With Game Chef 2010 rapidly approaching, I thought I might share a story about Little Game Chef 2010.

After I missed last year’s Little Game Chef, I had every intention of entering this year. Unfortunately, the timing of the contest happened to coincide with my vacation. So, I suspected that not only would I be unable to finish an entry on time, but I wouldn’t be able to submit my entry since I would be out of town. However, regardless of my lack of ability to enter the contest, I tried my damnedest to slap together a game with the intention of posting it here with the relevant links to the contest. As you may have suspected, things didn’t quite go as planned.

The theme this year was comedy and the ingredients were: bond, starfish, holiday and recall. I had whipped up a game concept based loosely on the idea that God has taken a holiday and the world has devolved into comic absurdity as a result. In the game, the players would play characters with super-human imagination who were tasked with battling back the forces of absurdity. Character and scenario creation were sort of like a game of Mad Libs and the main engine of gameplay was to be parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.).

Unfortunately, I’d been completely stymied by any sort of dice, card or fortune  mechanic that would lend itself gameplay that actually supported the premise of my game. Now, I had come to grips 100% that I wasn’t going to finish my game in time to post it, and I was having no trouble at all working on the game without the contest deadline as motivation, but I was getting all kinds of frustrated since without some kind of fortune element, I didn’t think there was a game there.

A quick aside: I adore Marshall Burns. I don’t know the man personally, but his game design has had a huge influence on me. His game Rustbelt (now in print! pre-order now!) is one of the reasons I started thinking seriously about game design. As it turns out, Marshall has a few other games. A few small ones: Knuckleheads!, Construction & Conquest, Caffeine & Nicotine and Crow’s Hoard (all $2) as well as a freebie called Super Action Now!

As it just so happens, Super Action Now!, while not exactly the game I set out to make, achieves the same gameplay goals as my unnamed and unfinished LGS2010 entry, and has completely ruined my ability to finish my game. Not that I’m complaining, SAN! is phenomenal and comes with my highest recommendation. It’s just that this example highlights something that I’ve been wrestling with since I started Fluidity Project.

The existence of Super Action Now! serves to illustrate to me just how easy it is to think up something that’s been done before. Parallel design isn’t something that scares me. I’m not afraid of copying someone else, but I am loathe to repeat someone else’s work. As much as I love designing games and tinkering with game mechanics, I primarily design from a position of need. So, if there’s an interesting game mechanic, or a good game out there, I’d rather just use it instead of spending my time making something of my own design playable.

To make a long story longer, I can’t recommend Super Action Now! enough. It creates fast paced, funny, absurd, and dangerously fun games and feels to me like a go-to game when everyone can’t make it to the session or everyone just needs a little break. I also suggest a quick look at the LGS2010 entries and results to see if anything strikes your fancy. And, finally, keep an eye on this stop to see what’s happening with me and Game Chef 2010.