Gamestorm 2011, Storyjamming and “Songline”

I recently attended the Gamestorm convention here in the Portland, OR area, and with the help of Joel and Will, had the chance to experiment.

As some of you may know, I’m a big fan of Matthijs Holter’s quiet, simple story game Archipelago II. I told a friend recently that I believe all story games are “hacks” of Archipelago. This is of course ridiculous, and absolutely true in a totally false way.

Archipelago presents a simple structure to navigate scene-by-scene storyjamming. I’ve hacked it myself to make it even friendlier to new players, for example by adding the “help” ritual phrase, and by adding hand signs.

One other change that I find absolutely essential is the “I See You” collaborative character generation process. This is described elsewhere.  I’ve been dissatisfied with it up til recently – at Gamestorm I tried a new experiment and it came off wonderfully. I’ve noticed too, that often “I See You” is my favorite part of the game. So I had a thought…

What if the whole game had the same essential structure as “I See You”?

This is such a fundamental change, that I feel comfortable admitting that I’ve drifted the original Archipelago game enough that I need to start calling it something else. So I’m now officially working on “Songline”, a game for storyjamming in the modern mythtime.

It has a setting, absolutely, because though generic games (like Archipelago) have their own charm, they also can leave players adrift. The setting is where the modern world overlaps with the deeper world. It’s about the places you find in your dreams, like when you discover an extra door off the kitchen that you’ve never noticed before, and it takes you somewhere totally…other.

It’s about how the deeply, fundamentally magical world can survive in spite of the absolute plundering of its body and soul.

My goal is to reliably, consistently, pull storyjammers into a deeply satisfying place. Not because they’re skilled, or because the group is already experienced, or because we just got lucky this time. I want this to be the experience the game delivers – quiet, raw, reflective depths.

This is of course all part of my quest to make family storytelling an accessible, vital activity, and a functional alternative to pop television, movies, and written fiction.

If you hadn’t guessed, the fluency hunting game design system is absolutely guiding my hand in this. I continually remind myself to keep following the fundamental principle: “obviously!”

Written by Willem