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Alongame

Alongame is a quite novel kind of idea in games, I think. The website describes it as a “world-building legacy game, for a community of remote players who will create several generations of an original world together.” But as well as being that as an overall game experience, it was made up of a mosaic of 20 or so small and varied games which interlocked and built off each other to create what ended up as (I think) an involved and interesting play structure.

The intention was to make it easy for participants to engage at the level that they were comfortable with — to pick just a few of the games to play, to upload content to the communal resources or not as they wished, to engage with the content of other participants if they wanted to do so. With the hope that if some participants wanted to put more time and effort into their activity, then they would be rewarded accordingly with a deeper and more complex experience, and with a greater influence over the development of the world of Alongame.

Where did it come from?

The idea and impetus for Alongame came from Chloe Mashiter of roll/flip/draw, and I was one of four creatives who with Chloe made up the team that put it together. It was an exhilarating and rewarding, and sometimes a bit breathless, experience. We were designing games pretty much from hand to mouth — there was a two week lead-in, but after that it was development and release on a weekly cycle, over a period of four weeks.

The actual team design work was tremendously enjoyable. The other people involved (Hannah Raymond-Cox, Isa S-A, Thryn Henderson, and Chloe) are sparklingly brilliant and were wonderfully positive and warm to work with — the whole mood was very supportive and, I think, conducive to together making something that was greater than the sum of the parts that each of us brought. And we helped each other to manage the series of deadlines safely and comfortably.

What are the games?

The component games are essentially game poems, which was a new kind of design for me. Short, evocative, pieces of play, with loose objectives defined largely by the participant’s wishes. Also new for me, they were all designed for solo play — because of the pandemic situation, it wasn’t desirable to be requiring or even encouraging people to meet up. Coming at it myself from a more larp-design part of the spectrum, and with my particular interest in what larping tells us about ourselves, I found the idea of solo larps in a communally-built world quite intriguing — providing opportunities for people to simply have creative/escapist fun, or to dig deep within their psyches, as they preferred.

Larp is generally predicated upon a dialogue between in-play interactions with others, and reflections on them with oneself. I am interested in doing a bit more looking into what solo play might mean — in a more orthodox larping framework than Alongame (which was also being several other kinds of thing at the same time as being larp).

How did it go?

I guess the one slightly disappointing aspect of Alongame was the number of participants who got involved. There were enough to make it feel alive and vibrant: but there could have been more, to provide a denser texture and a heightened interactivity. Those people who did take part seemed (from the feedback survey) to have got a lot out of it, so it would have been nice had there been more of them. Although, more participant interaction would have required greater management resources than we actually had: so perhaps it was a blessing in disguise, from that point of view. Upside risk can be just as hard to mitigate as downside risk.

As a design team we learned a lot about what worked well and what could be changed next time: and the only way to learn was by trying it, as there wasn’t really anything comparable out there. So, hopefully there will be a next time — it feels like the positive learns were worth building upon, and there’s a load of solid design work that can serve as a foundation for a successor project.

Take a look

As well as the itch.io page where you can download/play-in-browser all of the component games, you might like to look at this page on the main site to which participants uploaded resources to be shared with others. It gives a good flavour and sample of what people were getting up to during play.

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