God Emperor

God Emperor

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The moral of the story

Good news: we just passed the minimum number of ticket sales, so the Megagame is 100% going ahead. Bad news, I just realized I made a mistake and set the end date for ticket sales to the day of the game. I've changed it to the 21st, three weeks away, one week from the game. I don't think we'll have any trouble filling out the place. A shedload of creative and awesome people are signing up. Someone who ran the game in New Zealand is flying all the way out here to play it with two mates!
It's gonna be the best thing I've ever done.

So - why am I doing it? What's so good about Watch The Skies that me and people all over the globe have started running it? Well, reason 1, the moral of the story and the high-and-mighty justification: it explores a massive, broken system we're all trapped in. Watch The Skies puts you in a giant, crazy situation of Global Politics and lets you play through what's fucked up about it in a game.

It explores an interesting situation in a safe way. Stories do this all the time ("What would happen if you stepped off the path and explored the woods?"). The difference is that stories provide an answer ("A wolf would eat you and your grandma, you wretched little idiot"). Book, TV show, play or movie, the creator has a message in mind. 

Games just ask the question: they are terrible at proscribing a definitive answer. There are more possible chess games than there are atoms in the observable universe. Many games are even more complex than that. You might try to make a game with the moral "Don't leave the path or wolves will eat you" - but the player might defeat the wolves, or avoid them, or end up in any of a million other possible game states.

If you do not recognize this and you try to proscribe morals and pre-set answers, this unpredictability becomes a massive frustrating albatross around the neck of the medium. If you recognize it and use it, it's an advantage. Tiger cubs don't learn to fight by hearing a story about fighting. They play it out. As a result, they get ideas that no storyteller could have told them.

Think of the Prisoners Dilemma. We could use a story to talk about the situation: "Bob and John played Share or Steal, and both voted Share." This sends a message: Trust people. But hey, maybe you shouldn't trust Bob. Who knows? By playing the Dilemma, we can ask the question and get an answer from the players. The answer will be different every time, depending on who's playing it. This is the ideal: The game design asks a question which the players answer through play.

So the moral is - hey, I can't hand down a finger-wagging moral about global politics. What I can do is simulate the system, put it under pressure, and dump you into it. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Details

What could lie within this mysterious envelope? Perhaps the [redacted] for the alien [redacted]?!
The Megagame will take place on Sunday the 28th of September, from 9:30 to 5:00 (we'd encourage you to come hang out at the pub afterwards if you can). The Eventbrite page to sign up for it will go live this Sunday, the 24th. Ticket price will be $29.99 $27.49!


Do I need to sign up with a team?

Nah. You sign up individually. We'll ask you what team and position you'd like to play on - President of Brazil, Reporter, Alien, etc - but if you don't have a strong preference or anyone you want to stick with, that's fine.

Can I buy more than one ticket at once?

Yes, you can buy up to five tickets in one go.

How many other people can I team up with?

Countries will be from 2 players (if not many people sign up) to a maximum of 5 players. We expect most teams will be 4 players. The Media will have a maximum of 3 players, and there will be 9 Aliens.

How many people will be there?

We're expecting around 40.

What if someone signs up, but doesn't show up?

We will have a section where you can sign up as a substitute. If anyone bails, we'll call you. You can then replace them, and play for free. Of course, it's not certain that you'll get to play at all, but it's a good option if you're interested in the off chance of a free game.

I have a special request...

When you sign up, there will be a comment box saying "Any special requests?" If you have any special preference (for example, you don't care what you play but you want to make sure you're on a team together with your friend, or you want to make sure a friend of yours is first in line to sub for your team), you can type it out in there and we'll take it into account when constructing teams. You can also contact us about it through the Facebook page, Twitter or the comments below.

Is it a straight aliens VS humans deathmatch?

Nope. It's a roleplaying game with a heavy focus on diplomacy. We have no idea how the story will play out: that will be determined by the decisions you guys make. Whatever happens, it won't be the straight "Humans Win!" or "Aliens Win!" you get from a board game.

Is this like that Shut up and Sit down thing?

Exactly like it. We're using the same rules and materials as in the video below, and co-operating with designer Jim Wallman. If you have any questions please watch this, it'll give you a great idea of what the game will be like.

The only difference is that we'll be changing the aliens, so the ending of this video won't spoil you for the game.

Any other questions, please ask them below and I'll add them to this FAQ.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Map

One of the thing  Shut Up and Sit Down mentioned about the Megagame in their podcast was a desire for cool aesthetic touches. This is a topic close to my heart. I am a glutton for art, particularly the art in physical games. Stuff you can wipe your boots on, y'know?

This stuff does so much to catapult the game into a psychic energy mind-o-sphere. It's immersive and I love it. I'd love to pay as much attention to art and stage-craft as you see in a theater. So for example, rather than print out the map, we painted it on canvas. Featured in these photos are my good friends, Matt Rundle and Jack Peereboom.

Click this one to make it bigger.

Notice the string? I'm going to use that to show the boundaries between zones. The cities have a tiny paper flag pinned on them for names (check out Brazil). The next step is to find great looking miniatures to complement it. The guys at Zedtown have suggested renting their own, 3D printed miniatures out to us.

There are a few other immersive little art touches we've talked about: We might be able to mail out the Player Handbooks in manila folders stamped with TOP SECRET. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Watch the skies!

I'm Jack, and I want to give you a transcendent, shared experience that makes your life better.

I want to make games that bring you closer to another human being, by taking you together through a unique story that no-one else on the planet will ever experience. I want to make games that explore the giant, corroded and broken systems we're trapped in, by sticking you inside them and giving you a crisis to deal with. And I want to make the kind of crazy shit I've never played before. To do all this, I'm organizing a Megagame in Brisbane.

A Megagame is where you shove 40 people together as the world leaders of every nation on earth, in the middle of the greatest crisis the world's ever seen. You're the Prime Minister of Australia, your buddies are the lead General, Diplomat and Scientist. You're running around squabbling in the UN, racing against time to develop vital tech, stonewalling the press and trying to muster enough forces to take down the cabal of sinister alien players hiding in the back room.

Some of the coolest people I've ever met have gathered together to help make this thing possible. We've got Ralph Muhlberger (who used to teach game design at UQ), Keith Done, designer Jason Wesley Kotzur-Yang, and Craig Hargraves. The generous Matthew Adams is providing art, including the header for this blog (Hire him for your art thing, he's amazing). We're all working to run the same Megagame in the video I've embedded above: Watch the Skies! It's designed by Jim Wallman, who's helping us out. We're also getting tips and tricks from the guys running the New York Megagame and Sydney Megagame.

We'll be launching an Eventbrite page next week. Stay tuned for more updates, and grab a ticket there when it's up. I'll be posting cool making-of stuff and answering questions here and on the Facebook, Twitter and G+ links on the sidebar.