A little after “Game Chef”‘s results were published, I’ve been contacted by the Polish website grynarracyjne.pl, which asked me if they could interview me. Obviously I answered yes, and today the article about the inteview, titled “Fiction Does Matter”, came out (in Polish).
For all those people who, like me, don’t understand Polish, I’m publishing the English version of the interview.
Question - Could you write a few sentences about yourself, the game and the “Game Chef” competition?
Answer - Well, I’m not sure there’s much interesting to say about me. I’m Italian, I’m twentysix, I’m currently studying webdesign and literature and in the meantime working here and there to finish university. Pretty boring, uh?
Also, I think I know the most part of the Italian story-gamers, and I’ve met some of the international stars too.
Ninety Minutes is my first attempt at a game; I’ve entered the “Game Chef” because this year a few people in Italy offered to organize an italian section of the contest, and then translated the entries that got to the finals. I’ve seen a lot of interesting ideas in this year’s edition, and I’m happy of having been part of it.
Q - Why did you choose such a difficult subject?
A - Well, I didn’t actually choose it. This year’s theme was published a little before the ingredients, and when I saw that it was “last chance”, I immediately thought of a last chance that could happen in real life, like the last goodbye to a dear person.
I didn’t think it would have been a really original idea, but then, looking at the other games on the develompment forums, I noticed that most of them focused upon other kinds of “last chances”, like the last chance to save the Earth, or to play a specific game, or to tell a story – so I decided to give it a try.
Q - What was your biggest problem?
A - Uhm, I don’t know. The game actually flowed pretty smoothly from my mind to the pen; it’s not so long, and it came to me almost in a single block, and I had in mind the main mechanics since the start.
I think that the time and words contraints helped me a lot to focus on what was necessary and what not, and how to present the game in the most effective way I was capable of.
Q - Are you going to keep working on the game?
A - Yes, I think I will. There’s this kind of curse for the winners of past “Game Chef” editions, and it is that the winner game is usually abandoned or not finished, while other games that didn’t win became huge successes, and great overall games (I’m thinking about Polaris, The Mountain Witch or The Play’s the Thing, for example).
So, I’ll try to break the curse and finish the game. I don’t know wheter I’ll then publish it, or in which form, but I definitely want to complete it.
Q - What does victory mean for you? How would you sum the “Game Chef” competition?
A - Well, I was happy, because I liked the idea behind the game, and it’s always nice when someone appreciate what you create – especially when, in this field, you’re judged by people like Mike Holmes an Jonathan Walton.
Apart from that, however, the “Game Chef” is a friendly contest, and its focus isn’t on winning, but on reading and reviewing games by fellow players, and I think that’s the most engaging part of all.
Plus, this year’s edition featured also a massive italian partecipation (15 games in Italian, plus 2 in English!), and I’m excited to be part of this rising wave of story-game design in Italy!
Q - Maybe you have some advice for novice game designers?
A - Seeing that I’m a novice myself, actually I’m not sure I have any kind of wisdom pills to distribute…
The first thing that comes to my mind, because I noticed it as a problem in almost every game I reviewd, is a pretty technical one: fiction matters.
When I play a roleplaying game, the thing I’m most excited about is seeing how what I do as a character reflects in the world we players are immagining, and also how the world expands into the mechanics of the game. If I can perceive that my actions have an impact on the imagined world, and that the changed world has an impact on the mechanics, I can engage at a deeper level with the fiction, and I think that that is the moment in which the real magic is created.
So, in brief, I think that it is important, in a game, to strictly correlate the game’s mechanics and the fiction that we imagine. If you need a great example of this, you should check out Apocalypse World, by Vincent Baker.
Then, the second thing I can suggest is this: play. Play a lot, and have a lot of fun.
If you want to design a game, all the Big Models and Threefold Models and FUNnel Models and Jeepform Thruts in the world can’t match the impact of a single, amusing, intense game session. If you really want to learn how to express yourself by designing a game, start by giving yourself a treat, and play a lot and have a good time playing.
That may seem rethorical, but that’s what happened to me: I played a lot, had fun and a lot of intense sessions, and then all the theory concepts came more easily to me, because I could relate them to what I had already sperimented, and they seemed generally clear.