A Note on the Category "Most Culturally Responsible Design": There were submitted many thoughtful, innovative and moving games that approached socially relevant topics, and games that paid particular attention to the specificity of setting and identity of characters. But as judges were were not sure we had fully communicated how we envisioned the elements being implemented, and could not find a game that fit for all of us what the category encompassed. Other trends emerged, with strong games that exemplified them, so additional categories were added. We thank everyone for taking that category into account, and hope that we will all keep thinking and working with what it means to design a culturally responsible game.
Today's witches have day jobs, just like everyone else. A particular coven has formed at the mega corporation Seneca Holdings. In this game all witches are women, and they're intent on supporting each other in smashing through the glass ceiling. The witches in this game are more like modern pagans than they are like storybook characters who can fire off thunderbolts. Together players will create and play through a magical ritual meant to aid all the sisters in the coven. The workshop is brilliant, the message on point. Our only tiny quibble is the misnomer that Wiccans = witches. There are many kinds of practicing witches who don't identify with that particular belief system.
An intimate game of remembrance, longing and moving on. Four players portray the living and the dead, each working to create an obituary for the recently deceased. Each comes to this remembrance with their own agenda. We love the artifact of the obituary that is created through play, and the complexity that is created by the interaction between the four roles. And there is no pat happy ending guaranteed! A polished, moving game.
It’s All Good combines familiar elements of storytelling with elegant and novel mechanics. Players utilize movement, light and shadow to guide the storyteller as they share a family legend, building a complex oral history over multiple turns. We especially loved the specificity of time and place—a community living in the Ozarks in 1937—established in the space constraints through evocative prompts and challenges from player to player: “Tell us the one about…”
One Hundred Feet Tall! is a very physical, expressive game about a giant monster menacing a city. Be Kaiju, live the dream. At the heart of the game is an intriguing combination of playacting and guided shouting, a wonderful example of applying design to natural human play in order to create a unique freeform experience. For a medium known for its focus on heart-heavy, emotional dram, it's wonderful to see the escapist release of destroying whole cities represented so well. We chose this game above all else for its innovative, emergent role selection. Destroy with delight!
Four players are all mediums channeling numerous spirits of the dead, and knocking heads with their rivals as frauds. Too Many Mediums is written explicitly to be played in the middle of a bustling gaming convention—everyone not playing represents a spirit moving around in ethereal cacophony. Mediums try to get information from the spirits through harmless interactions without explaining anything. We found this game to be funny, clever, well-characterized, and just mysterious enough to con-goers who get roped in as spirits without being disruptive. This is one pervasive game we can't wait to play! “Power Words” may need to be adjusted depending on the exact convention and location of play.
Living Spaces Dead Spaces takes the normal everyday motions of living people, and contrasts them with what those who have passed on will cling to and resonate with. A non-narrative, dialogue-light game that is full of motion, combining deep, contemplative character play with patterns and motion. Creating a greater whole out of the minute actions of each participant, it is a ballet of attachment and letting go. The game takes an uncommon approach to in-character experience, and also uses subtle but strong cues for player communication. When it is really humming we can see this game being a profound, physical and deeply symbolic play experience.
A game structured by the Polish Catholic tradition of "Wigilia" or Christmas eve, where this family is visited by the spirits of their departed grand parents. A thoughtful, uplifting, and community affirming game that incorporates Magical Realism into the unfolding process of grief and familial care through a magical plant. We loved the details of this cultural tradition, and the thematically appropriate use of affectionate touch--while providing tools for calibration and opting out. This is a heart-warming game that we hope will continue to be developed. Some more dimension to the characters would round out what is a very solid game.
Our selection for Funniest Game is an exuberant send up of phallocentric culture and corporate politics that takes a simple but clever joke and really commits to the bit. The clear, concise rules set players up for over the top physical comedy with almost no prep required (apart from sourcing a variety of brightly-colored balloons). Both hilarious to read and promising some very fun times in play, Big Dicks hits the mark.
A soft, thoughtful game about a last gathering of friends after graduating from high school. On a warm August evening somewhere in the South they gather around the porch and drink iced tea, watching the sun set over the trees and on the end of an era. Each has a burning question locked behind their teeth. Will it find breath before they have to move on? Slightly bitter, slightly sweet, this game has a cozy feeling about it while still being concise with its delivery. It provides the portrayal of a very atmospheric type of conversation in an organic and easily playable way--with a great story and a structure that rises to match it. We're excited to play this one right out of the box.
Star Level 10 shone with sheer joy and love. Players are ghosts who have died— but that’s okay!— because they are about to be reborn. As the ghosts wander, they gather physical pieces of stardust and use it to share positive memories with one another, blessing the recipient with that experience in their new life. So often our games are about difficulty, but Star Level 10 was so suffused with positivity, earnestness, kindness, hope, collaboration, and constructiveness, we were utterly swept up in its charm. The result is a game that manages to be profound without pain, very thoughtful, and eminently playable… for anyone who owns at least 50-100 dice. The meltingly adorable illustrations are also not to be missed.
We didn't ask for a game that could be smoothly adapted into a fun and educational romp for kids (and lighthearted adults), but that's exactly what we got! In this game players work together to create their very own species of dinosaur through entertaining exploration. When we imagine people playing Let's Be Dinosaurs it's easy to see how it could be used to illustrate lessons on ecology, the environment, animal behavior, and yes, actual dinosaurs! We're incredibly impressed by this first time designer and cannot wait to see more. (Side note, this designer is NOT related to our judge Strix Beltrán, at least as far as anyone knows, including them.)
We loved this game for its brash innovation. They're Onto Me is a single player game that explores the boundaries of pervasive play over a period of 4 convention days or 12 regular days. Conspiracy theories, parasitic alien lifeforms infiltrating our society, and the tantalizing possibility of a piece of ephemera for all to see. Grab a smart phone, follow the prompts, and if you're brave, upload the results to YouTube. If you're into shows like Lonelygirl15 or Carmilla you'll especially love this. At least one of the judges is planning to play immediately.