I started working on a new project yesterday that I've had in mind for a while. It may be a long-term project because of how research intensive it might be, but I wanted to tell you a little bit about it.
The game is called Hearts in Crisis. It is set during the Vietnam war, and focuses on the lives and stories of the women (primarily nurses) who worked in the war. It's focusing on drama and personal relationships while dealing with intensely difficult crises.
I'm really excited about it. Here is why.
I grew up hearing a lot of stories about Vietnam - from people who opposed the war, people who carried legacy racism and bigotry from the war, and people who served. Most of the people I knew who served were men, and hearing stories of women working in the service during that time was really rare and that actually makes me kind of disappointed. Most of the stories I heard were not heroic or even hopeful, they were stories from the perspectives of snipers and soldiers who had to do awful things just to survive and protect their fellow soldiers. From everything I know, the Vietnam war was a horrible, terrifying experience for everyone involved.
There were not a ton of women who served in Vietnam. The total numbers I can find are at highest around 10,000, but more likely around 7500, and over 6000 of them were nurses and medical personnel. While I wouldn't ever discount the experiences of women who served in administrative roles, from what I have read, they typically were far from most of the trauma and immediate danger. Those who were are the kind of characters I would see being played in this game, but most of the characters will probably be nurses. Nurses were not in combat, but they dealt with some of the most tragic and intimate crises, saving lives and comforting the people who were suffering.
One of the stories that really inspired me was not of a nurse, but of a stenographer, Karen Offutt, who was awarded the Soldier's Medal around 32 years after her actions in Vietnam saving injured children from a fire (when she would have initially been awarded the medal during the war, she was given a certificate and told that women weren't awarded the Soldier's Medal). The actions of women are so often forgotten and dismissed, and I think that we can take the step forward to tell these stories.
I intend to do a fair amount of research about this piece of history, and I want to really work on telling the stories that many people have let fall through the cracks.
As far as mechanics, I'm working on structured scenes with token exchanges and flipping tokens for success/failure. For me, the mechanics will be important, but will have to be very strong and support the feel of the game as well as possible in order to ensure that the mood isn't lost.
ETA More details on the mechanics:
Right now, I have it set up so that there will be three scenes: one intimacy scene, one crisis scene, and another intimacy scene. Each player will have certain numbers of tokens that they start with and that they can earn, and during intimacy scenes players will give each other one type of token that can be used in the crisis scenes to save casualties who are brought in to the triage. The main way to determine who lives or dies is by flipping the tokens and seeing which comes up heads or tails. The main characters themselves cannot die unless they elect to for story reasons, because part of the point is that they have to live while others don't.
I'm looking forward to sharing my progress with you!