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GDC 2013: Rhorer Buries a Board Game in the Desert and More

JAlbor March 28, 2013 User blog:JAlbor

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The annual GDC Game Design Challenge is upon us. For those who don't know, every year, a group of designers are challenged to come up with a game idea based on usually ridiculous themes. From love to religion, the game design challenge has come up with all sorts of interesting and silly game concepts.

This year marks the final Game Design Challenge, the theme? Humanity's Final Game! What would the last game our species ever play look like? Check out the ideas below, including concepts from such luminaries as Will Wright, Steve Harvey, Jason Rhorer, and more!

Will Wright

Inspired by an episode of Star Trek in which Captain Picard experiences a psychological alien Time Capsule. Will Wright wants to make a game that acts as a sort of time capsule for humanity. I want a game that sorts out memories and applies meaning to them.

The game can be played with personal memories or shared memories with friends. In the most basic way, the game can bring up two memories and you can decide which is more significant. It develops a "personal memory deck," which can then be used to play a sort-of Apples to Apples game with memories.

Ultimately, the game would build a giant memory simulation built from everyone's memories and significance of world events. This can be used by aliens to understand "what we value, how we felt, and what was important to us."

Harvey Smith

Smith's game already has a name: Fleeting: Humanity's Last Game.

If we pass on one cultural artifact, why not pass along a game? Smith would want his game to express what it is to be human and to be "finite." The game code itself must be written in DNA on an animal we designed to survive the apocalypse.

Game structure:

  • Immersive, first-person
  • Life-themed: human struggle
  • 10 gameplay vignettes chosen from a superset

Game takes place on an island. While you play, AI townsfolk exist on the island, walk around and affect the gameplay. One vignette might require players to create shelter for these townsfolk, another to guide the townsfolk to safety. There could also be saboteurs amongst the townspeople. Players can also play with the townsfolk to built relationships and create allies.

Allies would have general-purpose abilities, such as turning saboteurs back into regular townsfolk, increase build speed, etc. Dead townsfolk become constellations and other player's past experience haunt the game.

Steve Meretzky

Humanity is crushing the earth! How, then, can we design a game to destroy humanity itself. We can create a game that would hack into nuclear facilities and launch them all. "Think of it like War Games, but with a much more fun ending."

But how to get the game funded? Turn the game into a reality TV show, calling it "No Survivor." Pit designers against each other as they all try to destroy the world, tracking Megadeaths, Firewalls hacked, etc. The winner will have their name written on a plaque and fired into space.

Erin Robinson

An app from fictional QuaggaSoft that uses tablets to overlay monsters into the real world. Friends and strangers can help you capture monsters. But then monsters become scary, so the company must release a children's version.

As the game evolves, goggles are used to overlay the game on everything. The line between the game and reality become blurred. Soon the game allows mercernaries to help out, earning money, which soon replaces real economies. Then monsters are replaced with Aliens, and permadeath becomes part of the game. With so much of the world reliant on the game, this becomes an apocalyptic free-to-play event, moments before, distracted by the game, technicians accidentally launch nuclear missiles to destroy us all.

Jason Rhorer

Game design is a short-sighted process. We make games for now, not for people in the future. So Rhorer wants to make a game for the future, where no one alive today could every play it. Instead, people would play it after at least 2,000 years.

What game can last 2,000 years? As Rhorer sees it, a board game fits best. But, can't explain how the game works, because then people could play it now. Game must be built into a long-lasting metal. So he built a board game out of titanium.

To build instructions, Rhorer create a symbols sheet to get future humans able to understand how to even read the rules and understand the game, all with symbols. Wrote on special archival paper, with archival ink, sealed three times, including into another titanium tube.

Where to put it? Rhorer took a map of Nevada, found all public and empty land, found a location at least a mile from roads, but less than five miles. Then, Rhorer selected a random GPS location, went into the desert, and buried the game into the dirt. Then Rhorer distributed sheets of of 900 GPS locations and gave them to attendees. If one location is dug per day, it will definitely be found at most after 2, 786 years.

Richard Lemarchand

Game: "LudoSapiens: The Wise Game"

A mobile game that lets you judge certain deeds, awarding points to others for deeds. Something can be "Wise, Selfish, Sleepy", etc. For Judge Points earned, players must also judge other players' judgments. The game seeks to change the world by letting players discuss decisions and subjects, from affordable energy to human rights.

Since the game puts people into teams of Selfish, Wise, and Sleepy, if the Selfish team wins, then the world may be doomed. If the Wise win, then the game can be placed well into a peaceful future.


And the winner is? Jason Rhorer for one of the coolest ideas that the challenge actually produced. All I need to play it is find a shovel and hit the Nevada Desert.

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