We’ve been writing about project SAKE here since June last year. A while back it was unveiled to be (Your Daily) Victory Boogie Woogie, an online collaborative writing game we’ve made together with De Gids. Next week on Monday, the game will start. So I thought I’d take the time to tell you a bit more about it.
Over the course of ten weeks, a small group of Dutch writers and whoever feels like joining in—including you—will write about the discovery of a new Victory Boogie Woogie, Mondriaan’s last, unfinished work which is of considerable significance in the Netherlands. As a player you’ll be asked to write about an ever growing range of topics, with which you can influence what comes next. You’re also able to contribute new topics, and have others write about them, including the writers behind the scenes. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be invited to pull the strings of one of the main characters and really make a splash…
It’s all very open-ended, and not so much about telling one coherent story but more about weaving an ever expanding tapestry of writings in various genres—prose, poetry, essays, etc. Which is very much in line with how De Gids traditionally tackles a theme in each of its editions.
The history of ludic writing experiments is a long one. Influences on our work here include obvious ones such as the surrealist game cadavre exquis, storytelling boardgames such as Once Upon a Time and story-focused indie RPGs such as In a Wicked Age. But also early online writing experiments such as Fray and finally, story-focused hybrid games such as World Without Oil and other ARGs. The list goes on. I’ve been collecting references—mainly newer online writing services—on Kitsune for a while now. James Bridle wrote a lovely piece about writing, play and the network for De Gids in which he discussed a large number of examples too.
There’s a whole series of posts I could write about the interesting design challenges that rear their heads when you attempt to reconcile playing with writing. For now, I’ll just say that with Victory Boogie Woogie we decided early on that we wanted it to be a game that you play by writing.
I could also talk at length about what it was like to make this. We went from early paper experiments, to teasing out some of the details related to scaling to an unpredictable amount of players using machinations and finally to developing a web app in typical Hubbub style with a distributed team.
Zooming out a little, this is the latest in a series of projects in which investigate what play can mean for ‘traditional’ cultural domains. Not by talking about it, but by making something. Before, we worked with Dario Fo on game opera Mega Monster Battle Arena™ later we collaborated with music and film festivals for a series of game installations for PLAY Pilots and now, with the Netherlands’ oldest literary magazine, Victory Boogie Woogie, an experimental collaborative writing game.
So please join us, if only to read what will unfold but hopefully to also participate.
Thanks to the editors at De Gids for reaching out to us, in particular Dirk Vis but also Dirk van Weelden, Arjen Mulder and Edzard Mik. Liesbeth Beneder and Esther Wils for keeping us organized. Robbert Welagen, Niels ‘t Hooft and Han van der Vegt for agreeing to join the editorial team on this crazy adventure. Joris Dormans for his wonderful machinations tool and his advice on how best to apply it. And finally my two collaborators on the game production side, Alper Çugun and Simon Scheiber—always a pleasure.