Let’s Chance the Last Chance

So, Game Chef 2012 is on, with the theme of “Last Chance — Design your game as if it might only be played once.”

Intriguing.

We plan on taking part this year, or at least nobly trying, and though the ingredients aren’t yet announced, this theme is giving us something to wrap our brains around. What does it mean? Only played once?

On the one hand, this is an invitation for stand-alones and one-shots, which we are totally keen on. A game that need not be played twice, because in one session it creates a sufficient narrative end. We can do that, and heck, we have a few examples of our own that would fit the aesthetic, so it’s something we don’t doubt we could create as need be… but is that sufficient?  After all, incorporating the theme DEEPLY is a part of success in the game chef, and what better an opportunity than this to pontificate on, really, what it means to play a game again?

Is there such a thing as a game that cannot be played twice? A game for which the first shot is the only shot? That’s what we’re focusing on at the moment… we’re celebrating the beauty of ephemera by creating an experience which cannot be replicated. 

(Ignoring for a moment the fact that no game can TRULY be replicated, of course, because even different playthroughs have different effects and contexts, but you know… whatever.)

What are the conditions under which a game cannot be played a second time?

  • The rules say that it cannot. A bit arbitrary, easy to ignore. 
  • The game is changed by being played. See RISK: Legacy… the game cannot be played a second time, because the second playthrough is of a markedly different game.
  • The game is procedurally-generated to a massive extent. As above, no two playthroughs are alike.

All potentially useful, but not as conceptually interesting, for us at least, as the following:

  • The game relies on the ignorance of the players.Rather like the card game Mao, which relies on at least one player not knowing the rules in order to be fun (given that the central rule is that you cannot explain the rules to other players). A useful way to spring a setting-based surprise on a player.
  • The game destroys itself as you play. Again, shades of Legacy, but rather than ending with a new game you end with no game, or at least, not enough to play again. Tied in close to the ephemeral, and could have some tricky emotional business tied to it as well.

Brains churning. Super excited to see the ingredients tonight. Prediction of the moment: of the two sets of potential ingredients, one will center around fire, the other around ice. From what I’ve tasted of design, I think that fire will be fine. But if we choose to enter twice, ice is nice, and could suffice.

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