This Board Game Cafe Wants to Make Gaming Fun, Safe, and Inclusive

161e7f7a3afc09c2e79ba4e5f26fbf6f_original

Board games are a great way to have fun with friends. They’re also an amazing way to get to know other people. Sometimes, though, they can also be an awful way to get to know other people.

Recently, I found out about Bonus Round: Chicago’s first board game cafe on Kickstarter. (Hooray! They passed their funding goal and now they’re trying to reach their stretch goals.) What struck me about Bonus Round was not just that they wanted to make a space in Chicago for board game players and board game designers, but that they were dedicated to forging a space that would reach people who have been traditionally excluded and/or burned by board gaming culture. I reached out to Bonus Round to hear more about their story, and they agreed to an interview. I’m excited about the work they’re doing, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting them on Kickstarter, whether you’re in Chicago or another city!

Your Kickstarter seems to really focus around building a welcoming board game community. Can you tell us a little more about what this means for Bonus Round?

Building a community and making sure it is a welcoming one are definitely two of our biggest focuses. Board gaming is a group activity and what we’re creating revolves 100% about building a space where people can come together to enjoy games regardless of their level of experience or background. Unfortunately there are a lot of brick and mortar game stores around the country that don’t have the most welcoming environments to outsiders (particularly women) and so part of what we’re trying to do is encourage people who don’t normally play boardgames for whatever reason to take a chance on them. We want to introduce new people to board games.

The Bonus Round Kickstarter video.

I love that your Kickstarter states that Bonus Round will have “a safe and welcoming environment with a posted and enforced anti-harassment policy.” Can you tell us more about why this is important for your vision for Bonus Round?

Yeah! So for me this is pretty simple and it seems like our policies ought to just be common sense for a lot of society. In a nutshell it comes down to “Don’t be a jerk to others.” & “Your enjoyment of the space and what we’re doing shouldn’t infringe on what anyone else is doing.” Some folks have been burned before, and we want to do everything we can to prevent that from happening at our cafe. Having a posted policy on the wall shows people that we’re serious about it and that if someone is causing problems that we’re gonna be there to stop it. Incidents are gonna happen and tensions can get heated during an intense game but at the end of the day we want to make sure that everyone is being given the same amount of respect.

Your Kickstarter says that you want “to be a corner stone meeting place for Chicago’s game development community,” somewhere that game designers can playtest with the public, build relationships, and exchange ideas with each other. As a game designer, I love this! What gave you this idea? And how do you see this idea coming to fruition?

Being a watering hole for local designers, publishers and developers of games has always been something that we wanted to aim for with Bonus Round, but we always figured it would be something a bit further down the line. We’ve been doing pop-up events for a solid year and a half now, and somewhere along there designers started hitting us up to see whether they could bring their games out to show off or playtest. People don’t seem to realize just how many board game industry folks live in or around Chicago, and it blows me away how much support they’ve shown for Bonus Round! In the future once we have our doors open we want to have monthly gatherings at the cafe where insiders can get together to share war stories and ideas. Additionally we want to have regular nights at the cafe where developers & publishers have a chance to get their games playtested with the public. Playtesting can be a really long and drawn out process (not to mention costly). The funny thing is that the public are usually pretty enthusiastic to try something new and give feedback, but outside of conventions there isn’t much of a place to bring everything together. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out here to Ben at Argyle Games as well as Jeff & Andrew with Road To Infamy Games, they’ve all been really supportive of what we’re doing.

When did you decide to take your dream of a board game cafe and make it a reality? And why did you decide to turn to Kickstarter?

Okay so the moment that Courtney & I decided that this was what we were going to pour ourselves into was probably about 4 years ago. I was managing a record store in California at the time, which was a great experience that I learned a lot from, I was enjoying working there but ambition was getting the best of me and for the longest time I had wanted to create something myself. So that was all going through my head and a year or two prior to that even we’d gone to Toronto on our honeymoon and visited Snakes & Lattes, who have been at the forefront of this board game cafe movement. Eventually it all came together and we knew we had the skill sets to do this already; we just needed to put in the work and get all the money together. It hasn’t been easy for a moment, and it has been really trying at times, but we’re not far off from being able to break ground and get our doors open. We’ve always been pretty active on Kickstarter and done what we can to help fund projects which we care about and want to see come to life, it made sense that once we got to the point which we’re at now that we’d turn things around and create a campaign of our own. I feel like I could write a book about everything that has happened so far with the cafe, our trials and tribulations, but I couldn’t be more proud of where we are and those struggles have definitely helped me appreciate it.

You say that your staff will be trained to help customers learn the board games you have at your cafe. I think that’s fantastic. Why’s that important for your vision of Bonus Round?

Internally teaching board games is perhaps the one topic we talk about the most, there are so many finer details that don’t even surface until you really start thinking about it from a variety of perspectives. There are two big reasons (among many) why I think teaching and doing it well are important for a board game cafe:
a) Our target audience consists of a lot of people that have NEVER played a modern board game, the last thing they might have played is probably Monopoly or Clue at a gathering with extended family. The thing is board games have come such a long way from that and are an incredible way to enjoy some genuine social time with others. So with all that said we’ve got a lot of newcomers coming out to our pop-ups and when you’re learning something new, whether it is rocket science or board gaming, you’re in this space where you might feel like everyone but you knows what’s going on. A few laughs and some encouragement go a long way towards getting people to open up. I’m getting a little rambly here but one of the reasons teaching is important is if you do it well then people can’t wait to join in.

b) The second reason is way more straightforward. Nobody wants to sit down with their friends and have to scramble through a rule book for 30 minutes before they can even start enjoying the game. We cut that whole process out and get people right to the fun part by figuring out what the “teach” is for a game, what are the essentials that people need to know before they can take their first turn or roll some dice? In many cases some rules of the game can be introduced after everyone has had a turn with almost no impact on how the game was played up until that point. Each game has its own approach but we take the time and figure it out so that our customers can just focus on having a good time.

Has your Kickstarter campaign allowed you to reach new audiences?

We’re not using Kickstarter just for the money, Kickstarter helps build a community around your project from day one. Since everything else we’re doing is so community oriented it makes sense that we’d go to Kickstarter. It has definitely helped us garner some more attention, but for me the most exhilarating part of all this has been how much people have come out of the woodwork to share what we’re doing with their friends and family. People that might’ve only ever come out to one or two pop-up game nights have taken the time to say how thrilled they are for us. That said, I want to see that audience grow even more and I can’t wait for us to finally have our doors open!

Bonus Round on Kickstarter

Image via Bonus Round Kickstarter page.

Speculative Game Design: Sex and Death in It Follows

it-follows-chair

Games That Will Never Get Made

There are as many weird, unborn games on this planet as there are grains of sand, and I would love to design them all. I want to design the beautiful, iridescent glassy games and the lumpy ugly games. I want to dump my beach of games on unsuspecting players and I want to sunbathe on the sandy mass of unplayable games I’ve created.

I want to design games about making Frozen a better movie, and 90s Adam Sandler dating simulators, and games about ghost sex. But there are only so many hours in the day, and that’s where speculative game design comes in.

When I first saw It Follows, I was obsessed with the idea of making a game inspired by the movie. It had so many elements I’d want to see in a tabletop game. It used weird metaphors to talk about sexuality and shame, it kept an ambiguous moral stance, it was tense, it had a typewriter! So many elements of a good game!

Someday maybe I’ll make an It Follows game. But I can’t right now, so here are thoughts on what that game might look like if it were to exist. The ideas and mechanics here are under-considered, inconsistent, and half-baked. If that bugs you, welcome to the first stage of game design. If that excites you, or if you like any of the ideas below, feel free to run with them. I’d love to see what you create.

The Movie

It Follows was a one hour, forty-seven minute roller coaster of foreboding-entity-sex-horror that hit all my panic buttons in all the right ways.

I hated the movie, and I loved the movie. I had so many questions, and I appreciated those that went unanswered. It Follows genuinely scared me, and I spent a week glancing over my shoulder expecting my own freaky sex demon to pounce at any moment.

This post will have spoilers, and I’m including advance warning for adult content, nonconsensual ghost sex, and dubiously consensual people sex.

The Plot

After an unsettling interaction with her new boyfriend at a movie theater, Jay and her paranoid bf have sex in his car, during which he chloroforms her, ties her up, and takes her out to a remote location strapped in a wheelchair. He then gives her a “welcome to your new life” monologue:

From this point forward she’ll be pursued by an evil entity. The entity gets passed from person to person by fucking. Now that she’s got it, it will begin walking towards her. It always moves at a walking pace. It can take on the appearance of any person, even family and friends. If it catches up to her, it will kill her. And after it kills her, it will continue down the line, pursuing every person who has ever passed the entity on until…who knows. The only way to get rid of the entity is to fuck someone else, which is no promise of safety. Also, if things weren’t bad enough, no one else can see the entity. The burden of proof is on her alone.

Though disbelieving, Jay quickly comes to realize that she is in fact being pursued. There’s a decrepit old woman shambling towards her on her college campus. A lady with one flopped-out boob finds a way into her house. A too-tall man finds his way into her house. It’s all very spooky, and Jay runs away.

Jay’s friends (some of whom are still skeptical) drive her to a beachside cottage to get away, and to get some space to think. The ghost demon finds its way there, and eventually grabs hold of Jay. If there was any doubt that was telling the truth, her friends literally get to see her hoisted into the air by an invisible entity. Jay flees the scene in a stolen car and crashes into a cornfield.

Jay wakes up in the hospital and has sex with her douchey friend Greg in a hospital bed. This breaks the heart of her too-sweet friend Paul, who’s had a longtime crush on Jay, and wants nothing more than to take that sweet, sweet ghost away from her. Greg contracts the ghost, doesn’t take the responsibility seriously enough, and gets fucked to death by the ghost—who has taken the form of his mother—later that week. Jay flees and enjoys some r&r at the beach. She sees three dudes float up in a small boat, a ways from the shore. After a moment’s consideration, she strips down to her underwear and swims out to the boat. We don’t see what happens next, but the outcome is implied.

Finally, Jay and her friends devise a strange plan to kill the ghost involving an electric typewriter, some lamps, and an indoor pool. When the ghost reaches the pool, it has taken the form of Jay’s deceased father. Together, the group tries to electrocute the ghost, but bad things happen and their effort fails.

After lots of dodging his advances, Jay and smitten Paul have sex. Paul then drives downtown and solicits a prostitute. The final scene shows Jay and Paul, walking down a quiet suburban sidewalk hand in hand, with a figure walking slowly in the distance behind them.

But What’s It About?

On the surface, It Follows is a movie about being pursued by a spooky ghost. At a deeper level, it’s a movie that explores complex themes about sex and shame—particularly that special brand of millennial sex shame born from abstinence-only sex education. It’s also a movie about sex and death. The eventual death of this entity? Death from sexually transmitted disease? Everyone’s eventual death?

it-follows

We can take a guess that, if everyone in the ghost’s fuckline didn’t fuck anyone new for the rest of their lives, the ghost would eventually kill them all off and then it too would perish.

Or would it? We don’t know.

When in human history has abstinence solved all of our problems? When in human history has having sex solved them?

If we keep going, It Follows is also a movie about mommy issues, daddy issues, who we value in sexual relationships and who we don’t, and who wants to help us heal versus who just wants to get in our pants.

Finally, and this I think is one of the most compelling themes, the movie forces us to think about the inevitability of the diseases we as humans share. But I’ll return to that part later! This was supposed to be about game design, right?

While it may not seem like it at first blush, It Follows is perfect game design fodder! Board game, LARP, RPG, you name it. Not only does the movie cover multiple, complex emotional dramas that could be used to frame the theme of a game—it also offers a complicated problem to solve. Game designers love coming up with solutions to complicated problems.

There are so many different possible games here, and I’ll walk through just a few of them. Will any of these games ever get made? I have no idea! But I think there’s value in speculative iteration. Plus it’s free and fun.


Game #1: Trouble Down Under (RPG, resource mgmt board game)

So, you’ve got a sexually transmitted ghost? Who you gonna call? The person who gave it to you!

This is a roleplaying board game about making lemons out of lemonade—part story game, part resource management. You’ve got a ghost, but you’re fortunately working with a competent group of people who have devised a solution to this problem.

In this game, you enter into a consensual business arrangement with the other living people in the ghost’s fuckline. Knowing that their well-being depends on you staying alive, this group of people plan on pooling their resources to send you across the world to say, Australia. They’ll support your monthly living expenses while you’re there, and they’ll try their best to monitor the ghost’s trek across the globe.

The distance between Detroit, Michigan (where the movie takes place) and Perth, Australia is 11,170 miles (or 17976.372 km). If the entity travels at an average walking speed of 3.1 miles per hour (and doesn’t need to eat or sleep, and can walk under the ocean) it should take it around 150 days—or 5 months—to reach the western coastline. 5 months in Australia isn’t too bad! That’s enough time to settle down, maybe find a job, make friends, and explore your surroundings. You can’t ethically have sex (in fact, the terms of your business arrangement strictly forbid it), but you can certainly get kissy, and the game can take advantage of this temptation with story prompt cards that introduce unexpected social challenges.

After 5 months is up, your benefactors put you on a plane back to the US, and the ghost pivots on its gnarly heels and starts walking again.

Similar to games like Sheriff of Nottingham, which gives everyone a turn in the Sheriff’s seat, the role of the “ghosted” gets passed from player to player after every round. During each round of turns, one player plays the ghosted, navigating day-to-day life in Australia, and the other players play the ghostees—collaboratively managing their finances, tracking the ghost, and trying to work together without blame to keep this wacky system functioning.

There are great opportunities for resource management on both ends, plus rich story game drama. Do the ghostees monitoring the entity in the United States live communally? How do their day-to-day responsibilities impact their ability to keep track of the ghost’s movement? Out of this group, who still fucks each other, who loathes each other, and who’s all about the hatesex? Calling back to those temptation cards, there’s ample room for underhandedness and deception here as well. The only way to keep this system working is to keep it in the family, and the minute a person fucks someone outside of the circle, the system starts to break apart. Can our Australian ghosted resist temptation down under?

Combine this with dice-based randomization that tells you whether you’ve lost track of the ghost on any given day, and I’d play this game all day.

Game #2: I Came Here to Fuck a Ghost Up and Chew Bubblegum… (Story-driven card game, roguelike)

You’ve got a ghost and you’re running out of all the fucks you have to give. You know you’re going down, so why not go down doing some science?

Game #2 takes a MacGyver-style approach to dealing with ghosts. It’s a game of weird traps, shitty science, and taunting death. It’s pretty gonzo, but so is trying to lure an evil sex demon into an indoor pool filled with electric typewriters and table lamps, so the precedent has been set.

This game assumes that you’ll die at least a few times, and when you do, you’ll pick up where you left off, playing as the next person in the ghost’s fuckline. You’ll carry with you what you learned from your last ghost-killing attempts, and that information will get you one step closer to freedom.

I can see game design elements from Machine of Death working nicely here: drawing cards with bizarre, unrelated objects, and having to construct a plausible ghost plan. For example:

We draw three cards from the deck—candle, field, and mix tape.

Using these cards, we piece together our plan to lure the entity. We’re in the middle of a drought, so lighting a candle in a dry field will certainly start a fire. We lure the entity into the middle of the field, and we test to see if different types of music have any impact on its attention span.

I don’t know what determines the likelihood of success here. Machine of Death trusts you to set these parameters yourself, and players determine the difficulty of any given challenge. Here, I think it’s dice randomization that determines success versus failure, but the range of numbers needed for success increases every time you gain new information about what works and what doesn’t.

You roll. Fire fails. You roll. Mix tape succeeds. What could it mean? You narrate that the ghost seemed momentarily distracted by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Just a fluke, or an essential revelation? Only time and repetition will tell!

This one’s a lighter collaborative game, with everyone working together in the same place, supporting a collectively owned protagonist and her friends in their quest to bring this ghost down. It’s story-driven card game the way Gloom is a story-driven card game: you can dive into roleplay, or you can play it straight. It’s up to you and your friends.

Game #3: What Is sex? What Is Death? What Is This Game? (Freeform LARP)

Game #3 is the most ill-defined of the three games, but maybe my favorite. This game is about immersive exploration of the questions the movie left unanswered, and exploring some of the movie’s more abstract themes.

I haven’t done a lot of live action roleplay, so I’m going to draw inspiration from one of the few LARP experiences I’ve had, the freeform game See Me Now, from Sara Williamson and Liz Gorinsky. See Me Now is a game about friendship, growing up, and gender identity. It plays out through a series of nonlinear scene cards, where players pick a scene card that interests them, then act out the scene. A GM-like facilitator helps guide the action, asks questions, can call for internal monologues, and keeps things moving smoothly by cutting scenes at appropriate moments.

Before I get to the scenes I’d love to see in the It Follows LARP, I’ll run through some of the backdrop that I think makes this game really cool—stuff that’s part of the movie, but isn’t really front and center.

Ambiguous Time & Place

Not only does the movie take place in an ambiguous time period, it maybe doesn’t even take place in our world. The main nod at this possibility comes in the form of a bizarre, shell-shaped plastic compact that one character carries around obsessively, that seems to be some sort of e-reader. Maybe it doubles as a shell phone? It’s really cool, and I want one, but this isn’t a thing that exists in our reality. And that weirdness offers a darkly ethereal backdrop for a LARP!

it-follows-shell

Lack of Adult Figures

There are almost no adult figures present in the movie. It’s a very Miranda July world, but with a different pace and a more definable threat. What does it mean that there are no grownups here? Do we leave them out because we know they’ll deny our reality? If we come to an adult for help we could be grounded—locked in a room, which would mean a non-metaphorical death sentence. A world where adults are almost entirely absent, but occasionally appear as an outside menace, also makes for a great LARP backdrop.

Now, within this unsettling, grownup-less world, we’re free to explore scenes about…what? Here are some of the scenes that I’d be excited to see:

1. The movie doesn’t answer the question of what type of sex it considers valid for ghost transmission. Just penetrative sex between a penis and a vagina? Can the ghost be caught in a condom? Is the ghost nullified by birth control? Does this entity only pass from cisgendered men to cisgendered women (and the other way around), and if so, is this actually a game about hetero blight? I want to see scenes of rampant sexual experimentation spanning the entries on urban dictionary while panicked ghostees try to figure out whether or not they’ve got the ghost.

2. I love that folks jump in line to take the ghost away from Jay. The first person, douchey Greg, takes a risk because he wants to fuck Jay, and he doesn’t believe the threat. The second person, sweet Paul, takes a risk because he wants to fuck Jay and he loooves her. And his love is so good, and so pure, that he heads right out to pass the ghost on to a sex worker. I want to see scenes about who we value in our sexual relationships, who we don’t, when we deem someone “worth the risk,” and all the collateral damage that ensues.

3. Finally, It Follows may be the only movie I’ve ever seen that has friends almost openly and honestly talking about sexually transmitted disease. It’s one thing that the movie can’t really explore in-depth, because everyone’s too busy running for their lives, but we could perhaps slow it down and leave time for it in this in a game. A scene with a group of teenagers blamelessly supporting a friend through the uncertainty of a life-changing health crisis.

What’s Next?

By premise alone, It Follows walks a razor-thin line between drama and parody. When I think about creating a game inspired by the film, there’s a risk of slipping too far into gonzo territory, which would be both dismissive and dangerous.

The film addresses some intense themes: voyeurism, stalking, abandonment, nonconsent, treatment of sex workers, disease. I want to explore the absurdist elements of the plot, but a game that makes a complete joke out of these themes would be a disaster.

We deal with this often in games that talk about things like racism, sexism, or body-shaming, and the line can be blurry. Games like this require a great deal of nuance and self-awareness on the part of the creator, and if that isn’t hard enough, they require players who are able to recognize that nuance and step up to the task of treating the themes with respect while also recognizing the humor.

If you’re interested in that challenge, my mind goes to a few other films that walk the line between the comical, the devastating, and the grotesque: Happiness, American Beauty, maybe Heathers? Unlike those three films, I’d say It Follows plays it pretty straight. While there are funny moments, it’s not a dark comedy—it’s just dark. But there’s so much to explore in the concept of a demonic STD, and some of those things are quite funny. I hope to someday take that on in a game I create.

Episode 9: The Phobia Game

Listen to the episode above, or via iTunes.

Hannah and Alanna talk phobias. Babies, bed bugs, and the gut-twisting horror of clowns. Can you design a game around a topic you can barely engage with? We give it a whirl!

Intro Segment & Media Check-in

Alanna: Buffy episode – Nightmares (Season 1, Episode 10). Things get weird at Sunnydale High when nightmares start to become reality.

buffy110-xander

Hannah: Buffy episode – Bargaining, Part 2 (Season 6, Episode 2). Her friends try to resurrect Buffy after her death. When they believe the resurrection spell has failed, Buffy is forced to claw her way out of her own grave.

buffy-grave

Hannah: Heffalumps and Woozles from Winnie the Pooh. Perfect representation of being chased by your own phobias.

Defining The Phobia Game (5:12)

Where do we draw the line between a fear and a phobia? A fear that butts up against a social norm? The word irrational keeps coming up in our conversation, even though we don’t like that label. Who has say over what’s a rational vs. irrational fear?

  • Hannah defines it as “an experience at the crossroads of a fear and an anxiety.”
  • Alanna calls on the Merriam-Webster Definition: “An extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.”

The Players (11:00)

Everyone’s a player here to some extent. Some people are playing on casual mode, some people playing on hardcore mode.

  • You can be playing on easy mode in one category and iron man mode in another.
  • We talk about our own hardcore mode phobias. Conversations about bed bugs, non-arachnid creepy crawlies, pregnancy, and clown phobias.

The lucky thing for me is that one does not encounter too many clowns in the wild. – Alanna

Parts of the Game We’re Most Interested (25:00)

Alanna finds the gap in understanding fascinating. When something that impacts your life begins impacting others as well. What happens when you can’t attend a friend’s performance because of your fear of clowns?

  • A game that tests the limits of other people’s empathy.
  • Phobia blackjack. The risk of overplaying your hand. What’s the card that will push you over?
  • Phobia Jenga. Increase the intensity bit by bit until the tower comes crashing down.

Desiging

The closest we get here is a deck-building or card passing game with different win conditions: I don’t want to be caught with the bed bug card, you don’t want to be caught with the clown card. But when the clown card is in my hand it has no special meaning to me.

Trying to explain pregnancy phobia in a game. Elements of parasitism, reverse Operation game (putting things into a body instead of taking them out), having to deal with cards you didn’t ask for.

The clown game would be like…someone’s just smiling the whole time but they keep handing you cards that say, ‘I’m actually going to kill you.’ – Alanna

Finally, the razor thin line between a phobia and a fetish.

Noirlandia August update: art art, rules rules, rinse repeat

As summer rolls along, so does our progress on Noirlandia, which we’re on target to ship to backers in October! Here’s a roundup of the behind-the-scenes work we’ve been doing over the past couple of months.

evan rowland noirlandia

Creating the Quickstarts

We’ve received all of the first drafts for the stretch goal quickstarts, and after a round of feedback and revisions, almost every writer has completed their final draft. The quickstarts had some tricky parameters, and it’s been great to see how everyone approached our weird project guidelines!

Here’s a snippet from the Tiraval quickstart, from Choice of Games author and editor Rebecca Slitt:

Tiraval quickstart snapshot
Tiraval quickstart snapshot

Art

One of Evan’s big July milestones was to complete another full-page illustration for the book. The following illustration is the supernatural crime scene unlocked as part of our community stretch goals!

Noirlandia-supernatural-small-for-website
Supernatural crime scene by Evan Rowland

Right now, Evan is diligently completing the remaining rulebook art, then it’s on to noir portraits. We’ve received some amazing portraits from backers, and we’re excited to be working on them all! There’s a lot of art to make, but it’s going to be awesome!

Writing the Rulebook

In terms of writing, we’ve composed a new draft of the rules with an emphasis on clarity and flavor. We’ve also added example text, actual play samples, and a more careful ordering of game concepts. We’re currently working with our editor, Joshua Yearsley, who we interviewed earlier this year about the game editing process (interview here).

noirlanda-corruption
Snapshot of our work on the rulebook

In a few days, when we get our final rules “okay” from Josh, it’s on to the layout phase!

Materials

In preparation for the Kickstarter, we researched all of the sources for materials going into the deluxe editions of the game. Now that we know how many deluxe editions we’ll be making (nearly 100!) we have the opportunity to find better prices and quality from bulk distributors. This looks different for each of the many components involved in putting together the deluxe edition, so we’ll be testing and sourcing materials from lots of different places, including Amazon, Make Playing Cards, and Pouch Mart.

That’s all from us for now. In the meantime, stay cool. We can’t wait to share Noirlandia with you in October!

Noir portrait submitted by a backer. :)
Noir portrait submitted by a backer. 🙂

Want to keep up-to-date with our games? Subscribe to our mailing list below!

* indicates required




Episode 8: The Party Game

Episode 8: The Party Game

Listen to the episode above, or via iTunes.

We’re joined by special guest Stephen Dewey, designer of the Ten Candles roleplaying game, to talk parties! Episode CW for discussion of alcohol and Stanford rape case.

Intro Segment & Media Check-in

The Players

  • The party shark, the party jellyfish, the party sea cucumber
  • And the aquarium keeper herself!

Parts of the Game We’re Most Interested In

  • The art of hosting
  • The delicate game of bringing someone else to a party
  • Alcohol

Designing the Party Game

  • Why don’t parties, like game conventions, have community guidelines?
  • Hidden objective games
  • The game of Clue, and moving from room to room
  • We almost argue about LARP vs theater
  • Cats at parties

Extras

I had to cut down the episode for time, which means that Stephen’s final analogy about the game Two Rooms and a Boom didn’t make it into the final version! Not only is it a party game, but it’s the perfect gamified version of a party. In Stephen’s words:

  • You have to move around and talk to people. Even if you don’t want to, that’s just how you do it.
  • Everyone has their own hidden objective. You have no idea how any individual person is expecting the night to end.
  • You may have friends, but not know where they are. Even if you find them, they may go off to another room leaving you behind. 

Stephen’s Work

Stephen was a fantastic guest. Support the heck out of his work!

Teatime with Make Big Things: Crowdfunding for All Sizes

In May, we were joined by special guest designers Caroline Hobbs (Downfall), Ben Robbins (Microscope), and Kira Magrann (Mobilize, Strict Machine) to talk about crowdfunding RPG projects of different shapes and sizes.

Caroline lent great insight into the excitement and terror of Kickstarting a game that made over 2000% of its original goal, Kira talked about crowdfunding RESISTOR, a zine featuring original games, artwork, and fiction, and Ben shared thoughts on budgeting, timelines, and all those crucial parts of a project that are easy to mismanage.

Check out the video below for the complete hour-long talk and hear us discuss what makes a good Kickstarter video, backer communication, stretch goals, unexpected challenges, and how to stay sane through the whole process.

Want to join us for a future teatime? Teatime and Game Talk is a once-monthly live hangout, featuring designers, GMs, and players of games.

To stay up to date, check out the Teatime and Game Talk G+ community, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Missed our June teatime? Check out Let’s Workshop a Horror Game, where Evan Rowland and I attempt to design a Shining-inspired LARP live on air.

Our July 14th teatime is all about the magic and mystery of 2-player RPGs! Sign up to watch here!

Episode 7: The Crying (Not the Movie) Game

Episode 7: The Crying (Not the Movie) Game

Listen to the episode above, or via iTunes.

We talk about who’s allowed to cry, when and where we’re supposed to cry, and the trouble with onion memes.

Intro Segment (4 min)

The Players

  • What’s normal? How much crying is okay?
  • The players as defined by Hannah: People who cry often, people who don’t
  • The players as defined by Alanna: People who accept crying, people who don’t

Parts of the Game We’re Most Interested In

  • The mystery of crying and vaginas
  • Ghost crying
  • Onions and “I’m not crying, you’re crying.” Distance through memes.

Designing the Crying Game

  • Reflexive crying, empathy games
  • Bad Habit, a game about nonsuicidal self-injury, from Games by Playdate
  • Actual Sunlight, a visual novel about suicide, from Will O’Neill
  • Conditional statements (“IF” this, “THEN” crying)
  • Resource management, emotional jenga
  • Suffering consequences from stockpiling resources
  • Sheriff of Nottingham board game
  • Designing a game about crying by designing a game that makes you cry
  • Managing emotional and social dynamics at the table
  • Public versus private play
  • Finally, Girl Talk and zit stickers

Episode Note

Like most of our episodes, this was recorded weeks before it aired. Between the time we recorded and the time the episode was edited and published, 49 people (predominantly queer people of color) were murdered in a dance club. This week has been a time for grief, and while editing the episode, it was hard to connect the crying we talked about a few weeks ago (crying about ghosts, crying over board games) with the crying I’ve done this week—an unstoppable, body-shaking sort of crying. Crying over loss of life.

I did a lot of public crying this week. Maybe you did, too. If you didn’t, that’s okay.

I guess I’ll end with a piece from my favorite Carl Sandburg poem, The Right to Grief. It’s feeling especially salient today.

TAKE your fill of intimate remorse, perfumed sorrow,
Over the dead child of a millionaire,
And the pity of Death refusing any check on the bank
Which the millionaire might order his secretary to
scratch off
And get cashed.

Very well,
You for your grief and I for mine.
Let me have a sorrow my own if I want to.

I shall cry over the dead child of a stockyards hunky.
His job is sweeping blood off the floor.
He gets a dollar seventy cents a day when he works
And it’s many tubs of blood he shoves out with a broom
day by day.

Read the full poem here.

Episode 6: The Nostalgia Game

Episode 6: The Nostalgia Game

Listen to the episode above, or via iTunes.

We tackle reveries, reboots, and making American great again in…The Nostalgia Game! Who benefits most from the game and who gets left behind?

Intro (6 mins)

  • Hannah: faux nostalgia and Garden State (2004)
  • Alanna: falsifying memory and the animated Anastasia (1997)

In a way nostalgia is the manic pixie dream girl of memory. —Alanna

Main Topic

Additional Sources