Anatomy of a terrible (but maybe worthwhile) game


Today Nathan and I made a game that was terrible, but which had certain properties that I think might have some resonance in a game about Flaten.

The game split players into three groups – bow hunters, militant vegans, and beavers – all of whom exist in Flaten. Each group could spend its turn pursuing an easy goal – throwing counters into a cup close to hand – or a harder but more rewarding one – throwing counters into a cup placed much further away. For the vegans (for example) the hard goal was putting on an illegal forest rave – the easy goal was to vandalise the archer’s equipment.

The easy goal for each group was a more reliable way to satisfy their needs in the short term, but had a negative impact on another group in the system, and also added to a common pool of counters representing the number of times the police had been called out to Flaten. As the pile of counters increased, the chances rose that the police would shut down all of Flaten and ban access for all three groups.

No part of this game worked, there is not one single element in it worth keeping. But some of the properties of the underlying game system feel as if they may have some traction in conversations about Flaten.

To tease these out explicitly, the valuable elements I think are:

  • A ‘push your luck’ style mechanism where individual groups pursuing their own goals can push the system the system as a whole towards risky thresholds
  • Elements of decision-making (which goal will your group pursue?) mixed with elements of skill-tester style play (how many counters can you land in your chosen cup?)
  • A roughly consistent game system whose behaviour follows fairly clear rules that an audience can learn and understand


Obviously there’s no point in shoehorning these qualities into a Flaten setting if they aren’t appropriate for the region we’re talking about, but my instinct is that some of these things may have a place in the game we’re creating.

So my question is: Which (if any) of these elements are worth exploring further, and, what aspects of the Flaten setting might be used to help portray these ideas?

– David


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