Shelf Indulgence is a new book club podcast where game designers, game scholars, and play scholars discuss a fun, intelligent book, usually a novel. For our first episode, we will discuss Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. Read the book (or not) and join us by listening to episode 1 of Shelf Indulgence.
Frost Fantasy Mini-Wargame Design Challenge
Who is the Judge?
I’m the game designer behind Ginger Goat Press. I’m the former Global Coordinator of Game Chef, the international analog game design competition. By day, I teach high school English and ESL at a public school in Texas.
This is a copy of the abstract I submitted to the International PlayTrack 2017 Conference. If I manage to buy a plane ticket, this should give you an idea of the research I intend to present in Denmark at the Aarhus University conference which is funded by the Lego Foundation.
Update: You can contribute to my fundraiser to help buy a plane ticket here. Please do.
This poster will show the results of textual analysis on fifteen larps published during 2012-2017. Having selected fifteen live-action roleplaying games of a similar format, I intend to perform a comparative textual analysis to determine the game designers’ assumptions about play. I have selected five games each from three larp designers, Avery Alder, Caitlynn Belle, and Jackson Tegu. These designers publish 5-16 page American Freeform and experimental larp games through Patreon. Examining quantifiable features like word length, word frequency, sentence length, lexical density, and Gunning Fog Index readability, we can infer several things about play experience of these games.
Every game designer makes assumptions about play. By examining the complexity of the text, we can infer the assumed education level of the player. By cataloguing undefined game terms, we infer what prior game experience the designer assumes for a player. By textual analysis of gender, age, and sensory terms, we can even infer the demographic profile of assumed players.
In addition to assumptions about players, textual analysis also exposes designers’ assumptions about play experience. The explicit rules for play give a skeleton of the designer’s intent for play experience. Various textual features flesh out that play experience. The number of phases or scenes in the game, the number and length of instructional steps for those phases, the ratio of procedural text to diagetic text on each page—even the presence or absence of game art—are quantifiable textual features that reveal the author’s intended play experience.
I select these designers and these larps because of their similarity in publication format, year of publication, page length, and game genre. By analyzing the instructional text of a handful of games from Alder, Belle, and Tegu, this poster will visibly, quantifiably indicate similarities and differences in these designers’ intended play experiences.
To Jon C.
Singing a soft song, sitting on that burlap brown sofa.
Picking at the fabric pills, not bored. Engaged.
Bouncing my knee. Nervous like a cow who knows the calf is coming.
Last night’s sleep in an old blue sleeping bag. Whispers of friendship.
Confessions to the other students at the youth retreat. Little kindnesses. We are not a loud people.
When we sing, we hear each other’s harmonies.
Each voice treasured, like a piece of quiet, a part of the gentle whole.
Applause are honest praise but always brief.
In choir these voices fill the balcony with the pure melody of warmth.
They are not silent. They are full of music,
But they are a quiet people.
Singing clear, soft a capella sitting on the burlap couch,
My closed eyes open, glide across the room.
White shirt crisp and blue-black tie in a half-Windsor,
Our balding, kind-faced teacher adjusts his glasses.
He begins to pray for us. Thirty-five teens,
People of faith from happy homes and sad,
Short and tall, from every high school within twenty miles.
We will not remember the words of his prayer. But
We will remember he prayed. That he was for us,
And his Lord is for us, and grants us peace and quiet.
He brought us music. Gave us time.
He lost sleep for us. Disciplined us with his kind basso voice.
Until we grew to discipline ourselves.
The gifts he gave his choir cannot be counted,
Cannot be measured on the audiometer he brought from work,
To show us the shapes our voices make when we sing.
Those of us sitting on those basement couches,
Listening as he prayed for us–some of us didn’t have two parents at home.
Didn’t have a lot of teachers on our side. But we had at least one teacher.
King David writes he will sing for the Lord,
Because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him.
When parents are missing, when tomorrow’s lunch isn’t in the fridge,
When the regular loneliness of adolescence holds us down,
It’s hard to see the bounty. But we could hear that teacher’s prayers.
I like to think he hoped for us before we could hope for ourselves.
When the Creator is quiet, loneliness bends our backs and sags our shoulders,
But we are a people of quiet strength. We have clear, soft songs to hold us up.
If the Lord chooses to whisper, we will still hear his piece of quiet.
We listen for his bounty, just like we listened to our teacher’s prayers.
After all, the song is not just note after note after note. The song is also the quiet in between.
There is music in a rest.
Although it’s not directly a plug for our Kickstarter, since you might not even see this post until after the fundraiser ends, I want to share some numbers from The Imposters and compare them to Ginger Goat’s previous Kickstarter campaigns. My purpose in sharing this information is to help answer questions that other game designers have about fundraising for their games.
On the one hand, I’m excited the Kickstarter is going well. On the other hand, I want to give you an opportunity to pick my brain by emailing email@example.com about what it’s like to run a Kickstarter or about specific issues that worry you about running your own.
With 22 hours left in the fundraising campaign, we have 370 backers and we’ve raised $6,745. Those numbers will change in the last day, but they are close enough to the final numbers that we can look at them.
How do they compare to our previous four Kickstarters?
We have almost twice the number of backers for this campaign as we do for our previous campaigns. I attribute this to a number of factors, including the quality of our Kickstarter video, the number of game journalists who have written about the game, and the social media influence of my fellow contributors to this book. Because we have a sharp looking Kickstarter page, and because we’ve had better word of mouth advertising for this campaign, we’ve convinced more backers to join us. As you might expect, that means we’ve raised more money, too.
We have raised about twice what we raised in our other campaigns. Though Dangers Untold is an outlier. It raised an unusual amount of money per backer because we had a handful of high level backers who were really committed to unlocking some the extra setting materials. In other words, we had more people willing to pay for high tier backer levels in Dangers Untold. I attribute this to Shoshana Kessock’s committed fanbase. Her fans are big fans.
Now that you’ve seen the basic data, what questions can I answer for you? Have you considered crowdfunding your games, and if so, what can I do to encourage or inform you? Shoot me questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Kickstarter for The Imposters is live! You can back the game here. And here’s the book trailer.
“Delve into a world rife with conspiracy and resistance and leave behind your illusions of safety.” —Jeremy Morgan, Editor
Our next book, The Imposters, is coming to Kickstarter tomorrow. Want to support seven game designers who struggle with Imposter Syndrome? Want to get your hands on seven new or revised larps and tabletop rpgs?
The Imposters is an anthology of seven tabletop and live-action roleplaying games from seven different designers. Some of these games are brand new; some are revised and updated versions of games that have won prestigious indie gaming awards like the ENnies, Golden Cobra, and the 200WordRPG contest. All seven games offer a play experience you’ve never had before.
For example, the anthology contains “They’re Onto Me” by Banana Chan, a game about paranoia and the possibility that your co-workers have been replaced by duplicates. You can watch two run throughs of “They’re Onto Me” on Youtube now.
Here is the short version of a “They’re Onto Me” run by my friend, Norwegian larp designer Ole Peder.
This second run of “They’re Onto Me” is by my friend, Filipino rpg designer Tobie Abad.
You can support get your hands on this game and six more like it by backing The Imposters on Kickstarter tomorrow. Information Day, 4/11. #RUready4theTruth?
The Imposters is getting tantalizingly close to done. We plan to Kickstart it in early April. The Imposters is an anthology of seven conspiracy-themed games by seven different authors, including three #GoldenCobra winners, a Golden Cobra honorable mention, a #200WordRPG winner, and the former Global Coordinator of Game Chef. Despite our apparent successes, all seven designers admit that we struggle with Imposter Syndrome,* the self-perception that we aren’t “real” designers who deserve to hang with the “professionals.”
If you can sympathize with our struggles, or you struggle with Imposter Syndrome yourself, or you have been harrassed and othered by folks in the gaming community, we encourage you to join our conspiracy and check out the next month. We’re proud of what we’ve made together. These games are awesome. They range from an X-Files inspired mystery set at a funeral to a spy vs. spy meetup to a full-on, cryptographic psychogeography larp. If you follow any of us on social media, there’s at least one game in here that you will love.
See you in April.
Josh T. Jordan and his fellow Imposters
*Also spelled Impostor Syndrome. They’re both correct. And I will fight you on that if you need me to.