May. 22nd, 2013

Object Jam

May. 22nd, 2013 11:21 am
A couple weekends ago, I wrangled a few friends (Rob, Tom, and William) into joining me for participation in OBJECT JAM, a neat little game jam proposed by someone on Twitter, wherein you invent games for physical objects (rather than for computers or consoles). I was thinking of it as kind of a retake of the kind of game a lot of us grew up playing, either with play-designed objects (toys) or by finding whatever was lying around on the floor or the ground. But most of the (visible) participants in Object Jam are people who've by now played (and made) a lot of video/computer games, as well as, y'know, grown up and developed different tastes and attention spans from what we had as five-year-olds (perhaps).

The result was one of the most fun 6-ish hours I've spent in the past few years. The best part about it to me in contrast to a workin'-on-computers game jam was that we were effectively all making games for each other and then playing them with each other. This jam felt fundamentally social. It's pretty easy to come up with some idea and post it on twitter, but actually assembling the pieces, testing it out, noticing some imbalances, and iterating on the design of something you wouldn't otherwise take so seriously... brought a lot of depth to it, made it into a bonding experience. There's probably nothing that makes me happier than making, sharing and discussing things with people that I like. The making doesn't even have to be collaborative; maybe even better if it's not.

Now some games! First, here are ones that I designed, implemented, and playtested:

FOLDING AT HOME

Game for piece of paper and n players (tested with n=2). Take turns folding the paper, not necessarily in half, until you can't fold it anymore (it does not lie flat).

PLAYTEST NOTES: We conjectured that this would be better as a collaborative game, "improvisational origami", where the goal is just to make something pretty. I tweeted that idea as the primary version of the game and described the above as an "adversarial variant."

MASHUP FICTION

Game for n players and n books. Players gather in a circle. Each player takes a book and opens to somewhere near the middle. Take turns reading the last full sentence on the left page, then turning the page. Stop when someone reads a sentence that's 3 words long or fewer (or when bored).

PLAYTEST NOTES: Science fiction books work well for this.

SIT

Game for chair and two players. Player One sets up the chair. Player Two must sit in it (butt touching chair, weight resting on chair) and maintain stability. Alternate until Player Two falls over and gets hurt.

PLAYTEST NOTES: this game is dangerous and surprisingly fun

LIVE ACTION FETCHQUEST

Game for post-it notes, William's house, and various objects within said house. Sorry, this one is not very cross-platform, but you could probably come up with something similar for the rooms and objects in your house. I put post-its on game-relevant things and announced the convention that pink = takeable, yellow = openable, and orange = information.

PLAYTEST NOTES: This actually worked pretty well for three separate playthroughs. Tom took a Vine of Rob playing.

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Here are some games I came up with but didn't actually playtest:

DO NOT PASS GO

Game for any board game and 1 player. Set up the game. Read the rules aloud. Sit still & meditate upon the board. Tidy up after.

NOTES: Twitter liked this one, and one game designer I follow made some good suggestions for a multiplayer variant. I especially like the analogy between rules reading and guided meditation.

COINS IN A BOWL

A sort of minimalist betting game for n players with pocket change and 1 bowl. Players deposit all pocket change into a bowl. Everyone writes down a guess for the total amount of money in it. Reveal guesses. Closest answer gets the change, may trade for bills with other players. (anticapitalist variant)

SPICES IN A BOWL

Everyone secretly picks a spice from the spice cabinet and adds a couple of shakes of it to a communal bowl. Then, the bowl is brought to a gathering spot and passed around. Players may smell and taste the contents. Winner is who correctly identifies the most spices in the bowl.


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Others' games:


  • TETRAHEROES made by Tom7 and William is a large-scale object adventure game built on the grass rug in William's living room. Here is a video recording of Rob and me playing it, which is pretty much my favorite thing on the internet right now.
  • a game by a dog!
  • full list of games tagged with #objectjam on twitter


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Related thing: pervasive games

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