Like many people, I’ve been forced away from the gaming table, but still want to play games. How else are we supposed to pass all that alone time? You can only watch so much television, and eventually the itch to start rolling dice and telling stories creeps back up on you. Fortunately, there are solo games.
Over the last year or so, I’ve built up a small collection of solo games. This began via the Kickstarter “ZineQuest” project. I’ve posted a review of the beta version of The Artefact on this site a while ago. That game was revised and completed. A review of that will be forthcoming. For this post, I’d like to focus on a game titled, i’m gonna be.
This game is a journaling solo-RPG that is supposed to emulate the kind of reflective experience a person can have on a road trip. All of that time in the car as the scenery slides by is an excellent opportunity to consider oneself, and the their lives. And how might someone play that? With music!
Create a playlist, listen, think, and write. These are the basic steps for the game. Cool concept, and very relatable for many people. Unfortunately, the game trips over itself. This is kind of negative critique is a rarity for me, but I don’t think this game is very good.
It’s affordable, so if you want to check it (The link is at the end of the post) out despite my review, it’s a mere $3 (USD). Very easy on the bank account. There are two version of the game, a vary colorful one that is laid out to look like a sort of collage, and a text-only printer-friendly version. The game is a 9 page PDF, or the printer friendly version is 3 pages of text. Printing out the latter is just a few pages of text, and that makes it nicely portable. Perfect for real road trips!
The core problem with this game is that it doesn’t really work. Players are supposed to take notes on whatever comes to them via a random prompt that comes from rolling a d6. On paper, it makes perfect sense. Take your inspiration, and follow it to it’s conclusion. The problem is that, lots of songs aren’t really long enough to permit this kind of introspective writing. “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd or Beethoven’s 5th would be good options for this game, but what if you’re favorite bands are groups such as Minor Threat who composed songs that are about a minute long? You’ll just be pressing pause constantly trying to keep up. I tried this, and it wasn’t fun or spontaneous.
Also, the game tries to simulate incorporating rest stops, which is a fun idea. Every once in a while, you need food, fuel, or simply the chance to take break from looking out over the steering wheel for hours on end. The thing is, the game asks you to continue your journaling with what you might experience there.
While this isn’t out of character for traveling, it’s off-topic from the game. During any journey, the trip from point A to point B is the sum of it’s parts. Driving and rest stops comprise the excursion. However, the game is about self-reflection, and adding in an odd fictionalized narrative tangent about what happens at a rest stop doesn’t mix with the basic idea of the game.
To demonstrate my point, here’s a question a player uses as a prompt while listening to music:
- when was the last time you heard this song? was there ever a time you were really into it, or maybe really hated it? how have you changed since then?
Now, here’s some questions for the rest stop:
who do you meet at your stop? what do you do there? if you’re with others, what kind of
conversations do you have over diner waffles and are they different than conversations you had when kesha was playing in the car? narrate a scene.
Independently of one another, they’re perfectly fine questions for a game about a road trip, but they don’t work as a pair. no matter what version of the game you have before you, it is short, and it needs to be focused on only one idea to really work. Is the game emulating a fictional road trip, or is the game facilitating meditation on one’s past experiences? After playing it, I could see it trying to be both, but it should really only be one or the other.
The game is a clever concept, and is a very open idea for a player. In execution though, the game falters. The rules sound nice, but the game doesn’t really work. What might have been better was to encourage a player to listen to music in a playlist for 10-20 minutes, and write what came to them via a prompt that was offered after rolling a d6. The longer period of time would help people collect their thoughts and express them without significant interruption. In the end, I don’t regret supporting the creator, Laura Lovelace. I hope they keep creating games, but I hope they consider taking more time playtesting to make sure the rules and the concept are functionally in line with one another.
You can find the game* at itch.io.
*Disclaimer: I receive no money from purchases made through this link, and have no affiliation whatsoever with itch.io, or Laura Lovelace.