Call to Arms 2008

Entry 01: Couples Counseling by LB Jeffries
Entry 02: Family Commute by JC Barnett
Entry 03: Last Call by Borut Pfeifer
Entry 04: Sellout by JP LeBreton
Entry 05: Resonance by Michael Clarkson
Entry 06: Strange Land by Steve gaynor
Entry 07: Jump by Duncan Fyfe
Entry 08: Potter by Steve gaynor
Entry 09: Survival by Coleman McCormick
Entry 10: Bumbershoot by Dan Bruno
Entry 11: Friends Like These by Justin Keverne
Entry 12: Bereavement in Blacksburg by Manveer Heir
Entry 13: Fruit of the Womb by Roberto Quesada
Entry 14: Peace by Christiaan Moleman

Memories. Feeling. Meaning. Conflict.

They can all be expressed through interaction-- games. Interactive experiences are driven by design. And we're all designers. Of any discipline involved in game-making, design's door is open widest. There is no barrier to entry. Players, artists, teachers-- we're all designers.

The challenge then is to express through interaction an experience that the player will find meaningful-- something novel, poignant, interesting, personal, or enlightening. As video game designers, we've explored a few forms of conflict with great fidelity: mostly direct and violent; mostly expressing the feeling of prevailing over one's rivals.

So, Fullbright proposes a public thought experiment; a decentralized game design symposium; a call for new takes on interactive expression. If we've succeeded by now in conveying feelings like "exhilaration," "fear," and "victory," and conflicts such as "individual power vs. strength in numbers," "man vs. rule system," "entropy vs. order," and "good vs. evil," the Call to Arms focuses on some more elusive aesthetics. Here's the procedure:

  1. Choose a feeling or a philosophical conflict listed below, or come up with one of your own. If someone has already posted an entry on an item that interests you, don't be afraid to tackle it in a different way; multiple approaches to one problem are encouraged.

  2. Write a simple game design which would express that feeling or conflict directly through interaction. The rules of the game-- what you do as a player and how the system (or other players) may react-- should speak directly to the tenets of the premise itself. This can be a proposed video or analog game-- computer, console, tabletop, boardgame, or other; any format will be accepted. Proposing a loose fictional veneer is valid if you feel it's necessary, but should not be the focus of your design; focus on the interactive elements, the rules of play, what happens, and how that speaks to the significant aspects of your chosen aesthetic. The game's framework can be purely abstract or it can be character-based; it's all open to your interpretation.

  3. Post your design in written form (illustrations and functional prototypes totally optional) on your blog or website and link to it in the comments here. Or, if you don't already have a soapbox, post your design directly into the comments here, or e-mail it to Fullbright. All designs will be displayed here once received, resulting in a public collection of theoretical game designs.

  4. There is no judging or prizes. All submitted designs become public domain, so don't post anything you're horribly attached to. The goal here is to share ideas with the world, not to put any of the resulting designs into production.

  5. Don't disqualify yourself! Everyone is a designer. Ideas are design; play is design. If you've never made up a game before, or created a design document, take this opportunity as your first.
Below are my initial proposed feelings:

  • The sadness of loss
  • The satisfaction of a job well-done
  • The joy of discovery
  • The vindication of upholding one's convictions
  • The anxiety of uncertainty
  • The thrill of infatuation
  • The alienation of being in a foreign land
  • The comfort of true friendship

Next, my initial proposed conflicts:

  • Duty vs. Passion
  • Indulgence vs. Prudence
  • Faith vs. Skepticism
  • Ostracism vs. Acceptance
  • Patience vs. Impulse
  • Masculinity vs. Femininity
  • Tradition vs. Progress
  • Innocence vs. Cynicism
  • Pragmatism vs. Romanticism

This exercise bears something in common with Clint Hocking's "Seven Deadly Sins" elective from the Game Design Workshop; for a starting point, check out how one team of designers at this year's GDC expressed Gluttony with a card game. Alternately, note how BioShock used a character-based approach in expressing Altruism vs. Self-Interest, and whether its mechanics supported the implications of that conflict. Or, how Jason Rohrer explored the bittersweet melancholy of aging with Passage.

What is meaningful to you? How can that be conveyed to others through interaction? Design play to share that experience with others. Heed the call to arms!

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