Otherworld – creating games

It’s tricky writing about Otherworld. Because – largely because it’s a set of six games, united in themes and tone but telling completely different stories in wildly different ways – I can say so much about it, but what I want to say feels so jumbled and often abstract that I’ve no clue how much it’d make sense to outside eyes. So that’s what I’m going to home in on first: my thought process behind it all.

I’ve split my thought process into the individual games, in the order that I came up with them:

Game 1: Double Take. A journalling game about doppelgängers, paranoia, isolation and perception. ‘Doppelgängers’ was right at the top of my list of Twilight Zone-esque elements to include, so that’s where this game grew from. I really wanted to play with that sense of reality being unreliable – was it a doppelgänger you just saw across the street, or a trick of the light? This grew into spiralling paranoia, isolation from others and mechanics that lean hard into the notion of reality being bendable…

Game 2: Vacuum. A Twine game about an astronaut dealing with a vanishing world. Again, ‘isolation of space’ was high on my list of elements. There’s also a hint of a story I often come back to, because it’s incredible and haunting at all once (google ‘Donald Crowhurst’ for an astonishing true story). This also seemed like a natural fit for Twine, creating the space station’s interface and letting the player populate the world with things that would…slowly…disappear…

Game 3: One. Fixed. Point. An audio walking game about a scientist marooned between realities. This was one of the games where form came before story – I’ve made audio games before and I knew I wanted to play around with that form again from the walks I’d been on during lockdown, where I wanted some additional escapism during what little outside time I had. So it kind of had to grow logically for me – it you’re hearing a voice, how, and why? If the core of the game is walking to an imagined specific point, then why? Where are you, and where is the voice? Then it was a case of thinking how to weave in more role-play and draw upon the player’s imagination, which has created some interesting world lore for this game!

Game 4: A Fork in the Road. So, I did Philosophy at Uni, and it shows here. I’m also endlessly fascinated by notions of identity, and this game plays with that a lot, each play-through exploring the life of someone who passes through a teleportation unit linking Earth and Mars, but not always coming out exactly the same on the other side…It’s one of the more straightforward games formally, but I guess that’s because I find the idea (that plays upon a very specific kind of thought-experiment about teleportation and identity I’ve drawn from my uni days!) quite pure, and sometimes things just don’t need messing with.

Game 5: Waiting. The concept for this took a while longer, and emerged from the evocative Twilight Zone setting of the diner, and the idea of the ‘stranger’ that is in so many episodes, whether it’s classic ‘The Hitch-hiker’ or the recent reboot’s ‘The Traveller’. A bit like Double Take, I wanted a level of ambiguity and space for the player to define the stranger, and Waiting’s ended up as a neat little card game that goes through the hours of the protagonist’s shift.

Game 6: Ummmm…Yeah. This one isn’t quite there yet. I know I want to try and create a short solo larp, so I’m having to take the kind of form-determining-story approach from One. Fixed. Point. for this one. Really it’s a case of thing some time to think through things. There’s not been nearly as much time travel as I’d like in the games yet, so we’ll see if I fit some in here!

When it’s ready – hopefully within the next two weeks – Otherworld will be available at rollflipdraw.itch.io

EDIT: Otherworld will be released in October (oh, the optimism to think it would be released back in August!). And the sixth game is Messenger, a larp of being presented two distinct roads to go down, and deciding whether to go for blissful ignorance or painful knowledge…

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