The Precurse of Fierce Events
Here’s how it’s gonna roll this year, in summary. Full details follow below.
- Theme: William Shakespeare.
- Ingredients: [Daughter, Exile, Forsworn, Nature]. Pick 3 of these 4.
- Maximum Length: 3,000 words, plus supplemental play materials.
- Discussions: Talk wherever you want, but there will be a temporary discussion forum on the Forge just for Game Chef.
- Submission: Link to your game in the submission thread (which will be posted shortly) by the time I wake up on July 25th.
- Initial Reviewing: New this year! Participants will be randomly assigned 3 or 4 games to read (depending on how many get submitted), and will recommend 1 game to go on to the second round.
- Winners: The games with the most recommendations (3 or 4) will get closely reviewed by me and my father, a Shakespeare professor, to determine the overall winner. Participants will also be invited to vote for the best game with a smaller number of recommendations (the Groundlings’ Award) and the secret advisory cabal of former Game Chef participants may award additional prizes.
But How, But How? Give Me Particulars!
Design and submit a playable draft of a roleplaying game between July 15th-25th, inspired by the theme and ingredients listed below.
2011 Theme: Avon Calling
The theme of Game Chef 2011 is William Shakespeare. As always, you are free to interpret the theme however you like, but remember that this is the theme and not just an ingredient. Your game should be “Shakespearean” in some regard, though how exactly is up to you.
This year’s theme is inspired by many things, but one of them is the failure of a Shakespeare-inspired virtual world called Arden, due to the game not being any fun and the design team not being able to figure out how to make a Shakespeare game compelling, despite $250,000 in MacArthur Foundation funding.
Our guest judge this year will be my dad, Dr. Garry Walton, who teaches Shakespeare at Meredith College (the largest women’s college in the Southeast) and will offer feedback on the Shakespearean components of games that make it past the initial round of reviewing. Here’s his bio from the school website:
- Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of English. A.B., A.M., Ph.D. University of Virginia. Dr. Walton has served as head of the department and director of the college Honors program. He has published essays on Shakespeare, performance, and pedagogy and teaches courses on Shakespeare and other British authors.
My dad is interested in all sorts of interpretations of Shakespeare, including things as diverse as The Lion King, Kurosawa’s Ran, Shakespeare in Love, Ten Things I Hate About You, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and The African Company Presents Richard III, so you shouldn’t be worried that your game is too outlandish.
In addition to the overall theme, pick 3 of these 4 ingredients to design your game around.
Try to incorporate the ingredients as centrally as you can, as part of the premise or the rules or however else makes sense to you. A passing reference is okay if that’s all you can come up with, but really drawing strongly on the ingredients is suggested.
For example, the 2004 ingredients were [ice, island, dawn, assault], which ended up inspiring games like The Mountain Witch (climbing icy Mount Fuji to assault the witch’s fortress), The Dance and the Dawn (try to find your true love at an island social gathering, hoping that — when dawn breaks — you don’t end up with the one that has a heart of ice), and Polaris (arctic elves struggle against themselves and a demonic assault, with the dawn finally coming for the first time in hundreds of years).
This year, my father and I picked words from The Complete Works of Shakespeare to be our ingredients, so they should be challenging without being totally alien to the theme.
Brevity is the Soul of Wit
The main text of your game should be 3,000 words or less, but you may also include additional materials in the form of maps, diagrams, play sheets, etc. This is so you can spend any additional time revising and polishing rather than turning out additional, half-baked material. We’re not going to conduct a word count on your game and disqualify you but, please, this is for the good of your game as well as the sanity of your reviewers, who have jobs, lives, families, etc.
Rule on Previous Work
You may draw on concepts you have thought about or worked on before the contest, but everything you submit must be new work, not previous material.
Rule on Intellectual Property
It is ultimately the designer’s responsibility to deal with all rights-related issues. Including excerpts from public domain or open source content — for example, Shakespeare’s works — is fine. Drawing inspiration from other games is also fine, but be sure to give credit and put it in your own words.
There will a dedicated forum set up for discussing Game Chef 2011 at the Forge (our previous home from 2002-2004 and the most popular place for discussions in 2010). Other options include Praxis, the RPGnet design forums, your own blog (if you have one), or whatever else you can think of.
I highly recommend sticking to a single thread per individual game rather than filling a forum with multiple threads about the same game concept. That makes it easier for everyone else to parse the forums and for the people interested in your game to find your most recent posts. Other threads for general discussion, open questions, and joshing each other are, of course, totally cool.
Games are due by the time I wake up on the morning of July 25th and are submitted by posting a link to them in the 2011 Game Submission thread (which will be posted once the contest starts). Games should be submitted in PDF format or an audio or video format (mp3, mp4, mov) that reviewers can open without purchasing proprietary software. There are lots of ways to find a free place to host files these days, but I recommend 1KM1KT, a long-time partner of Game Chef, if you are looking for options.
Once games are submitted, each chef will be randomly assigned 3 or 4 games to review. You will have until Saturday, July 30th to pick 1 of the 4 to recommend for the next round. Chefs who submit their games early will be assigned games to review as soon as possible, which may be a good option for folks heading off to GenCon.
Chefs who do not submit their recommendations will be disqualified from participating in the finals and we will find new reviewers to replace them, likely from past participants or those who attempted a game in 2011 but did not finish or choose not to submit it.
While reviewers are not required to explain their decisions to anyone (and should not be called on to defend their choices), it is good sportsmanship for reviewers to either publicly post a few thoughts on each game (what you liked, what you think could be improved) or send them privately to the games’ authors, so they can benefit and you can build contacts or relationships with other chefs.
Suggestions and advice on how to handle reviewing will come in the submission and review threads.
The games that receive the most nominations will be considered by Dr. Walton and myself in the final round, with my dad commenting on the Shakespearean aspects and me (Jonathan) on the game design aspects. Together, we will name one or two winners for this year’s contest. Additional awards will be determined by popular vote from the remaining games and special selection by the shadowy cabal serving as an informal advisory group.
Winning Game Chef is Like Winning the Nobel Prize
It’s great! But many folks who’ve won the Nobel Prize in Literature have books that are out of print. Indeed, nearly all past Game Chef-winning games — for one reason or another — have not gone on to fame and fortune, though their designers have done other neat stuff. Ultimately, whatever you do with your game after Game Chef is up to you. But winning is a strong sign that folks in the community enjoy your work and are ready to support you.
A Few Final Thoughts
Remember, you are ultimately responsible for your own experience of Game Chef. I have tried to create a good environment, based on my own previous experiences and the hard work of the Master Chefs before me, but that only goes so far, especially since the contest has gotten too big for any one person to manage. So take the initiative, ask others for what you need (including me, but also your fellow chefs), create what you don’t have, participate in discussions as much as you like, walk away from discussions when they are distracting you from designing, and do what you need to do. This is your Game Chef, make it what you want it to be.
The comments below are for questions about the rules, which I will be very happy to answer. If you want to share your excitement about the contest, please do it on your favorite forum, blog, Twitter, etc.