(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.