The results are in! We received 31 procedural poems throughout the month of July. The poems were then anonymized, and distributed to three editors each, where they were scored for clarity, how well they fit the theme, and their ingenuity. Based on those scores we have narrowed it down to 6 finalists. But rather than posting all the poems and finalists at once, we’re going to publish 10 poems, including 2 finalists, each Wednesday for the next three weeks. In the meantime the judges will conduct a second round of judging, and we’ll announce the winner on August 27th.
That said, we received some fantastic entries and whether they were finalists or not they all deserve to be shared. Please Tweet and post your favourite poems by right-clicking on this icon next to the poem you want to share and copy the link.
ludeshka | Bird and Monster
Bird and Monster
A puzzle platformer / World destroying simulation.
Bird is bound to Monster. Monster wants. Always wants.
Monster wants songs that lull her to sleep.
Monster wants tasty clouds to eat
(Bitter grey cirri , spicy orange nimbi)
Bird likes singing, and flying high.
Bird flies, bringing back pieces of clouds.
Bird hums lullabies she learns in foreign lands.
But to find tastier clouds, she’ll have to travel far,
where clouds are sweetened with the radiance of stars.
But if Bird leaves Monster alone.
If she leaves her unsung.
Monster will rise.
Monster rises, and the player can choose where to guide her.
to drink up the seas that taste of tears, to make the humans cower in fear.
The player might be amused, might try to find out, “what else can I break?”
And the answer is everything, everything.
Whatever you see, Monster can destroy,
For Monster is big and mighty.
But Monster will be alone, and unsung, and unsatisfied.
And you can break everything, but she will want more.
Because Monster wants, always wants.
And Bird flies through distant skies.
The wind on her wings.
Her fate forgotten.
You can, of course, avoid this, if you just feed Monster the nearest clouds.
If you sing to Monster, the simpler songs.
But where’s the fun in that?
Jason Morningstar | CHARACTER AGENCY
Goal: The player’s goal is mission-oriented. The character’s goal is orthogonal to this. Duty versus family, for example.
“August, 1944. You are playing Andrzej Kołodziej, fighting to liberate Warsaw. Chyczewski has a wife and child depending on him.”
Setup: The character is aware that the player exists and that their own agency is limited. They can clearly communicate with the player, who they interpret as God. They can cooperate, cajole, argue, pray and deceive.
“‘Please help me make the right choices, Lord’ Kołodziej says, ‘I know I have to fight. But my family comes first, surely you can understand that?’”
Play: Mission parameters for the player are tight. The more the player accommodates the character’s goal, the less likely mission success is.
“‘Listen to me!’ Kołodziej shouts into the monitor, ‘These guys can hold the line, my wife is trapped on Mianowskiego street, I have to go!’”
The health of the relationship between player and character is measured. If the bond is strong, the character will be more willing to accede to the player’s demands. There will always be dynamic tension though – ignoring the character’s goal erodes the relationship.
“Sighing, Kołodziej says ‘If it is Your will I’ll stay, but I’m begging you – I have to go get Maryśka soon.’”
If the bond is weak, the character will resist the player and seek their own goal. The character can make choices that conflict with player inputs. They can ignore commands or deliberately make mistakes. If the relationship collapses completely the player will lose control of the character.
“Kołodziej’s features harden. He snorts in disgust and starts running. You jab your controller left; he goes right. He’s heading for Mianowskiego street and until he finds his wife you are along for the ride.”
“From KillScreen” is a one player platform-puzzler with RPG elements. The player plays as the Unidentified Sprite.
Goal: The Player’s progress has finally ended, but your world has collapsed and deconstructed itself. You, the Unidentified Sprite (US), begin in “the abyss” to find and reconstruct meaning to your game and identity.
Set Up: The beginning is a kill screen, the US has no discernible features, and even the US’s words are garbled nonsense. Rearranging the speech-text to form a sentence unlocks movement; it is an awakening to a world out of order. The US realizes that its world and identity has to be restored by returning to the beginning, putting the levels back into its supposed proper places and gathering together features of US’s body along the way.
Play: In each level, the US has to travel from the right to the left in a glitch-ridden world: enemies never appear twice in the same areas and move unpredictably; levels contain scattered code that block paths, which can be removed by rearranging the code into a certain sequence, and certain components (not all) of a level are re-arrangeable in any order to progress.
At the end of a level, the US must revive a boss by completing a puzzle-challenge such as piecing together the boss in the likeness of its image in a display. Throughout each level, the US can collect “features.” Each “feature” contains three body options that the player can choose from to define the featureless sprite, but only one of the three options can be chosen. The resulting gender of the Sprite is not necessarily binary. Changes at each level are permanent once completed.
The game ends by prompting the player to select “start game,” accompanied by the Sprite. The credits roll. The changes made to each level are never seen.
Nicholas Packwood | Bicycle Face
A game about the hidden dangers of cycling
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.” – Susan B. Anthony (1896)
Platform & Gameplay: Bicycle Face is a single-player mobile game for iPad played from a second-person perspective. The player controls an emancipated young woman – facial expressions clearly visible – on a bicycle cycling forward, toward the screen. The player has limited time to evade oncoming obstacles.
Controls: Tilt the iPad for steering, left/right screen edge thumb tap for left/right pedal control. Balance via tilt and speed.
Play: Wobbling left and right at low speed at first, the character moves forward, growing larger in the screen as a Victorian street scene recedes behind her. Faster pedaling produces greater speed and stability as the character grows larger in the screen. The faster the player pedals, the less opportunity there is to see and evade oncoming obstacles as the character comes closer to the player and fills the screen with her face. With faster speed, the character’s face takes on an increasingly rigid grimace, a fixed smile and bared teeth. When obstacles are encountered or loss of speed and/or balance occurs, the character momentarily stops pedaling and her face becomes placid, adopting a soporific, loving gaze.
Obstacles: Pot-holes, streetcar tracks, horse manure, gendered social-roles.
Environment/gameplay interaction: As the player pedals forward, passers-by make catcalls and plead with the character to dismount and travel by carriage.
“Cycling is dangerous for women!”
“She’s no lady.”
“Look, Mother, she has… bicycle face!”
Gameplay ends when wealthy elites appropriate cycling into a eugenics narrative of class and reproductive fitness.
Nathan Kevilus | Goblin’s Adventure
“Goblins are very easy to anger. In fact, they’d start a war over cloth!”- Goblin Tinkerer, Terraria
Overview: Goblin’s Adventure is an open-world Fantasy RPG. We play as a goblin in a tribe who are constantly harassed by the adventurers from outside the forest. The player explores the goblin culture and learns how culture differences and miscommunication can lead to clashes between species. The Game will explore that nobody for the most part is evil, and everybody is good in their own sense. Game attempts to humanize the creatures players usually spend their time destroying in other games.
Gameplay: Single Player Third-person action gameplay, with an emphasis on social interaction with creatures, sneaking through cities, and being as non-combative as the situation will allow. Game will have an inventory system as well as barter and trade as well as a skill system that will allow the player to truly customize their goblin’s stats and physical appearance.
Players start the game in the goblin village where they learn basic skills and concepts. Shortly thereafter while out and about in the forest, the player and some of the other goblins are attacked by a set of human adventurers. The player survives the encounter and warns the village. The Game from there sets the player on his quest to discover why the humans invade their villages.
The Game ends the way the player chooses, be it an ending that favors one species over another, or an ending that is more neutral. Either way the player learns good and evil don’t really exist.
Amsel von Spreckelsen | Dungeon Contemplator
Dungeon Contemplator is a single player adventure RPG. Each screen is a self contained world and exactly like the last.
The character starts in a procedurally generated dungeon room which is empty. Exiting the room generates a new, random, empty room similar in appearance to the last. There is no stored map, if the player attempts to backtrack they are informed that they ‘can never go back’. There is only forward, through a gradually changing, procedurally generated, world.
The Rest of The Game
If the character stops and examines a room they notice things. This might be a particular play of light, or a formation in the rocks or the way they felt upon crossing yet another threshold. Examining the world fills the character’s inventory with experiences and memories. The inventory is unlimited; the weight of memories unrelated to their quantity. The more that is examined the more that is noticed and the more that is added to the sum of the past. If there is no input for a period the character will settle down and read from a book in their bag. The text will scroll upon the screen to be shared with the player if they so desire.
Emily Care Boss | An Eye for an Eye
An Eye for an Eye
A cooperative video game for two players. Characters are the Game Designer and the Military Veteran.
Goal: The Game Designer’s Goal is to exercise freedom of speech. The Military Veteran’s goal is to protect the Game Designer.
Set Up: Play in pairs. Game Designer character is cisgender or transgender female, played by cisgender male player (if one is present). Gender and ethnicity of character are assigned randomly to the Military Veteran.
Play: Play proceeds in phases.
Phase 1: Science-fiction military invasion scenarios. Work together to defend cities against invasion and infiltration by terrorist cells. Kick some ass.
Interlude solo scenes show daily life of characters: training, paperwork, local aid and munitions maintenance for the Military Veteran; designing video games, giving talks, publishing articles for Game Designer.
Game Designer has just received first death threat from video game public at start of game.
Phase 2: The Veteran returns home. Domestic personal scenes between Designer and Vet commence, interspersed with ongoing first-person-shooter coop play, and solo scenes: seeking work for Veteran, investigating online abuse for Designer.
Play of domestic personal scenes is publicly visible online. Viewers comment using anonymous logins.
Phase 3: Death threats against Game Designer continue and escalate: hateful comments, in-game abuse, spamming, hacking website, hacking accounts and computer, in-person harassment, privacy intrusions. Real world comments on domestic personal scenes and login handles of commenters populate in-game harassment messages.
Veteran approaches military intelligence acquaintance for aid in identifying online harassers of Game Designer. Pursues this course secretly in parallel with Designer’s investigation.
Veteran now has dream sequences. Dreams of flashback to combat. Over time includes names and faces of harassers identified in investigations. First-person-shooter coop play begins to have overlap with dream images and locations.
Phase 4: Someone dies.
Feiya Cook | Charity Case
Go around a city and give away/invest your money to people or organizations and when you run out of money, your score is a tally of the impact your money had.
Give your money away in order to maximize your social impact.
Choose your character.
Each character starts out with a goal and one thousand dollars.
Walk around your city and give your money away to people or organizations. Some may be loans, or other such investments.
The game ends when you run out of money or stop playing.
At the end of the game, your social impact is broken up into various categories like, meals provided, assaults prevented, lives saved, etc.
Playing as a game designer who has a goal of providing game development classes to disadvantaged youth.
On the walk around the city, several teenagers ask you for money, you give them some. You go into a school and give them money to start up a program. You add game development as a class in an after school program at a different school. Since you’re also volunteering your time, the school gives you a percentage of the fees.
At the end of a week, you’ve run out of money, one of the teenagers that you gave money to used the money to buy booze, the other one used it to pay for copies of his resume and gets a job. The school uses the money you gave them to start a program on coding, but attendance is poor. Your own after school program is a hit and the school takes it over after you bow out.
Game studies is a game for a small number of players. Previous experience is not necessary, and players are encouraged to import rules from other games, as long as they do it implicitly.
Set Up: The player who is most experienced in textual studies is the first player. They must present A Definition of Games. The Definition must cover either almost everything or almost nothing.
Play: Play proceeds in free order, with whoever is quickest continuing after the set up. It is not necessary to wait for a player to finish before starting a new turn. Players present new Definitions by either limiting previous Definitions with new, arbitrary rules or by broadening them to cover new phenomena.
Goal: 1 point is awarded for Definitions that
1) refer recursively to themselves,
2) cover all imaginable phenomena or
3) cover such a limited set of phenomena that the target of the definition is unrecognizable.
A bonus point is awarded if the Definition doesn’t refer to any previous Definition or use terms used in any previous Definition.
The game doesn’t end and the points don’t matter.
Multiplayer Variant: The game can be played in teams. Teams are formed by grouping together players that use the same terms in their definitions.
Teams should have evocative names. They are named by the players that are not in the team. Points are awarded for avoiding the terms used by other teams and using the same terms as the other players in your team.
Elise Trinh | Fall Down Rise Up
Fall Down Rise Up
Fall Down Rise Up is a one-player platformer game with a vertical scrolling pattern. There is neither violence nor enemy nor jump feature.
Intro: Icarus, a young boy with great wings, flies too close to the sun. The wax melts; colorful feathers scatter across the level, and Icarus starts to fall.
1st act: The player plays Icarus and has to collect all the lost feathers. To that end, Icarus can reach for cloudy hands floating in the sky and stretching toward him. There are two types of hands: the pure and white ones, which lift you up; the grey and stormy ones, which throw you down.
Throughout the level, gusts of wind can be used as platforms, while sunbeams will burn the boy if he stays in them for too long.
If Icarus does not choose his path wisely, he can die by burning.
At the bottom of the level, the last feather lies on a ground. A wounded bird also awaits: all the feathers were its once.
Icarus gives the feathers back to the bird. The animal heals and becomes a phoenix.
2nd act: The player now plays the phoenix and has to reach for the sun. All the elements remain the same in the level, but the phoenix does not interact with them as Icarus did. The bird can only glide by itself and needs sunbeams to fly. Gusts of wind push the phoenix away. The cloudy hands have the same behavior as before, but also make the bird lose feathers. If the phoenix loses too many feathers, it will die.
Ending: The phoenix reaches for the sun and fuses with it.
Standing on the ground, Icarus gazes at the sky. He looks older now.
Joey DiZoglio | Police in Different Voices
Police in Different Voices
“Police in Different Voices”: a crime prevention simulation
This is a map of the city of Los S—
Those pins are scenes of assault, grand theft auto, and homicide.
You are the newly-appointed police commissioner.
Manage the force and make the pins go away.
Your officers are well-trained, young, and motivated; they are with you to change the city… as long as their paychecks come through… and benefits… and you listen to the Union.
(I hope your budget holds up)
You follow the books: open new stations in problem neighborhoods, outline more patrol routes, install security cameras. These cost money and you’re not making any… unless you spare some cops to watch the freeways for speeders… and the hillside neighborhoods for rich teenagers cruising around.
Now you have money, just in time for the Fourth of July when all those terrorist security funds dry up quick so you can host a safe family weekend. The mayor stops by and gives you a pat on the back, “Should be a smooth ride through election season”
The August heat wave brings a crime wave. You can’t afford to have 20% of your department watching their radars along the side of the road, but you can’t pay the bills without them. Time to shave down the budget: internal review, hazmat, bomb response, narcotics, school education services. A few dollars here and there.
New pins appear: teen overdose, DUI accidents, police brutality; all of a sudden MADD and a half-dozen legal teams are bashing down the door of your office while schoolyard bomb threats ring in off the hook. Then the mayor calls, “Get those radars out of the neighborhoods or I lose funding for the next campaign!”
No more money? Here come the Unions.
At least Gotham had Batman.
(title is a quote from Charles Dickens’ novel “Our Mutual Friend”)
Steph Caskenette | Safe Haven
In this puzzle-solving habitat management game, prevent damage to the local ecosystem and save species from extinction.
You are a hermit who loves animals, living in a stereotypical fantasy MMORPG. While brave heroes prevent the world’s destruction by fighting evil and solving quests, such activity negatively impacts the environment and wildlife. The forest near your cabin, filled with mostly docile creatures, is a popular training ground for novice heroes to hone their skills. Countless parties stomp through to grind experience points, killing every creature in their path… only to return minutes later and repeat the massacre. If the noise of clashing swords, smoky scents of clumsily-cast fire spells and spilt potions polluting the river wasn’t bad enough, bloodied corpses of vulnerable animals (now at-risk species) litter your favourite walking paths.
In the first person perspective, explore the forest and identify unique species. The Bestiary UI allows you to tag specific animals and draw connections between species by taking notes on the following:
Hours awake (according to the in-game clock)
Using this information, interact with the environment and compromise with the needs of coexisting species to get everyone out of harm’s way (create camouflaged habitats, herd species to specific areas, make food available, etc.). Planting trees for one species may upset others nearby, so balance is imperative. Groups of fighters will mistake you for an enemy; covertly observe their patterns to determine risky areas or times. As an unarmed mediator, you must avoid conflict.
Create a safe haven that maintains a logical food chain with positive growth and avoids external human threats for one week. For story reasons, the game ends when the heroes succeed in their quest and save the world… until meta DLC comes out and the forest faces new waves of creatures and parties.