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Contest Entry: Romantic Comedy - A Thing With Words [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Ben Lehman

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Contest Entry: Romantic Comedy [Jan. 25th, 2010|11:08 pm]
Ben Lehman
Original in this thread

Romantic Comedy is a game for two or more players about creating stories in the Romantic Comedy genre. It self-describes as being related to role-playing poems and Archipelago II, and since I'm not actually familiar with either I'll take it at face value there.

One of the things that strikes me about this game is that it self-defines as romantic comedy but is pretty unlike most romantic comedies I've seen (although I've seen Groundhog Day which is apparently one of the sources.) I guess I just tend to thing of RomCom as a more female centered genre. For example, my platonic ideal of a romantic comedy is French Kiss, with Meg Ryan. So that constantly threw me for a loop as I was reading the game. I kinda sorta have a feeling for what you're going for (a film genre which I, in keeping with the male-normative nature of my society, think of as just "comedy.")

So, to start with, we do set-up. One player is the Star, everyone else is the World. One of the World's characters is the Love Interest. Okay, cool. We have to do a consensus thing where we figure out what our setting is, who are characters are, and why they can't get together. Okay. In a finished game I'd like some serious help in this part of the process, because I can see it taking a long time without a pretty focused technique set to get to the point and to play. Maybe that's part of the fun? I dunno.

Then we play the game in scenes. We take turns with scene framing, and the World players do a draft of characters, with the Star picking up the slack (this is pretty interesting to me.) I'm not sure who starts the draft, but again this seems like a process that's going to take a fair amount of time without a clear benefit. Is there an advantage to not just having it be "play the characters you usually play?" If so, why not make the rule simply "you can't play the same character two scenes in a row unless you're the Star?" Do you forsee arguments about, say, who gets to play the love interest in this scene? If not, what's the draft doing there?

I'd also love to see some guidance on scene framing. Even something simple like "frame the scene based on what the Star was doing at the end of the last scene."

There is a three act structure that the game is based around. I really like this, I'd love to see it even more related to play (for instance, say that you can only have a conflict once a scene during act one or whatever) but if that's not needed it's not needed.

There are rules for conflict. This is where it gets really confusing for me, and I think that there may be a cross-cultural misunderstanding here which makes it difficult for me to parse the game.

In short, the game I know as "20 questions" is not scored at all like your 15 questions is. Namely, a "no" answer is as useful as a "yes" answer in my 20 questions: the sole goal is to figure out what the other person is thinking of by the end of your 20. Yours, on the other hand, scores us at +1 for each "yes" answer and -1 for each "no" answer. What do you do if you actually figure out what it is? It's all very confusing to me.

I'm also not clear how score rolls over between the "five question" rounds.

Conflict also seems very time-consuming, and not for a lot of benefit (in short, the process of conflict isn't really developing the fiction in any way, it's just this totally disjoint subgame.) I think that, were I to play the game, I would avoid conflict whenever possible and settle most fictional conflicts by suasion, social pressure, and the logic of the fiction, rather than use the conflict system.

Which segues into another point. The game is very time consuming. There are three time-consuming chunks (the prep, the character draft, and the conflict system) two of which are going to come up repeatedly during play. Unless these are adding something to the game, I think that they probably need to be cut or changed in some way to diminish them.

Despite the negative tone of this post, I think that there's a lot of good in the game. The act structure is great, the basic idea is good, and I think that there's a good game in here, you just need to cling closer to your vision and not include bits because you think that they need to be included. I also think that the conflict has some really interesting potential, although this may not be the game for it.

My thoughts would be: Cut the conflict system, scrap the character draft, give concrete scene framing advice, and base the introduction and resolution of conflict not on a resolution mechanic as such but on the three act structure (for instance: during the first act, the main character loses most conflicts. As soon as they win two conflicts in a row, move to act two. Or whatever.) Give more notes about how to play your character and genre emulation. But I'm not sure if that's the direction you want to take the game or not.

Regardless, I think that there's some interesting food for thought. Thank you for the game!