Friday, December 9, 2016

Five or So Questions with Fraser Simon on Young at Heart

Today I had the opportunity to interview Fraser Simons about his new game, Young at Heart, available on DriveThruRPG. It sounds like really fascinating game about baseball narratives, and I think you'll enjoy this quick interview with Fraser!


Tell me a little about Young at Heart. What excites you about it?

The most exciting thing about Young at Heart for me, is the reflection in the mechanics of that primal duality between the pitcher and the batter in a baseball game, and how subjective the two main resources are that reinforce that throughout play. Everyone always interprets pride and heart differently, sometimes radically. And during the course of play, you're using your scenes to vie for your particular resource as well as narrative control. You really get to know each other as players when you're doing this because when I control the pitcher and I act in such a way that I'd generate heart or pride, I'm displaying to the other player(s) what I think that is. I've heard people think that the duality there was acting like an adult or a child, I've had people think it was toxic masculinity vs healthy reactions to the problems posed. Lots and lots of interesting stuff, and I really love learning about the other players at the table so it's really exciting.

Can you tell me a little about the mechanics used in Young at Heart?

The primary mechanics of the game reflect what I would call the "spirit" of the baseball while completely side stepping actually simulating a game of it. Players are opposed to one another in that they each pick either Heart or Pride to go after during the course of play and are constantly vying for narrative control over one character, the pitcher. During the course of the game though, both teams need to spend resources in order to continue and get what they want - the procedures in place are the primary mechanics. They're used to simulate both a specific kind of dramatic narrative based on the novel it was inspired by, as well as the pacing and emergent subjective commentary that the game is driving at.

Where did your inspirations come from for the game?

My inspiration was specifically from a book I've re-read many many times in my life, For Love of the Game. In fact, the "pre-loaded scenario" for the game could be used to specifically re-create the story if you wanted. But It was important to me that the game be about discovering more about the players at an individual level if the players wanted that kind of bleed in it. I also wanted people to be able to play any kind of sports narrative type story they would like easily. Things like Bull Durham, The Natural, and, with a few tweaks, even things like Remember the Titans or Coach Carter. It's a very simple game so could be re-skinned for a lot of different things, in fact someone recently said they could use it for a Whiplash type of story, that's been on my brain ever since!

What commonalities do you see in games like Young at Heart that are focused on sports (such as World Wide Wrestling), and more traditional RPGs that focus on fantasy or cyberpunk, etc.?

I had to take some time to think about this and I am a pretty new designer, so I may just not be as familiar with as many games and the mechanics behind them as others - but I can't really find any commonalities. It's play to find out what happens and it uses six-sided dice, other than that it's doing it's own thing, so far as I know or can think of. I'm sure there's things out there that I'm not aware of that are similar, though!

The narrative in sports is often a legacy that spans generations. Do you think that Young at Heart touches on this, or possibly predicts a story that could go on?

You could definitely use the game to do this, in fact I give advice on making it episodic. Like, if you watch the newer show on Fox called Pitch, for example. You could do a game where the pitcher is like Ginny Baker, essentially playing each game as an episode of the show with the trials and tribulations and unique issues she goes through as the first woman to play in the MLB. I think that would be super interesting to play, as well as each session being a generational thing.

Thanks so much to Fraser for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed it and that you get the chance to check out Young at Heart on DriveThruRPG!

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