Every year game developers get together at a conference known as GDC (Game Developers Conference). The GDC is a huge gathering of people within the video game industry. There are lots of interesting meetings and announcements, as well as contests and award ceremonies. One of those contests is the Game Design Challenge, where top game designers are given the chance to come up with a novel way to interpret each year’s theme.
This year, the contest was won by Jason Rohrer, an accomplished indie game creator who has made a dozen uniquely experimental and unusual games, including Sleep Is Death and Inside a Star Filled Sky. His entry into the Game Design Challenge was something he called “Chain World”, a modded version of Minecraft meant to represent how myths are born (Minecraft is a game where you try to survive life in a randomly generated world made of Lego-like blocks and infested with monsters). Here he is presenting it:
In short, the gist of the game is that a USB stick is loaded with a Minecraft world and some of his own code. The person with the stick plays that world until he or she dies, saves it, and then must pass it on to someone else. No one is allowed to talk about what happened in their session, no one is allowed to create signs with text, and you only get one chance. There are even a list of Commandments to lay out the exact rules. It’s like a game of Telephone, except instead of words there are just accumulated artifacts from the previous players, which each new player is forced to re-interpret on their own.
Amusingly enough, immediately after Jason Rohrer handed it to the first player, a schism was created in this mythology simulator. It seems the recipient, Jia Ji, has taken it upon himself to auction off the next slot for charity as well as attempting to predetermine the following players, a decision that some people see as going against the goals of the experiment.
Maybe Someone should make a second Chain World, in the hope that the rules will be more carefully followed? Maybe that person could be you! If you had a USB stick and a copy of Minecraft on-hand, with the intent to start your own Chain World, what rules would you want the subsequent legions of anonymous players to follow? Would you try to mod the game so that your rules had to be followed, or would you include a list of Commandments and trust that they’re followed, like the original? Who would you give it to first? Someone you know? A friend? An enemy? A complete stranger? So many possibilities!