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Lasting Connections

What lasts? Will our games last? Do the connections we make in life last? What do we seek in our creative pursuits?

Randy OConnor, Blogger

April 23, 2015

6 Min Read

I read "The Rainbow" by D.H. Lawrence a couple years ago. It was wonderful, it spoke of our fight for individuality, the recognition that our lives are built on our connections to others. Yet what is any connection, really? It is everything, but also only just a connection, it is not us.


"The Rainbow" was written a hundred years ago. The writing was clear and powerful, and though the world was somewhat different, the struggles the same. I hope it influences people for another hundred years. It meant a lot to me.



I made a game called Dead End HD in 2011 for iPhone. Retina displays existed, but widescreen did not. It now has black bars on the side. Those black bars indicating non-widescreen apps. They're a mark of age in the iPhone world. Fuckin' four years old. Dead End HD is not remarkable in any historic sense. It does interesting things with design, sure, but I won't mourn it in fifty years. But I do mourn that it's gone in under ten. I am an artist, I design and draw so that people can experience my designs and drawings.



Scoundrels is a board game I designed and drew. I don't talk about board games here much because the design feels so different.




Scoundrels is a board game that I like a lot. It's about pirates. It's pretty social, it's dynamic, it's kind of about luck, but also there's a fair play of tactics to be had. The weird thing is Scoundrels will be around longer than any digital game I've ever built. The game will exist in thirty years. It's just a bunch of paper and pieces and instructions. I wish I wanted to design board games more than digital. I did art for Facebook games. The failed games were gone in a year, after they shut down the servers. The only reason they even waited that long was to not completely betray the trust of all the people who had paid a hundred dollars for in-game currency.


When you make art, when you design a game, when you program something, there's a moment that extends to some finite point upon which that art, that program, that game, no longer has relevance. A time comes when it cannot be consumed, whether through its medium, the format of the message, the cultural clarity. A moment in time it exists. And so we create for this joy of creation, for some finite moment.


This board game, Scoundrels, it's about connections.


When designing Scoundrels, I gave players the goal of being the most Infamous pirate. Gain Infamy points! And many points are contained in Treasure cards, that another pirate is probably carrying. Piracy is attack. Attack is connection. And yet, in every possible circumstance, players avoided confrontation. Players would rather fight the unknown systems of the world than the known, valuable opposing players. 


Photo of Scoundrels


I had to tune Scoundrels so that, in almost every instance, you'd want to confront others. Design decisions centered on opening up opponents for attack. I made it expensive to get rid of goods. The game wants you to connect with the players around the table. That's why we gather for board games, right? These connections don't define us, but they are the finite moments of life.


We are so afraid to connect; there is danger, there are unknown responses. But there is learning in that space, the discovery of how we all connect. The understanding of how connections work! I won't contend Scoundrels creates deep connections. It does not. But it is built knowing the chain of reactions that occur when we open ourselves. One connection leads to another to yet another still. In this most amusing case of a pirate game, it's about the losses. And yet, at the end of the game, it's only that. A safe space to experience loss, to fight, to take.



Even when there's no danger, we usually recoil from its apparition. We have created these game spaces as safe spaces, as an escape. They are not all safe for everyone, but we seek them to test ourselves against the much greater risks of the "real world", whatever that means now. We as creators have the ability to foster these spaces for connection.


I hope we take the courage we create in these worlds, and carry that courage beyond, that we link it to our reality. Connections are not us, but they do surround us. May we have the courage to connect, to keep fighting for the right connections, if and when our hearts yearn for such.





Randy is a game designer and artist who worked on Escape Goat 2, Waking Mars, and a bunch of other games.


You can follow him on Twitter, but mostly he'd love you to check out Scoundrels, his board game that Tim Schafer, and a bunch of other people, like.

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