In developing a brand new tabletop game with my fellow teammates, Drew and Chris, the first thing we did as a group was to drawn upon inspiration from both our previous work together as well as something that united us, a passion we could all look to and say, “Yeah, we all like that thing, let’s do that”. And so…
…the BCM Bois were back, this time with a vengeance! Or at least as much vengeance as a bunch of computer nerds can hope for. Thus, our project Griefers Getting Good was born from our collective interest in gaming – a topic which we already broached in a previous subject to mixed effect.
Nonetheless, we strove forward with this concept, bearing in mind precursor works like Coup, The Resistance, Ultimate Werewolf and even Cards against Humanity, all card games which are deceptively simple on the surface but are held together by their little addition of rules here and there to set themselves apart as well as their transmedial universes.
This was my particular role: to immerse Drew’s raw gameplay mechanics into a rich and fully realised world, to act as the bridge between his mechanically-bound ludology of the game and my story-focused narratology of the game.
The phrase ‘transmedia’ should be familiar to anyone who knows about more modern forms of media or has studied for any period of time. But, for the sake of this blog post, one definition of transmedia is about “merchandising and producing adaptations of pre-existing stories in other media…” (Jaagola, 2019). This is certainly true for the crossover between video games and tabletop games.
The success of games like Dark Souls: The Board Game, a wildly successful adaptation of a popular and brutally difficult video game series, should be cause for attention, blowing past its initial Kickstarter goal of £50000 and receiving £3,771,474 by the end of its campaign. It’s both the general success of the games industry and the success of more niche products like Dark Souls: The Board Game that helped to inform our decision to go with a Video Game / eSport theme.
“With your pulse pounding, you hear distant cheering and whistling from the crowd above. Stepping out onto the show floor, you’re blinded by the array of lights as they shine and scatter across the arena. You walk with your team towards the set of PCs that await your command, waiting for the tournament to begin…”
This is a short snippet from the first section of flavour text I wrote for the game. It’s a scene that captures a kind of ‘generic essence’ of the eSports scene. In other words, the visuals conjured up from this abstract can be implanted anywhere – in a first-person shooter, a fighting game, wherever. This was a deliberate design choice on my part. To put it briefly, I wanted to capture a niche market (a.k.a. video game players interested in a tabletop experience based on video games) without driving away too many players from an already niche market by not specifying the kind of game being played.
I further honed the game world by generating more flavour text and ‘justifications’ for mechanics, grounding abstract gameplay into something understandable: a world defined by its rules. An example of this would be in how I explained the changing of the team leader every round (similar to the Card Czar of Cards against Humanity). Simply put, in the fast-paced world of eSports, nothing is set in stone and players are constantly being shuffled around between teams.
My second-to-last role was to work on the group slides and provide plenty of explanation of how I merged Drew’s mechanics into a cohesive if purposefully vague universe, vague for the sake of allowing a player’s imagination to run wild with ideas on how to expand the world of the game in their own mind. This sort of design, as with video games, “cue[s] players to construct mental representations of something resembling a storyworld…while recogniz[ing] that the resulting mental representations may differ significantly from player to player…” (Thon, 2017).
Finally, I would also try and coordinate with Drew and Chris to compare our notes and ideas, adjust the slides and rehearse for the upcoming in-class presentation the day beforehand. This would include discussing last minute changes to our short dot-pointed scripts as well as giving each of us time to prepare ourselves mentally and vocally.
Jaagola, K 2019, ‘Seriality in Transmedia Storytelling: A Case Study of Halo’, Ekphrasis (2067-631X), vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 152-168.
Thon, JN 2017, ‘Transmedial Narratology Revisited: On the Intersubjective Construction of Storyworlds and the Problem of Representational Correspondence in Films, Comics, and Video Games’, Narrative, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 286-320.