Review – Becoming

22 Apr

No rules link, because this game is apparently not meant to be shared.

First, a general disclaimer that I’m putting on all my reviews this year: I tend to be very harsh with my criticism. It’s a personal failing, and one I try to temper, but with limited success. Don’t take my criticism as a sign that I hate you and your game. If possible, think of it as an attempt to help you make your game as amazing as possible.

Now, on to the actual review.

The idea of “bleed”, where your in-game and out-of-game selves get blurred, is an interesting one that doesn’t get explored much in Forge-style games. I hear it’s a bigger deal in Nordic games, but it’s fun to see it explored here as well. Whether or not this particular game works out, I think it’s interesting territory to keep exploring.

I feel like I need even more of a disclaimer for this game than the general one I gave. I feel like a lot of my reactions to this game are idiosyncratic, and the reasons I don’t like it might be reasons other people would love it. Take this post as an account of my personal experience of reading it, not as a perfect, impartial judgment.

My first thought is that I really, really disapprove of the limited-access model. It seems to go against everything that Game Chef stands for. Game Chef is a celebration of our shared creativity, a chance to see what everyone else is thinking about and working on, and ultimately, a source of nearly a hundred cool new games to think about. Removing your game entirely from this shared experience seems selfish and weird. Why participate in Game Chef if you reject its entire premise?

I’m also really unsure about the whole “game-as-therapy” model. Maybe this is just because I talk about a lot of these themes all of the time in my actual life, but I’m not sure why I want a game about a weird coyote to be the context in which I learn about my friends’ childhood memories. It seems like the game will get in the way of the sharing, and the sharing will get in the way of the game.

Possibly relatedly, I’m not particularly inspired by the genre of “children in an allegorical fantasy world”. Maybe some more flavor text, examples, or media references would help. I don’t currently have the slightest idea of what I would actually do in this game.

The system seems unnecessarily baroque, to me. I had to re-read the rules several times to have any idea what was going on. This is especially relevant because the entire system is literally nothing more than a pacing mechanic and a complicated way to choose who has to make the weird choice at the end of the game.  There’s no obvious reason to avoid failure, and you know the outcome of scenes before they even begin, so there’s not even dramatic tension going on. There’s a little bit going on with the possibility to help someone by sharing a secret, but I don’t see why anyone ever would. The out-of-game incentive to hide your secrets seems much, much stronger than any in-game incentive, especially since there is no obvious downside to failing.

The same criticism applies tenfold to [edited to remove spoilers, at the author’s request].

I just honestly don’t see any upside to playing this game. At best, you get a weird and complicated way to have a couple interesting conversations with your friends. I know that you’re supposed to end these reviews on a positive note, but I just have such a strong aversion to everything about this game that I can’t do that honestly. Perhaps that’s the reaction you are going for, or perhaps other people will have a different one. It certainly says something about the game that it can provoke such a strong reaction in me!

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4 Responses to “Review – Becoming”

  1. Joseph LeMay April 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    I can’t imagine a more honest review than that, really. The idea with this was kind of a rough draft of a game that would only be in physical copies in its final form. I agree that it ended up in a really funky place rules-wise. Most of the reason for that is that the idea for the dice mechanic game from one of my Forge threads, and the “sharing” part comes from the title of another of my forge threads. The other two ingredients I chose were Coyote and Lantern, obviously. In any case, this is DEFINITELY not a game for everyone, or even many people. That having been said, I really appreciate your disclaimers, but I appreciate the brutal honesty of your review even more. If it’s a stinker, call it like you see it! Cheers. 🙂

  2. Joseph LeMay April 22, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    Additionally though, however much you disagreed with the secretism etc., I don’t think it was very cool of you to [SPOILER] the “final twist” part publicly. Are you the same guy who went around telling everyone that Bruce Willis dies at the end of Sixth Sense…? 😦

    • semiel April 22, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

      Sorry about that, I’ll edit it out. I figured there would be very little overlap between people who read the review and people who play the game, and it was something I wanted to comment on.

      • Joseph LeMay April 24, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

        That’s super appreciated, thanks. A couple of folks on my Forge thread mentioned wanting a copy when it’s done, and I didn’t want them getting the game ruined (well, from their perspective).

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