We are in a golden age of creator-owned and independently produced roleplaying games. Countless creative designers, from all walks of life, have created beautiful rpgs that explore important issues through play. The true innovation in games, like in all media, comes from the little-known gems. These small games are often overlooked in favour of the bigger games on the market, but they add something vital to the hobby. I hope to shine some light on these gems, so that they can be discovered anew by designers and fans alike.
Each of these bite-sized reviews describes the game overall, what kind of experience it offers to the players, and what new game design tech it offers to designers. It’s only a small taste of each of the games in question, but it should be enough to get started. Now let’s get to the games!
Misspent Youth (2010)
Designed and published by Robert Bohl
Available at http://misspentyouth.robertbohl.com/
Misspent Youth is a game of teenage punk-rebels in a f*cd up future dystopia. It’s a game with a GM who portrays the brutal Authority who is killing, consuming or perverting something that matters in society. You build a dystopia that reflects on real-life bullying behaviours, then portray teenage characters who stand up to oppose it.
Misspent Youth is the most punk RPG I have ever read, and it is glorious. The characters find ways to exploit the various systems of control and bypass the iron grip of the Authority. As they struggle, they may be forced to sell out some of their characteristics in order to succeed, losing part of themselves in the process.
When I last played this game, we made a dystopic Authority who was controlling and limiting art. When a bit of creative graffiti, and some of us were accused of doing the artistic crime, I was put on the spot and fell back into my own dysfunctional defense mechanisms against bullying. I felt like my younger self, and it gave me space to consider my own youth more deeply. It was highly engaging for me as a player.
For a designer, Misspent Youth presents some beautiful pieces of game design technology. It offers a very compelling yet focused procedure for creating a dystopic society. It reinforces bleed to further the emotional foundation of the ideal game experience. It uses a relatively strong scene structure to great effect, encouraging a coherent story emerges from the player contributions. The layout is also a fantastic case-study in user experience and interface design, reinforcing the themes of the game beautifully.
Check out this indie gem, if you get a chance!