Andrew Cerrito, Vitor Freire, Joseph McCagherty, Andres Taraciuk, Tianyu Wu
Game Website: amnesiagame.tumblr.com
For our second major Big Games assignment, we had to design a game that could be played over the span of an entire week. Since we had played a class-wide game of Assassins the week prior, at first our team set out to make a game that captured that a similar feeling of alertness and paranoia. However, any ideas that we came up with were either too close to Assassins in concept or not suitable for a week’s worth of continuous play. We decided to switch our model, and most of the groupseemed to be enthusiastic about some sort of puzzle or riddle game. After more meetings than I would like to admit, we came up with the following concept:
Amnesia is a narrative-driven person-hunting game in which the ultimate goal was to “recover a lost memory” (get clues that refer to an event from the past year and figure out what the event was). Players are divided into 2 teams and given an initial list of five vague clues that each point to a specific member of the ITP community. We had given each of these “leads” two coded business cards to distribute to hunters when they were found. Once a team finds a lead, they receive a card and email the code on it to our game administration team. We then would respond, giving the team a choice to receive a clue (“recover a part of your memory”), provide the rival team with a false clue (“scramble the other team’s memory”), or clear any false clues given to them (“clear your mind”). Whichever team could first use the clues they unlocked to solve the identity of the event would be the winner.
Prep: For the game, we had made 15 people clues (which would let the team choose their next move), 9 event clues (the info that would help them guess the event and beat the game), and 4 fake event clues (in case a team elected to sabotage the other team). We decided to release the people clues in batches of 5 so that we could speed up or slow down the pace of the game if necessary. We posted all game information in narrative form on a group tumblr blog, linked here. We also had internal documents so we could track which of the leads had been found by each team and which clues (and fake clues) had already been distributed.
Analysis: In the initial class presentation, we introduced the game mostly through narrative, not explicitly stating all the rules in order to make the game intriguing and to fit the theme of amnesia. We eventually revealed more via themed emails, but there was initially some confusion as to the ultimate goal of the game. Perhaps due to this, the pace of the players was slow at first. Once things became clearer, the pace became brisk around days 2-4, then slowed down again until one of the teams won on day 6. Although I liked the approach we took thematically, we probably should’ve explicitly provided more information at the outset of the game.
Another surprise is that both teams largely ignored the option to sabotage the other team, instead mostly electing just to gain further clues – I believe that only 1 fake clue was distributed by game’s end. This may be because we designed the clues to hunt down the leads to be rather difficult, and players felt like their efforts needed to be used to advance their own team’s cause instead of experimenting with game mechanics. I wonder if more sabotage would’ve happened if the game’s difficulty was decreased. Not all players in each group were active, but the active players did report that they enjoyed the game and the mechanic of hunting down leads.
All in all, this was the most challenging game to design out of the three assignments. Longevity is hard to design for, as the activity level of players throughout the week is a difficult variable to predict and control. Also, having a large design team increases the difficulty of coming up with a concept that everyone can be satisfied with – this was definitely a game with labor pains! In the end, though, I was pretty satisfied with how it turned out.