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.