning.”

As you hear the other players say the same, look around, stretch and yawn one more time, and greet the rest of the sleepers in the same way. If you feel like you are able to share a piece of your dream while the last remnants are still fresh in your mind, still lingering, hanging on for one more moment, now may or may not be the right time to do so. Perhaps your dream is best kept secret, tucked away in the back of your mind until you return to it again. However, if you feel that it wants to be shared, say, “You know, I was just dreaming about…” and give an impression, a detail, a sense for the dream world that you just left. Nothing too deep or complicated, just enough to convey the general feeling of your dream.

After everyone has fully awakened. The game has ended, and everyone may get up and go about the business of their day.

Mar 23 2010

Game Poem 10: Buster


You need a ball. Get a ball. Just a regular ball. Like that one! If you don’t have a ball, make one by crumpling up a couple of pieces of paper really tight. That’s a good ball!

Sit somewhere where everyone can pretty much reach everyone else. You’re going to play with the ball! Put the ball somewhere near the middle of where you’re playing. That ball looks fun to play with! Anyone can play with the ball by grabbing it with the hand that they use the most. It’s fun to play with the ball, but try to just play with the one hand!

Someone should grab the ball and play with it! That’s fun! Everyone wants to play with the ball, though, but you shouldn’t just grab it from whoever has it. You should say something to them first. But, you can only say three things:

“ARF ARF ARF!” This means that you’re happy, and excited, and you want to play!

“GRRRRRRRR.” This means that you’re angry, or very serious about playing.

“AWROOOOOOOOO…” This means that you’re probably lonely, and want to play, too.

Everyone is going to be making lots of noise! It’s fun, but pretty confusing! And it’s hard to make any noise but the growling noise when you’ve got the ball in your hand. But you really want to play with the ball! Maybe you could even grab it at the same time as the person who has it now, and tug it back and forth a little bit while saying something to them? Are they growling at you? Are they really mad, or just playing with you? If someone is really sad that they’re not playing, and telling you that, maybe you should let them play first, before taking your turn? Are you angry that you can’t play now? Or just really excited about getting to play at all?

If you’re playing with the ball, everyone is probably trying to play with you, because playing with the ball is so much fun! They’re making all kinds of noises at you, trying to get you to let them play with you! Who should you pay attention to? Do you think that you’ve played with the ball for long enough now? Do you think you should let someone else take a turn? Who should get to play with the ball next? The people next to you? The saddest-sounding one? The one who looks like they’d be the most fun to play with? Maybe you should give that one who sounds angry a little space – they might even bite you, so that you drop the ball!

Everyone should get to play with the ball! Be nice to the other players! They like to have fun as much as you do! Maybe you can figure out how to play with the ball at the same time as someone else!

After fifteen minutes or so, you’re tired of playing. Whoever has the ball should just drop it in front of them. Everyone should either lie down and rest, or find something else to play with!

Mar 17 2010

Game Poem 9: Goofball

This is a game for two players. The players may be of any gender. One player will be the Lover, and the other player will be the Beloved.

The Beloved sets a timer for fifteen minutes, or uses a watch of some sort, and keeps an eye on it.

The Lover should pay as much attention to the Beloved as they can. Maintain eye contact if possible, move physically closer, as close as you are comfortable. After a few seconds, the Beloved should note something about the Lover, and compliment them on it. They have nice eyes or a bright smile, their clothes look particularly good today, they seem very happy. The Lover thanks the Beloved, and returns the compliment, telling the Beloved something that they appreciate about them, or find particularly pleasing. Continue this exchange of compliments for a minute or so.

Pause for a moment, and look each other in the eyes. Feel the connection. The Lover says, simply, “I love you.” The Beloved pauses for a moment, looks away, returns to meet the Lover’s gaze, and replies, “I love you.”

For the next minute or two, continue taking turns looking into each others’ eyes, smiling, and saying, “I love you.”

Just before the timer reaches the three minute mark, the Beloved looks away, and is silent for a short while. Just after the three minute mark is passed, the Lover attempts to reconnect by catching the eye of the Beloved again, and saying again, “I love you.” The Beloved looks away.

For the next ten minutes, the Lover may only take two types of actions. They may continue to reestablish the bond between the two players, making any kind of contact and saying only the words, “I love you.” The Beloved may respond to this in any way besides saying, “I love you,” or any acknowledgment or variation upon those words. The Lover may also follow their statement by taking a single dollar bill and tearing it up in front of the Beloved. Then, and only then, may (and must) the Beloved smile, look into the eyes of the Lover, and respond, “I love you, too.” This warmth will last for ten seconds or so, then fade away.

Continue play in this manner until there are only two minutes left on the timer. At this point, the Beloved’s reactions change in two ways. First, every time that the Lover says “I love you” to them, they must respond with disdain, contempt, or verbal abuse. If the Lover attempts to get physically close to them, the Beloved tries to get away. However, if the Lover decides to tear up a bill larger than one dollar, the Beloved declares their love for them more strongly than before. After a few seconds, however, they must return to their loathing.

When the timer reaches fifteen minutes, the Beloved must leave the room. The Lover may no longer speak, but may collect up what he has destroyed, and attempt to put things back together.

Mar 11 2010

Game Poem 8: The Calais Bunker

This is a game for three or more players. Each of you will play the role of a German soldier, stationed together in a spotting and gunnery bunker near Calais, near the French beaches overlooking the Strait of Dover, the narrowest point in the English Channel. At least one player must take the part of a soldier manning a machine gun, one player will take the part of a spotter (using binoculars or field glasses or the like), and exactly one player must take the part of the radio operator. You may assume that you are each familiar with your roles and positions, and are capable and competent in carrying out your responsibilities, and have standard equipment appropriate to your stations.

One of the soldiers is a traitor to the Reich. Do not decide who this will be, or discuss it as players at any time. If the issue comes up during play, act and react accordingly, but do not address the matter out of character.

As the game begins, it is early June, 1944. It is summer in occupied France, and it is miserably hot inside the bunker. You are terribly uncomfortable in your uniforms, and you have been operating on continuous watch for the last twenty-four hours. Your watch has been uneventful for some time, but you can sense that something is stirring in the wind; your superiors have not informed you exactly what that something might be, however.

The radio operator should start a timer, or note the time as you start playing. Take a minute or so to establish the setting and characters – address each other by name and rank, discuss your duties, gossip, socialize a little bit. You have known each other for months, at least, and should be able to make small talk easily. Accept what each player says as fact, and build and explore your characters and relationships from there.

One minute and thirty seconds after play begins (1:30), the radio man announces that he has just received word that there is enemy movement in the area. You are to remain alert and await further orders.

The soldiers should continue talking among themselves, but take no action yet.

Four minutes after play begins (4:00), the radio operator announces that German radar has detected a large fleet of Allied ships approaching the shores of Pas-de-Calais, exact composition unknown. Prepare to engage any ground troops that make a landing.

Continue interacting with each other, and act as appropriate.

Nine minutes and fifteen seconds after play begins (9:15), the radio man turns to his companions and tells them that further information regarding the attack began to arrive, then the radio suddenly fell silent. A brief inspection reveals that the transceiver has gone completely dead, and nothing will bring it back to working order.

Twelve minutes and thirty seconds after play begins (12:30), the radio sputters to life for a moment, and the radio operator can make out the following words through the static: “…ssive invasion fl… ” “… treachery and cowardice wi…” “…duty as a Ger…” “…ngage the …” “…all appropriate for…” The radio then emits a shower of sparks and falls silent once again.

Fourteen minutes after play begins (14:00), the soldier acting as the spotter announces that German gun batteries along the coast have commenced firing, and you pause for a moment, listening to the low thumping sound of the artillery in the distance.

Fifteen minutes after play begins (15:00), one of the soldiers manning a machine gun spots something moving towards the bunker, coming over a dune just within range.

Each person may then make one statement or describe one action that their character takes, and the game ends.

Mar 5 2010

Notes so far

Stepping back for a moment and looking back at the first two months of this project, I’m noticing a couple of things.

First, the quality of my writing is… not what I’d like it to be. Mind you, most of these game poems are written as they’re conceived, usually within thirty minutes or so, and then posted with very minimal editing. But still, I’d like to think that I could construct sentences and paragraphs in a more engaging and clear manner. But, like my buddy Dave commented, “writing is re-writing”, and eventually, I plan to revisit each one of these (once I reach my goal of fifty-odd games for the year) and give them the once- or twice-over that they (and you, the readers and players) deserve. In the meantime, please bear with me.

On a related note, if anybody out there is reading (or playing!) these, and has comments, questions, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to post them hear. I’m interested in any kind of feedback, including (especially!) critical feedback, as my aim is to make these as good as they can be, and I don’t believe that I can do that all my my lonesome. I appreciate and look forward to any and all input from my patient and thoughtful audience.

Secondly, I notice that many of these game poems are a lot more… well, “gamey” than I’d originally expected, or intended. But, that’s okay. I’m kind of a gamey gamer, and my designs tend towards fiddly little systems where they may or may not belong. But, that’s where playtesting comes in, and if things are too fussy, out they go. I’m primarily interested in evoking certain impressions, feelings, or emotions with these game poems, but I’m also a firm believer in “system matters”, and I think that the right game mechanics can produce that kind of effect as well as the most finely crafted turn of poetic phrase. Thus, the “game” part of “game poem”. I’m going to try to focus a bit more on making them more evocative through not-rules in the next batch, but I write whatever comes out of my inspiration, so that’s not a guarantee. I hope that they do the job, either way.

Lastly, and kind of related, a couple of my favorite game poems so far (and I’m going to withhold the identity of those at the moment, so as not to taint the judgment of anyone whose opinion of a particular game might be influenced my by own) tend to leave out something important, something central to my conception of the experience that the game should produce. Leave out in the text, in the description of the game here, that is – I believe that these things emerge from the process of play. Eventually, probably not all the time, but as my designer-mind traces through the pathways and possibilities that a given game poem can produce, I see a few of them generating these awesome results that aren’t stated directly in the rules, but are discovered by the reader/players along the way. That makes me very happy, and even if this experiment ended right here and now, I’d feel that I was successful in doing just that. I hope to come back to this point and explore it and talk about it some more in the future, so if I forget, bug me about it, okay?

So, that’s enough jabber for now. I hope that you’re enjoying this game-poem experiment, whoever you are out there. Only ten months and forty-three games to go!

Mar 4 2010

Game Poem 7: The Sign of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond

This is a game for two players. One player will take the role of the mad worshipper, bent on manifesting the Great Old Elder God From Beyond here on Earth, and the other will act as the avatar of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond itself. (You may play the game multiple times, alternating roles, at your own risk.)

To begin, decide how powerful the Great Old Elder God From Beyond will be. Some Great Old Elder Gods are worse than others. Give the avatar a number of tokens – stones, coins, nails, pieces of candy, teeth, whatever you have at hand – to denote exactly how terrible they actually are, with fewer tokens being worse. For example, you may give the avatar of the GOEGFB five tokens if they are just plain horrible, or even just a single token if they are quite horrible indeed.

The avatar of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond then asks their foul master to deliver unto them an action that the worshipper may perform that will allow it to assume a monstrous form in our plane of reality, and lay waste to the insignificance of human civilization. This may be something as simple as touching one’s nose with the left index finger, or as complicated as jumping up and down on one foot while rubbing your belly and whistling “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space”. The difficulty of the action is entirely up to the avatar, depending on how sadistic they think the Great Old Elder God From Beyond is feeling today.

Once decided, the avatar declares, “BEGIN, MORTAL!” The worshipper may then begin asking questions about the summoning action, which must be able to be answered with a “yes” or “no”. The avatar of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond must then answer the question to the best of their ability. If the question is unclear or unable to be answered, the avatar may simply respond by bellowing “MY MASTER IS DISPLEASED WITH YOUR INQUIRY!”, and the summoner may ask another.

If the avatar answers the supplicant’s question in the affirmative, bringing them one step closer to bringing ecstatic devastation to mankind, the worshipper becomes just a little bit more unhinged. After answering “yes”, the avatar of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond must choose one of the words that the asker used in their question, and declare it forbidden, stricken from their mind. The worshipper may not speak the word, but they may emit gibberish from their mouths in place of it.

For example, the worshipper may ask, “Shall I touch a finger to my forehead?” The avatar answers, “Yes, and you are now forbidden to utter the word ‘finger’.” The mad god’s servant may then ask, “Do you wish me to use my pinkie?” or “Must I use my middle galbahrah to summon you?” Bear in mind that the worshipper may only ask questions verbally – they may not use physical gestures (“Do I use *this* finger?”) to get information. If these strictures are broken – if the worshipper uses a forbidden word, or physical gesture to ask a question – then that question is stricken, and they must give the avatar of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond one of their tokens in compensation for their transgression. If they have lost their last token in this way, the GOEGFB immediately strikes them down where they stand, and they lose the game.

Alternately, if the avatar is able to answer the worshipper’s question “no”, then the avatar must give the worshipper one of their tokens. If the avatar has run out of tokens, and cannot give them one, they may demand that the inquisitor immediately attempt to summon the Great Old Elder God From Beyond, on pain of being torn limb from limb by invisible demons. This is most unpleasant, and is to be avoided at all costs. The avatar may also demand that the worshipper attempt a summoning if they cannot formulate an understandable question – it is possible, nay, likely, that so many words will have been elided from the questioner’s mind that all they can do is spout unrecognizable gibberish. If this is the case, the GOEGFB may demand that the avatar remove all tokens from play, as the worshipper makes one last desperate attempt to interpret their demands.

The worshipper may attempt to summon the Great Old Elder God From Beyond at any time – or when required to, as above, when the avatar is unable to give them a token for a negative answer. The summoner announces that they are beginning the ritual by discarding a token, and attempting to perform the action that they believe will bring ruin to the worthless insects that crawl upon our world. If they successfully perform the action that was communicated to the avatar by his dark overlord, then the Great Old Elder God From Beyond is able to manifest upon the earth, wreaking destruction and havoc to the great delight of its followers. Hooray! If the attempt fails, and the worshipper has not discovered the correct action to bring about the End of Man, they must give another token to the avatar, and continue trying. If they have lost their last token by doing this, the Great Old Elder God From Beyond becomes extremely displeased with their failure, and is able to breach into our dimension just long enough to consume their degenerate worshipper, and drive the avatar into utter madness and despair. Way to go, guys.

(A simpler version of this game may simply eliminate all of the foolishness with the tokens, and simply focus on the elimination or gibberish-ifying of the worshipper’s vocabulary, and their ridiculous attempts to fulfill the wishes of the Great Old Elder God From Beyond and its avatar. Continue until the proper summoning action is discovered, or until there is no sensible language left available to the summoner. Have fun destroying the world!)