The webcomics blog about webcomics

A New Kind Of Storytelling Spawns New Clauses In The Social Contract

A week back, I wrote about a new kind of collaborative storytelling, in the form of a game from Jeeyon Shim and Shing Yin Khor that involves prompts to dredge through one’s memories and craft a story from them. There are things created (journal entries, letters) to go along with the experiences, and at a sufficient pledge level on the Kickstarter, physical artifacts and ephemera.

In the time since The Field Guide To Memory launched its email playthrough (there will be a full set of prompts sent to Kickstarter backers as a PDF), both Shim and Khor have launched new campaigns in this new category that now has a name: a keepsake game.

Shim’s funding The Last Will And Testament Of Gideon Blythe (I saw the launch too late to get in on the limited physical rewards, dammit), and Khor yesterday launched A Mending, which has an embroidery mechanic. We’re going to talk about the latter today, not because it’s any more interesting than TLWATOGB or the game mechanic is more interesting, but because of a pair of secret stretch goals that Khor revealed after the funding level they had in mind was crossed¹.

A new kind of game/story/experience needs new kinds of ideas associated with it, and Khor’s given us two. The first isn’t too unheard of, but the second is something really special. From the Kickstarter update:

I’ll be releasing art template files for A Mending under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license so you can design/make your own cards and maps. Of course, you can make your own maps and cards for personal use and adapt the game however you like anyway, but template files will make it a lot easier if you would like to maintain some visual consistency. You can also distribute the things/expansions/files you make, albeit non-commercially (totally fine if you want to direct people to your tip jar, though). These files will be released close to the start of fulfillment, likely in late April. [emphasis original]

There’s a real tendency among creators, one that is entirely logical and proper, to view their creations as How This Thing Should Be. There may be adaptations into other media which they are or are not involved in, but once something’s done and released, it’s kind of cast in concrete. Khor is explicitly recognizing that a story that is as much prompts for the audience to fill in as it is structure will never be cast in concrete; the story of A Mending will have as many (or more) variations as there are people who read/play/experience it, and they are acknowledging that it’s not a sole creation.

That idea of my thing isn’t just my thing is even bigger in the second reveal:

I’m creating two $1500 grants for people who would like to adapt A Mending for wider accessibility. One grant is focused on visual accessibility, the other on range-of-motion accessibility. These grants come with a free commercial license, so they can take 100% of profits from work they choose to make commercially available (I will only need attribution). The non-exclusive commercial license includes my art, writing and game design work. What does this mean? Maybe it’s someone selling raised versions of the cloth map in high contrast colors. Maybe it’s porting the game to Roll 20. Maybe a website that produces randomized voiceovers for all the cards. I don’t really know but I’d like to find out too! [emphasis original]

What distinguishes Khor’s announcement from so many previous nods towards accessibility is a) it’s not members of a group that need accommodation having to come as ask for it, and b) it need not be done on a volunteer basis. The allow others to profit from their adaptation part is unique enough; the grant is, as far as I can tell, unprecedented.

I have never seen a creator so explicitly say I have made a thing that is what I want to see in the world but recognize that I can’t predict all the ways that my version of it may preclude others from enjoying it. I want to not only invite you to modify it in ways that I can’t think of and allow you to profit from it, I will pay you to do so.

We’ve talked about the unique nature of comics and how they are read enough times here at Fleen. On a few occasions we’ve mentioned accessibility, but there’s not been a huge exploration of accessibility around comics as a medium; I think it’s just been decided that if you haven’t got sufficient vision, you’re out of luck. Given that the game will have more than just a reading component, but also tactile/motor control components, there are potentially many ways that A Mending could be made more widely accessible². No one person could conceive of them all, but if a crowd could come together to make the initial form of A Mending, why not a crowd of suggestions as to how it could be better?

I have a feeling that keepsake games will be taking off as a category any day now; others will see what Shim and Khor have done, and try to create something that instills as much feeling in their own audience (others still will make slapped-togther crap to try to cash in). Some will be spare, some rife with stuff, and different genres of story will evolve. Will there be another 5-to-6 figure funding of a little game that takes an hour or two to play? Only to the degree that there are wildly original thinkers, people whose brain is (to quote Rich Stevens) the only place that bakes that cookie³. Audiences will be following (and I’m about to get fancy here) the auteur, just to see what they crank out now.

And the very smartest ones will be like Khor, finding ways to enrich the values of their creations by giving up control and ownership, and seeking out others to remix each new project’s DNA.

The Last Will And Testament Of Gideon Blythe is funding for another seven days, and is presently approaching eight times its US$1800 goal. A Mending has 21 days to go and cleared US$80K in the time it took me to write everything since footnote 1; the limited-edition everything-provided tiers (just go read the descriptions; they’re a hoot) are long gone, but more than 1000 people have backed at the levels that provide physical game assets. If you want to see what Khor and Shim are like when they combine their creative abilities, search Twitter for #FieldGuideToMemory.

Spam of the day:

The best fake id maker in the market for over 15 years

Neat trick linking ScamAdvisor and other sites to purportedly show how good your fake IDs are, but with links that actually redirect to your site. Sneaky. In any event, where the hell do you think anybody is going right now that they’d need a fake ID?

¹ For the record, the campaign reached its US$12,000 target in about 17 minutes, and the limited tiers were claimed within an hour. The secret threshold for the secret stretch goals was US$60,000 — five times goal — and Khor sent out the update last night. As of this writing, A Mending sits just under US$80,000 in pledges.

² My immediate thought was around issues of fine motor control.

³ Nine years on and I still think about that quote at least once a month, although I frequently misremember Stevens as having said it at SDCC or Splat!.

RSS feed for comments on this post.