Victory Boogie Woogie

Gamification illustration by Jasper Rietman

(Your Daily) Vic­tory Boo­gie Woo­gie is a col­lab­o­ra­tive writ­ing game for the web, cre­ated in part­ner­ship with De Gids, the old­est still active lit­er­ary mag­a­zine of the Nether­lands. Over the course of ten weeks, a group of well-known and upcom­ing Dutch authors cre­ated an inter­wo­ven net­work of fic­tion, poetry, essays and illus­tra­tions together with an online audience.

Victory Boogie Woogie

The sto­ry­line revolved around the dis­cov­ery of a sec­ond Vic­tory Boo­gie Woo­gie—Piet Mondriaan’s famous final but unfin­ished work, widely con­sid­ered his mas­ter­piece. A kalei­do­scopic cast of char­ac­ters vied over own­er­ship of the piece and debated, inves­ti­gated and made claims about the work’s authenticity.

Victory Boogie Woogie

Play­ers signed up to a cus­tom game web­site to fol­low along with the devel­op­ing story and influ­ence the course of things by con­tribut­ing their own bits and pieces. These were reviewed by a group of edi­tors before pub­li­ca­tion. A sim­ple but effec­tive mechanic con­trolled the dis­tri­b­u­tion of top­ics avail­able for writ­ing about. At the same time, other rules of the game—such as who could say what about the protagonists—were socially negotiated.

Victory Boogie Woogie

The idea for the project orig­i­nated with the Gids edi­tors, who were fas­ci­nated by explor­ing the poten­tial of games and play for lit­er­a­ture. We advised on the project’s for­mu­la­tion, includ­ing grant requests. Vic­tory Boo­gie Woo­gie received a Game­fonds sub­sidy as well as sup­port from the Dutch Foun­da­tion of Lit­er­a­ture. We sub­se­quently joined the project to design and develop the game in col­lab­o­ra­tion with De Gids.

Announcement of Victory Boogie Woogie at the celebration of 175 years of De Gids

We used the project to inves­ti­gate new direc­tions for com­bin­ing sto­ry­telling with gameplay—a topic that con­tin­ues to be hotly debated in games cir­cles. We col­lab­o­rated with the Gids edi­tors to cre­ate a writ­ing game that was native to the web, while at the same time pro­vided a new per­spec­tive on literature’s rel­e­vance in the age of audi­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion and play.

An article on play in literature by James Bridle, written for the Gids edition announcing the game

As always, our process was highly col­lab­o­ra­tive and dri­ven by numer­ous pro­to­types (both phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal) and playtests. We worked with the Gids edi­tors to care­fully bal­ance open­ness and player agency with con­trol and writer authorship.

Remains of a Victory Boogie Woogie paper prototype playtest

As with any mass col­lab­o­ra­tion game, it was a chal­lenge to ensure robust mechan­ics that scale before­hand. For this, we mod­eled the game’s rules and the flow of player and writer con­tri­bu­tions using Machi­na­tions, which allowed us to sim­u­late a huge vol­ume of games at var­i­ous player amounts and spot short­com­ings in our game design.

Dur­ing the game’s run, we mon­i­tored and con­tin­ued to improve the game web­site. We also joined the weekly writ­ers meet­ing. We advised on how to best respond to player actions, par­tic­u­larly where these ven­tured into the blurry ter­ri­tory beyond hard pre­de­ter­mined rules and into the area of sit­u­ated, open-ended play.

Victory Boogie Woogie articles in De Gids 2013/4

This project pro­vided us with a fas­ci­nat­ing peek into the world of lit­er­a­ture and pro­vided a won­der­ful oppor­tu­nity to invent a new form of play respect­ful of a tra­di­tional cul­tural domain. We look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions of this kind.

Below is a very short doc­u­men­tary on the project in the form of inter­views with designer Kars Alfrink, player Gera Pronk and writer Dirk Vis.

  • Project credits

    Game con­cept, design and devel­op­ment by Hub­bub: Kars Alfrink, Alper Çugun and Simon Scheiber.

    Ini­tial con­cept, story and writ­ing by De Gids et al: Edzard Mik, Dirk van Weelden, Arjen Mul­der, Han van der Vegt, Niels ’t Hooft, Rob­bert Wella­gen and Dirk Vis.

    Sup­ported by Game­fonds, Dutch Foun­da­tion of Lit­er­a­ture and De Groene Ams­ter­dammer.

    With thanks to all the play­ers who par­tic­i­pated by con­tribut­ing words and pictures.