A Controversial Gamesmith

Five weeks into my new job, I’m beginning to deduce my strengths and weaknesses. For instance, weakness: I don’t know what I’m supposed to be working on most days. Strength: I have funny asides during staff meetings.

Weakness: Many days I forget to bring my lunch. Strength: I create new games.

We have Ozone club twice a week; middle and high school campers from War Eagle gather for an hour and a half to play games and review the gospel of Luke. There is a document that floats around our office labeled Game Gallery, which lists forty or so possible group games to fill the time at club.

Not I, I say.

My co-director has been gracious enough to let me make up one game a week; these are extravagantly hit or miss. I can’t abide normalcy. I makes me feel like everyone else.

Reverse Charades and Animal Kingdom were both hits, though I’ve been told they bear resemblance to pre-existing games. So sue me, Samsung says. Not so with Stickman Kickball. That was completely original and inspired great ambivalence. Kickball without the use of joints like knees and elbows, it was fun for the few who played infield and really fun for the handful who cheated.

A few games halfway worked; most often these were the ones geared towards creation. Silent Art Gallery and Six Word Art Gallery were well received during the drawing/writing aspect but fumbled with presentation. In these, our middle schoolers had to silently work together to draw a pre-determined scene; a few days later, the high schoolers had to pick one of those works and write a six word story about it. Though share time was awkward, it did result in some abstract gems from students I would’ve never suspected.

“Slowly, leave something that is lost,” and “Gazing serpent gazes at what was” were both written about a dinosaur fighting an army tank.

There are complete duds, like Chinpenny Underwear Dodgeball, which of course requires no explanation. I changed the rules so many times during play that we finished playing a game called the Chinpenny Olympics. Chinpenny has now become a buzzword in staff meetings for ideas that won’t fly.

When I was at camp this summer, I was given a family group, or small group of counselors to look after. Most family groups revolve around food, watching sports or making pottery. Horrified at being like everyone else, I wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons with my group. However, the complicated system discourages new and casual players. So as I supervised the waterfront, I wrote an entirely new system of rules that did away with any statistics or mechanics I thought extraneous. The end product was different enough that I renamed it Skygarden.

We played six sessions over the summer; during a change-over session when old counselors went home and new counselors arrived, I was approached by players asking for a good death. Eventually their characters died while fighting off a troll horde over an endless chasm.

Skygarden remains my most successful invention as the participants recently approached me about recording the rules so they could play with their roommates and fraternity brothers. I wrote it all down one morning while Holly was sleeping.

You can download the Skygarden Manual free because I’m a swell guy.


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