October 2, 2011

Nigellians (Microscope - Story Game)

If this Microscope game seems a little bare, it's because we only had time for one Lens, which was totally fine. I look forward to picking it up again sometime and fleshing it out a bit more :) It'll be really interesting to play a multi-session game. Give everyone some time to think over the history and maybe where they want to take it and then come back to it with a new set of eyes.

Our history was about the invasion of aliens who give us amazing technology, back when we were only at the Industrial Revolution-stage. The prime minister of Britain, Nigel Wilcox, manages to convince the world leaders to cooperate with the aliens because they discovered that the aliens were deadly allergic to a specific type of bacteria.

In later years, the followers of Nigel's philosophy and teachings have become powerful in the newly advanced world but hidden behind the idyllic façade are disturbing ripples of abuse of aliens, abductions of humans, and extremist groups.

One of those extremist groups are the Nigellians, extremists of Nigel's way of thinking, who believe humans are recklessly using the technology given by the aliens.  They plot to use the aliens' weakness to drive them from the planet, but in so doing, end up dooming humanity and in the end, mankind is obliterated.

I think the scariest and most exciting part of Microscope is the fact that huge, major plot points and world blocks are laid by one person, with little to no say from everyone else experiencing the story. That kind of power the first few times is overwhelming and feels wrong, you're just thinking, "Really?  You want me to come up with the big secret? I'm pretty sure whatever I come up with is not going to be as cool as what you could come up with."

But the surprise is that most of the time that's not true.

The story just needs to be told. And because whatever you say is going to be a surprise to everyone else, it has that added, "Oh I didn't see that coming" overlay, which is really what makes stories interesting. You listen to someone else tell a story because you want to know what happens next. In Microscope, and most story games, each time someone steps up and drops in a piece of the puzzle is the best part and what you need to keep in mind, is that there's going to be plenty of opportunities for everyone else to do the same, if not in this game, then in others. And the same goes for you. If whatever pops into your head at the moment doesn't seem like the coolest thing in the world, so what? This is just one story. And the rest of us are here to back you up.

And honestly, that's something I need to keep in mind too. I feel like story gaming is kind of like flag football sometimes. When someone is running at you or you're running after someone with the ball, what you really need to do is focus, and I mean REALLY FOCUS on reaching your hand out, and grabbing that damn flag. None of that half-assed flailing. Or worrying about if you're running fast enough, or if you're going to hit into the person. None of that really matters. And in story gaming, plot points and major reveals are that person with the ball. They're coming at you and it's your responsibility to focus and just reach out and grab it.