Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Okult by Wilhelm Person and Asking Good Questions

Recently on G+ I put out a post saying how I wish I could just get copies of the games I interview people about. A few people sent me stuff, which was super cool! One of the things that got into my grabby hands was Wilhelm Person's Okult.

I've been watching Okult from afar for a while. I saw when it came out and was vaguely interested, and got a little more interested when I read a little about it. However, I'm both cheap and busy, so I hadn't put it on my urgent list yet. Getting it and reading it was a genuine pleasure. I loved the photography in the book and was excited to take a look at the game itself.

Okult is a horror game and photo book. First off, the game is mega simple. It is a storytelling game of a sort, and has a scale of the intensity of the horror in the game. There are no complicated mechanics. It's also GMless, which I dig.

What I like about it is that one, when you get to a point in a scene where you ask a question, someone else gets to answer it, and two, it's all about asking good questions. Questions about your Hometown, questions about your past, questions about what you can do in the game, questions about the secret of the town. So many questions!

Epidiah Ravachol said (In a post supporting me, no less!):
As a whole, game designers are only just starting to wake up to the fact that the single most effective mechanic is a question. That's going to change soon and over the next few years you're going to see a lot of hot new games built entirely around the questions players can ask and how they can be answered. When this happens, we're all going to appreciate just what it takes to craft a well-asked question.
I think that Okult has a decent handle on this.

When I think of asking questions, which I do, quite a lot of the time (in case you hadn't noticed), I think of how I want the responder to feel, how I want them to think, where I want their train of thought to go. I never like closed questions, so I always look for a why, or a what, and press for it.

I want to write a game about asking questions, but I think I'm just so wrapped up in the questions that I can't find my way to answers. I like that Okult doesn't give you the answers - it lets you explore them on your own. And it does so visually! It uses a map, a big map, and you also record facts on the map, answering the questions.

What's so great about questions? To me, I love questions. Questions often demand answers, and even when they don't, they invite thought. They lead to exploration. They guide us through the unknown by giving us a point to start and a reason to answer - the good ones, anyway. Plus, questions lead to interaction. Yes, you can ask yourself questions and answer them alone, but the most enjoyable way to explore questions is to share it with other people. To ask, and receive responses, and then ask more, continuing the discourse.

Vincent Baker says that games are a conversation.

What's a conversation without questions?