, , , ,

So every spring the SGS hosts something called Guild Camp. This is a ~2 week crash course in how to write a LARP. Particularly, how to write an MIT Assassin’s Guild style game. These games are characterized by significant PvP conflict, goal driven characters, and lots of mechanics. MIT style games are more conflict heavy than SGS style games, and revolve around accomplishing goals more than immersive role-play.

Guild camp can be a challenging crash course for game writing. After all, two weeks is not a long time to absorb all of the intricacies of plotting a game a game and designing mechanics and the idiosyncrasies of using GameTeX. Then there is all the actual work of writing a game that isn’t broken. To top it all off, there isn’t really time to recover from winter quarter before we jump in during spring break to writing, and your writing team is just whoever else happened to be interested, so interpersonal conflict is always a possibility.

All of these conditions can make camp seem less than ideal. But there are people who come back for a second dose, and many of our participants go on to write games on their own timeline. So something must be working. Guild Camp makes game writing accessible. Like writing a novel, writing a game is an intimidating task. There is not always a clear entry vector, or even a good way to estimate the total amount of work required if you’ve never done it before. Camp starts with the premise that you can and will write a game. Someone with some sort of experience writing games (and possibly masochistic tendencies) arranges to act as Zampolit for the game writers, and usually handles organizing space for the group to work, and some of the other logistics of getting ready to run games (like figuring out where we are going to do prod!) We put all of our camp writers in a room and turn them loose to start brainstorming.

Two weeks later, we hopefully have a functioning game that is ready to run. Camp can feel like a black box. Somehow, two weeks of thinking and planning and arguing and writing and scrambling coalesce into a game that people can (and do!) play. But that is my favorite thing about Guild Camp. Game writing is an amazing feat, and the final product really is more than the sum of its parts. It isn’t a process that can be deconstructed in retrospect and distilled into clear steps, or neatly pigeonholed. Creating is a messy process of unexpected synergies, stressed and sleep deprived minds, and wild ideas that no one ever thought would work that turn out to be vital to game.

And while having a game at the end is great, it isn’t the fundamental point of Guild Camp. The ultimate message we hope our participants take away is that they can write games. We try to demystify the process in some manner, make it less scary, and more accessible, because when more people write, everyone wins. Players get games to play and writers get  appreciation for their creative work.

I’m not sure where else I’m going with this, other than to encourage people to write games, whether in context of Guild Camp, or on their own. It is big and scary and challenging, and without a doubt, worth it. If you aren’t sure how to get started, ask me! I’m always happy to help (even if I do have a tendency to over-commit myself a bit).