Updated: Dec 4, 2020
"Coronalone". It's like "Home Alone", but without Macaulay Culkin. And without the burglars (we hope). It's our ridiculous name for the surreal and strange circumstances in which we currently find ourselves.
And we currently find ourselves catching up on our blogging by posting two new submissions this week: one from Robyn, and now this one from Mike:
It’s 2:00 am, and sleep is but an abstract concept at the outer edge of my consciousness. My mind can’t stop the onslaught of shifting ideas and storylines that seem to download into my brain faster than I am able to process them. Flashes of game mechanics, story ideas, and the art that my mind conjures to accompany them dance in my head like sugarplums.
Games have always fascinated me, from the simplest of games, like War and Candy Land, to the seriously complex, like chess or Dune. It is the place where the story meets the game mechanics that intrigues me the most. The two don’t need to intersect to exist; there are countless stories— many archetypal in nature— that are completely unrelated to games, and many games that have no particular story attached to them but play perfectly fine without one, such as Phase 10, Uno, and Yahtzee. All are fun for what they are, and perhaps the story associated with those games is the time spent with friends and family while playing them.
It’s these two things clashing in my brain— the game mechanics and the stories— which keep me awake, running scenarios and analyzing mechanics, in the wee hours of the morning. I don’t just hear the story and match up mechanics to tell that story. I also see the art that accompanies the story. Sometimes the art dictates the type of game mechanic I will choose, such as deck building or set collection. The characters, locations, and events are like a movie which is ever-changing and shifting to accommodate game play. What is the goal? Why are we playing this game? What is the means by which one can achieve their goals in the game, and how does it relate to the story?
Ha! It’s no wonder that I have a hard time focusing on what I should be doing… namely, sleeping!
Let me give you an example of the outcome of one of these late-night ideas:
There is an asteroid careening toward Earth, and it will surely destroy everyone on impact. (Even at this point I can already visualize the asteroid, the aftermath of the impact, and exactly what art will go on each of the cards.) The leaders of the world enlist the top rocket scientists to build ships as quickly as they can and populate those rockets with as many people as possible, in order to launch them into space headed for the space station, thus saving their lives and, hopefully, the entire human race. Each player plays one of the scientists trying to build the rockets:
Populate the rockets with citizens
Safely launch the rockets into space
Rockets may or may not explode during launch, killing everyone on board
Special characters and events can help or hinder your— and other players’— progress
The scientist that saves the most citizens in safely-launched rockets wins
The game play consists of players playing cards from a deck of rocket parts and “special” cards. Once a rocket is complete, the player rolls dice to see whether the launch is successful. Play ends when the last card of the deck is drawn, which signals the moment the asteroid hits the earth. Boom.
Each rocket is comprised of three sections— the cone, the fuselage, and the booster— and each section has a point value. Once the rocket is completed, the player rolls against the total point value of all three sections of his or her rocket, and must roll the total or lower to blast off successfully. The cone and fuselage also have varying amounts of citizens in them to be saved, which also count toward the victory point total.
“Special” cards may allow a player to sabotage another player’s launch or could give one a better chance for one’s own launch to be successful. Maybe you have better fuel, or there could be a special passenger giving you more victory points.
You never know what will pour into you head. This entire concept and mechanic—albeit pretty pedestrian in terms of complexity—was formulated in my mind from start to finish in about 30 minutes. Oh, and the ever-important name for this game? Blast-Off, of course!
Yes, the mind can play a lot of games with you. It can be a challenge to determine which thoughts to entertain, and which to reject. So far it seems that game concepts and designs— while keeping me up some nights— at least don’t cause much damage… other than a little lost sleep.
Thank you, and good night.