Game Chef 2013

The Basics

Design and submit a playable draft of an analog (non-electronic) game between May 17th and 26th, inspired by the theme and ingredients listed below. Historically most Game Chef games have been tabletop roleplaying games or LARPs, but the divisions between different types of analog games (board games, card games, RPGs, LARPs) are constantly being broken down and re-envisioned by innovative designers like you. Feel free to push the boundaries of what counts as a roleplaying game, an analog game, or a game.

Each participant will review four games that others submit, and this peer-review process will determine finalists. A winner for each language that Game Chef runs in will be declared, though the real victory is completing a game in the first place.

This year, Game Chef is also being run in: Game Chef Brasil, French Game Chef, Italian Game Chef, Russian Game Chef.

2013 Theme

This year’s theme is a picture:


[Pictured: A black and white icon. A thick double-ended white arrow is in the middle of a black background, pointing up and down. In the middle of the arrow is a simple stylized icon of a person, looking toward the viewer.]

Let the theme inspire you and shape your game as you work on it. You’re free to interpret the theme in any way you want, and to have a different interpretation than other competitors.

When you design for Game Chef, you don’t need to worry about creating a polished product. Instead, focus on creating something that’s accessible and engaging, full of excellent ideas. Maybe you’ll want to work on the game more after Game Chef is finished. Maybe you’ll want to take some of your better ideas from it, and do something new with them. Maybe you’ll just congratulate yourself on finishing a game, and use that accomplishment as fuel to keep working on another project. Any of these are great results!

2013 Ingredients

This year’s four ingredients are pictures:

brain-freeze    apple-maggot

[Pictured: A black and white icon. An egg-shaped head is pictured with stylized eyes and teeth visible. Inside the top half of the head shape is a black circle, and contained within the black circle is a white snowflake. The snowflake is large, occupying about half of the head.]

[Pictured: A black and white icon. A white apple has a small hole in its left side. Emerging from the hole is a worm-like creature with no appendages, square ridges on its spine, four beady eyes, and a pincer mouth. It is curved in the air above the apple, and is larger than the apple. It might be interpreted as emerging toward the viewer, and thus be larger due to perspective.]

mail-shirt    paper-lantern

[Pictured: A black and white icon. A long-sleeve shirt with a belt around the waist. The shirt has small diamond shapes distributed unevenly across it, possibly indicating pattern or material.]

[Pictured: A black and white icon. A stylized paper lantern is in the top left quarter. A person is silhouetted, but only the side of them that the lantern light touches is visible.]

Incorporate 2-3 of the ingredients into your design. 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. Like the theme, you’re free to interpret these ingredients in whatever way you want.

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).

Game Format

There are a few guidelines for game format, and each of those guidelines is there to make sure your game is accessible (especially to the peers who get randomly selected to review your game).

The main text of your game is 4,000 words or less. This ensures that reading and reviewing your game is an achievable task for those assigned to review it. People are busy, and keeping your word count under 4,000 ensures that you get the feedback that your hard work deserves. Additional materials (including maps, diagrams, play sheets, etc) can exceed these 4,000 words.

The main text of your game is submitted in an accessible format. Make an effort to ensure that your game is accessible to those who are blind (and using a screen-reading device), deaf, have poor eyesight, or are colour-blind. The easiest way to do this is submit your game in one of the following formats: a plain text file, a tagged PDF (which was run through an accessibility preflight), or a Microsoft Word document. Avoid the use of cluttered backgrounds or anything low-contrast.

If you want to submit your game as a video file, provide captions and a transcript. If you want to provide your game as an audio file, provide a transcript. Doing extravagant things with your submission is fine, but the responsibility lies with you to make sure that it remains accessible to readers.

The game can be accessed via a single download or link and requires no proprietary software. In order to submit your entry, you will need to provide a single download link (or youtube link, etc, etc). If you have multiple files, put them in a zipped folder. Make sure that no proprietary software is needed to access your submission.

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 existing material. Plagiarism or self-plagiarism will get your game disqualified.

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 is fine, as long as it’s cited. Drawing inspiration from other games is also fine, but be sure to give credit and put it in your own words.

Design Discussions

You can start a thread on Praxis to talk about your game in progress. This isn’t a requirement – you can choose to talk about your design elsewhere, or keep it to yourself until your final submission. But many Game Chef participants like to brainstorm and share ongoing critique, and Praxis is available for precisely that.

Please stick 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.

Game Submission

Games are due before midnight (in your own time zone) on May 26th. To submit, post to the 2013 Game Submission thread with your name, email address, and a link to the game. In order to do this, you’ll need to upload your files somewhere. Options include Dropbox, the media library of a WordPress blog, etc. Let me know if you need help doing this.

You may submit as part of a team. You may only submit one game to one of the participant language competitions.

Initial Reviewing

Once games are submitted, each participant will be assigned 4 games to review. You will have until June 5th to pick one of the four to recommend for the next round. Your recommendation can be based on whatever criterion you determine to be most important. You may want to consider what each game accomplishes in terms of innovation, clarity, ingredient usage, and current playability. You don’t need to explain or defend your decision – just pick and recommend one of the four games.

As part of reviewing each game, we ask that you write a short critique/appraisal and send it to the game’s author. As Game Chef is a short competition that will inevitably create half-finished products, you don’t need to focus on fine details of language. Instead, share what you liked, what you were confused about, any ideas that you have for improvement or development, and any decisions you hope the designer will rethink. You can either email the designer your feedback or post it to their design thread if they started one on Praxis or elsewhere. Aim to be helpful and encouraging.

Picking Winners

The games that receive the most nominations will be reviewed by Joe Mcdaldno (and possibly a second judge to be determined). A winner will be chosen from among these finalists and crowned the 2013 English Game Chef champion. Additional awards and achievements may be awarded by a shadowy cabal of past Game Chef participants.

The winner from each language of Game Chef will be translated into a common tongue and judged by an international cabal. One game from the ranks of English Game Chef, Italian Game Chef, French Game Chef,  Game Chef Brasil, and Russian Game Chef will be crowned the 2013 international winner.

Winning Game Chef is a funny business. It’s a great honour, but the real focus of the competition is in stirring a great number of people into creative endeavour. We choose a winner in order to create that extra edge and push competitors to do their best work, while acknowledging that the real victory is getting a community to come together and make new stuff.


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.

Images Taken From

The images used in this post came from and you are free to include them (and others) in your finished game.

35 responses to “Game Chef 2013

  • Antifinity

    Must we interpret the icons in the orientation given? Or can we look at them upside-down?

  • joemcdaldno

    Interpret freely! Those descriptions are given for accessibility, not to try to limit your range of interpretation.

    (When I flip the snowflake person upside down, it looks like they’ve got spikey hair and snow in their mouth. Ha!)

  • Gabe

    Can I take an icon and alter it and use it in my game?

    • joemcdaldno

      Yes you can. You can also find a library of similar icons at, along with their terms of use.

      If you do include pictures in your game as a focal element of play, make sure to consider the needs of blind players etc. You can see an example of how to do this in the text that follows the ingredients on this page.

  • Marshall

    Has the submission thread be created yet? Is there a link to it?

  • BMOC

    Yeah, same as Marshall, I’m ready to hand in my submission.

  • Rafu

    What if I want to write my game in English and then translate it into my native language (Italian)?
    [In my experience, this leaves me with a more passable English text than the other way around. And of course I want to make all of my games available in both languages, eventually, so that more people can play them.]
    Could I then submit it to *both* branches of the competition, or should I only choose one?

    • joemcdaldno

      Rafu, the rules for this year state that you may only submit one game in total. So no, you cannot submit the same game to Italian and English.

      If your game wins in either language, it’ll be translated and submitted into the international round. :)

  • Manu

    When you say Microsoft Word format, do you mean .docx, or any .doc format? Thanks!

    • joemcdaldno

      Good question! I think a .doc format is the best, because folks with older version of Microsoft Word or shareware variants can still access it.

  • Paul

    Should we include a brief explanation of how we interpreted the images, considering we’ll probably get creative leaps that might be really interesting interpretations, but are far from obvious to reviewers? I don’t recall direct explanations like that in previous years, but it seems pretty important this time around, especially if ingredient usage is part of the recommendation criteria.

    • joemcdaldno

      That’s totally your call to make. I think that you’re right – it might help your judges make better sense of your submission. Go ahead if you can fit it into the word count!

  • Brian Engard

    It’s possible I’m just missing something, but is there a link somewhere to the thread where we can submit our games? I’m done and I’d like to submit it so I don’t get distracted and forget.

    • joemcdaldno

      A submission thread will be made available in the next couple days. In the mean time, consider editing, posting it to a design thread on Praxis for critique, playtesting, or further development. :)

  • David Berg

    Hi Joe, thanks for running this! Re: PDF accessibility, I recall you writing or linking about this somewhere already. Can you provide a link here?

    I usually just export stuff into the oldest PDF format available and use simple graphic elements (black lines, etc.). It seems to work, but I’ve never done any thorough testing.

  • Daniel Stull

    What thread are you referring to for submission?

    • joemcdaldno

      Daniel, a submissions thread will be opened up soon! In the meantime, you can always: edit your entry, show it to people and ask for feedback, playtest, continue developing, or share it on a design forum like Praxis.

  • Daniel Stull

    Have a look, folks. I love comments!

  • Sean C

    I’m assuming it’s not too late to jump in on this?

  • Thomas Tamblyn AKA Lorc

    Hi, I’m the person who made those pictures. isn’t run by me, though they do great work making my CCBY icons available in searchable gallery. I don’t want to be a dick, but the proper credit is to the artist, not the site hosting the pictures.

    Dickishness done with, it’s very nifty to see them being used like this and I’m excited to see what people do with them.

    • Keith Stetson

      Thomas, I don’t think that’s dickish at all. How should we properly attribute the work? This is an important question for me, as a core mechanic of my game involves lots of the icons from

      • Thomas Tamblyn AKA Lorc

        Just mentioning “Icons by Thomas Tamblyn” somewhere discreet in the work would be fine. I don’t want to claim credit for anyone else’s work though, so if you’ve significantly altered the images, or used them as a base for something else then “icons based on originals by Thomas Tamblyn” would be more appropriate.

  • Eric Duncan

    All Submitted. I am excited to get to participate this year.

  • cutesealpup

    [Comment moved to submissions thread where it belongs.]

  • Antifinity

    Is a link to a Google Doc an acceptable format, so long as I don’t edit it until judging is complete?

  • nimdil

    how can one join the pack for next Game Chef so that it would include Polish Game Chef as well? I’d like to organize Polish Game Chef for the next Game Chef World Championships and I think I have enough contacts in polish RPG fandom to make it reasonably popular.

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