Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Five or So Questions with Moyra Turkington on Fastaval

Tell me a little about Fastaval. What's got you excited about it?
Fastival is a roleplay and boardgame festival that takes place yearly on the Easter weekend in Denmark (since 1987). New scenarios and board game designs are premiered there, and it is also a friendly competition. This year there were about 700 participants in attendance, playing 34 scenarios and 13 board games that were making their debut.

It was very exciting to have our own game on the program, and to travel there to see it live. They have a phenomenal culture of service and feedback happening in the Fastaval community – I’ve never seen anything like it. Every single person who lays eyes on a game – from the players to the GMs to the Jury who select the nominations for the Otto (Fastaval’s golden penguin equivalent of the Oscar) take the time to provide plentiful, constructive and really remarkably articulated feedback to the designers. They have whole subcultures of support staff that work tirelessly to make the venue happen: maintenance crews, Food and logistics volunteers. informational squads, and a fleet of translators for us international folks.

And the games were phenomenal!

What did you find most valuable about Fastaval's feedback process?
So many things! Because it is a place where giving feedback is an integrated part of the process, a lot of the feedback was extremely articulate and thoughtful. Because there was so much of it at once we could easily identify trends that would indicate a systemic issue vs. a place where one individual play style didn’t work with the game. Most importantly because there were so many runs happening in so short of a time, it really allow you to measure the breadth of the game and understand how many different stories it could tell, and how reliably. It’s definitely a design process that gets me excited and that I would like to explore again.

What game did you take to Fastaval? Tell me all about it!
Run Them Again is a scenario for five players and a GM. It’s a science fiction space drama about the indifference of the systems we live under, and the cold equations of life within their grasp. Essentially, it is a labour drama; It came out of a conversation Brand and I had when driving through rural Newfoundland, a place that was devastated in economic collapse once in the 70’s and again in the 90’s when the Atlantic northwest cod fisheries bottomed out.

We talked about fishers and farmers and miners and labourers. We talked about my dad working high steel and his dad having to pick up work as a janitor for a while. We discovered we both had mining in our blood: one of his great granduncles died in a cave in. My grandfather went into coma after three tons of rock ruptured his spleen and stayed there for three days till he was dug out. My grandfather’s cave-in resulted in safety reviews, Brand’s granduncle’s death resulted in union strikes and a resulting massacre. We talked about how random that felt. And we made this game.

The characters are long haul space miners, working much like deep sea crab fishers do... going on long dangerous runs to mine valuable minerals from asteroids on ships that have seen too many runs for wages that are shit but the best they can hope for. They wake from cryosleep to find something has gone wrong with the ship, and they have four hours to help right the course and save their lives as the universe gives not one fuck about them.

I was very nervous about designing a new style of game (Danish freeform) for an audience that I had never met before. It was also the first fully co-operatively designed game together. I was worried with all those unknowns that the Fastafolk might look at us like crazy North Americans (that we are), but the game was a hit! The players really enjoyed it, we scored two nominations (Best Storytelling and Jury’s Selection), and took home an Otto (Fastaval’s answer to the Oscar)!

I’m still blown away.

What did you find useful about the logistics at Fastaval?
It was a well run machine – there was always an answer in support of a game or event... and it seemed that no one minded pitching in on the work. Some came just to be part of the work! A side note on our logistics is that the Østerskov Efterskole made itself available for people to stay and we got to take a tour. This is a high school who’sentire curriculum is based on roleplaying! They play everything from steampunk to historical re-enactment to crime dramas and learn all of their math, natural sciences, languages, ethics, history... all of it through larps. They have a full medieval town on the school grounds! It was phenomenal. I can’t imagine what life would be like now had I been able to attend a school like that.

Are you planning to go back? What are you looking forward to doing next time you're there?
Yes! I hope so. It was amazing fun and full of creative energy and I met so many amazing people doing so many amazing things. I’d look forward to seeing them again, and having the chance to be part of that community for another glimpse in time. I didn’t feel like I had enough time to talk to anyone!

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