I tested Love Life. Having given myself the deadline of May 31 to complete the game (when I made the original post, inspired by the Blogs of the Round Table), I had guests over June 1. I will run through my impressions bit by bit, but first offer some general reporting on the event itself.
There were six players. They split off into three groups of two, which ended as follows:
Raina | Han Solo
Peter | Princess Leia
Josh | Octopus Housewife
Erik | Shoe-wearing centipede
Drew | Sonic the Hedgehog
Marion | Vision-blessed naked mole rat
I started by asking the couples to create personae for themselves (also determining how much backstory they wished to make up for their couples–most seemed to opt to construct it as they went, allowing greater freedom in their storytelling), making the off-hand remark that they could be dragons for all I care. That set the tone for the group, and gave me the first note I made for the evening–how serious or silly Love Life plays is dependent on the gamers, and the game should support both types of play. At least, that’s the theory I have and will be testing in the coming weeks.
The next game I will artificially restrict to only human personalities, and see how that functions.
The picture to the left is Peter constructing one of the boards. To the left of the boards is a spinner, with seven spaces on which to land (to slightly compensate for the fact that it has only one square, the red portion is fifty-four (54) degrees, rather than the fifty-one (51) shared by the others). Each circle consists of twenty-four (24) separate pieces, six in each of four colors. The colors indicate certain general parameters for storytelling were one couple to land on a tile.
The general idea being that if one lands on one of these tiles, the couple starts cooperatively telling a story that advances their relationship, education, or wealth. If landing on the red, they immediately spin again. If the arrow lands on white, blue, or yellow, the other players set an obstacle based on the parameter. For instance, Solo and Leia landed on red, then span again and landed on white. The other players gave being encased in carbonite as an obstacle. Leia decided to take that as a chance to run off with Lando and explore her own freedom.
Eventually Leia came back and freed Solo, but two years had passed, and it became a recurring theme whenever they had arguments (frequent).
If one spins red and follows with another red, that is when one in the couple contracts a terminal illness. This never happened in the game, and I will address this later. Suffice it to say, at this point an inner circle would appear, mirroring the outer circle, and the affected individual would walk side by side, but in the smaller circle, with zir partner.
Two things became immediately apparent: on top of the colors presented, I should have a symbol to associate with these four elements, in consideration of color-blind players (as pointed out by Erik). Also, I decided to have each couple restrained to going around their own circle. The point was never to have full meaning in the distance traveled, but the movement became even more superfluous.
In the coming games, I believe I will have everyone travel down the same board, setting a zero-point, from where they will spring to the next circle, and continue during the next cycle. It will have no real effect in-game, but is meant for its aesthetic appeal of advancing time.
The original idea was to focus the couples on themselves, but I wanted to add an optional rule that worked well for this particular game. If a couple lands on the same tile-color (in the future, add symbol) as someone else, they are then in the same space, interacting not only with each other, but the other couple. For instance, at one point all three couples landed in a salsa lesson, which led to some rather annoyed exchanges with Sonic, who kept pricking everyone with his spines.
At this point I am willing to allow it to remain optional, but also want to see how it works in a more serious-toned game. After I test that, I will know whether it will become a codified rule or remain optional. As it was, the couples interacted quite often, though it did not seem to detract from the couples themselves ‘advancing’ their own relationships. As the stories grew, more reference points were made, and more character was added.
The mole rat and Sonic, for instance, became bank robbers, who became general thieves and stole from the other players rather frequently. Being anti-capitalist idealists, they also would comment on materialism and lived a bohemian lifestyle in the face of the other two couples slightly more status quo existences.
Despite the humorous quality of this game, certain serious thematic patterns kept reoccurring: trust, (in)fidelity, sex, money. The mole rat and Sonic, for instance, were very distrustful of each other at first–though as partners in crime, they quickly trusted each other against the other players when they were forced to interact with them. They never fully established a firm trust in each other, from what I could see, but their attachment seemed to grow closer over time.
Or, the octopus housewife often fretted over how she and her husband would provide for themselves. When the centipede spent their Publisher’s Clearing House winnings on nothing but shoes, he became a shoe salesman, until such a point where the mole rat and Sonic offered to include them in a heist they had planned.
Solo and Leia played true to their canonized selves for the most part, which led to amusing banter and many heated arguments–eventually leading to a semi-open relationship. It was complicated.
The game needs more testing. I had envisioned something more serious in my own head, ut was glad to see the players take my basic idea and run with it. Instead of breaking the game whose rules I had constructed, they stayed within the boundary of the rules and managed to enjoy themselves (judging from the laughter and tears resulting from laughter that ensued). As for length? We played approximately one and one-half to two hours, which is when we decided to stop. The ending of the game is reached when either one individual dies, or the players all decide to stop.
While I am almost tempted to tweak the math to allow for a great chance of the game to end with rules, I realize that is my trying to impose what I expect from games, but I find I like the idea that not all games will encounter the end-game. If it were to become something that happens every time, it might seem like that’s the only purpose of the game, which is not the case at all. The game itself is both about our love lives, as it is about the imperative statement, Love Life.
I will update more upon playing and watching more games having been played. Originally I used the Twitter hashtag #LoveLife, but find it is peopled with people already using it, so in the future will be using #LoveLifeBG, if you wish to follow any further news outside of my blog posts.
Thank you to all my players!