Despite the mess that was 2020, I was fairly productive on the game design front. I published a total of 8 games as well as an online game design platform! Here’s a quick overview of the year’s releases and activities.
Premise: Setting, Character, Plot
Premise is a trio of collaborative storytelling games focused on Setting, Character, and Plot – and you can play them independently or chain them together to explore a world in depth. Each sub-game has it’s own template and play consists of simultaneously filling out parts of the templates, passing the sheets, and building on each other’s ideas.
I started working on Premise ages ago but it was frequently pushed to the backburner as I worked on more urgent projects. I published it in February and I’m very happy with how the final version turned out! I ended up doing very little marketing or promotion for Premise (a frequent problem for Diegetic Games) so I might give it another push this year.
You can buy Premise on Itch.io – there’s a print-at-home version as well as templates to play online via Google Slides.
Dawn of the Monster Invasion
In September, I released Dawn of the Monster Invasion, a game where players create a spoof of monster movies though a series of speeches + Q&A. It was my submission to Golden Cobra and it won an award! I created a web app for it so folks could play over video chat and then extended the app to be a platform any designer could use – more on that in a moment. The game + app platform won the award for “Best New Tool” which was nice honor.
In October, I launched Story Synth as a web platform that helps designers quickly create and share prompt-driven storytelling games. Designing is as easy as adding card content to a Google Sheet and then pasting that sheet url into the website. From there, you can create new game sessions and share them with friends and playtesters online.
Story Synth supports a handful of game formats. The most popular allows randomly drawing prompts from a deck (or decks), which is great for games inspired by For the Queen or The Quiet Year. Other formats support timer-based prompts, random prompt generation, phased based play, and more.
I’m continuing to evolve the platform and am loving the development process. There are already a handful of designers creating games on the platform and I’m hoping to see plenty more games on it soon!
You can learn more about creating games via the documentation pages but please reach out if you have any questions!
Around the Realm
In December I released Around the Realm, a light storytelling game where players create the story of two companions racing around a fantasy realm. It’s inspired by Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days and leads to quick, fun adventures. You can play it online here (via Story Synth).
In December, I also designed a submission for the Post-Work City Project called Post-Work Paradise. In Post-work Paradise, you see randomly generated residents of a city, in a world where automation has rendered traditional work unnecessary. Players take turns answering questions about these generated citizens and their lives.
I was honored to hear that my submission was one of seven that were accepted to be featured in the Post-Work City gallery. I also participated in a panel where I got to talk about the game and my design choices.
Leveraged Play / Serious Games
I was also busy on the “serious games” front. Last year I designed and ran:
- Imagining Health Futures, a game that explores the future of health, in support of UNICEF’s Office of Innovation (co-designed with Jason Morningstar) (facilitator guide)
- Threatcast 2020, a game about election manipulation (co-designed with Copia) (Twitter thread)
- Hindsight 2030, a game about exploring trends over the next 10 years (co-designed with Copia) (write-up)
- Positive AI Economic Futures, a 4-hour workshop involving 5 mini-games designed for the World Economic Forum and the Center for Human-compatible Artificial Intelligence (co-designed with Copia) (write-up)
I’m not positive what 2021 will have in store. I anticipate spending a lot of time on Story Synth – adding new features and making example games.
I’d also love to publish my map making game ‘Make Haste’ but we’ll see how I prioritize it.
I’ll likely also be busy with plenty of interesting “serious games” and will share those details, too.