Thursday, November 13, 2014

Metatopia 2014 or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Call Myself A Designer. PART 2

Part 3: The Monsters Focus Groups

I was underly terrified about these. Mental illness is a very personal thing and it's not really socially acceptable to talk about. And here I am, a brand new designer, wanting to tackle it head on.

I really want this game to exist, for selfish reasons. One of the best lessons I learned in DBT is that being selfish is sometimes necessary. Burning bridges with people who aren't good for your mental health, needing to take breaks, knowing your personal limitations and not budging on them. These are all things that society frowns on.

So, going on the fact that the con was so open and engaging, and that everyone in attendance was totally amazing, I took a firm stance. I'm going to be selfish and make this work.

Friday evening comes and I had just got out of James Mendez Hodes' super fun AfroFuture. I tried to take a minute and switch gears to be *serious*. Then it came to me.

Hi, my name is Cheyenne Rae Grimes, and I have anxiety and depression. If you have similar issues and wish to disclose them, fantastic, no judgement. If you don't wish to disclose this information, fantastic, no judgement.

Best choice I could have made. It set the correct tone. It created a safe space. It let the participants know that they were now in a world where such things are openly discussed. And the next hour blew my mind in all the right ways.

I gave my basic ideas (which ended up being described as wanting to punch my irrational thought in their faces) and what ideas I did have. I then asked the participants to answer why they were here at this focus group. So many ideas were tossed around; making sure there was distance between you and your monster, Nordic LARP style breaks during and aftercare worked into play, figuring out what the monsters actually were. Then, the giant mind fuck was thrown out.

What if you were the monster?


So beautiful, such a great way to make it a personal struggle.

The next night, following a lovely IGDN dinner at the tasty indian restaurant attached to the hotel, I set back up for the second night. I started out the exact same way, this time with a bit more confidence. I threw out the ideas from the previous night and this group RAN with all the ideas.

Ideas of give and take of wins and losses based on playing both your character and it's monster. Does harm taken on one side actually mean a victory on the other side? Hell, a media guide and soundtrack even began to come out. And then people followed me to a table in the bar area to keep talking about it.

You know who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it's said his heart grew 3 sizes that day? Pretty sure the only thing containing my heart was my rib cage. Thanks so much to every member for these focus groups, with every fiber of my being. I have so many ideas, so many things to play with, and I am fully committed to making this game a reality.

This may seem like a slightly brief writeup, but this was more of a personal perspective shift for me than just a write up. I also needed to take 4 days after returning home to write this out. This was one of the best emotional experiences I've had in quite awhile.

In my last post, I will wrap up the playtest and panels I did and who this con means for Glittercats in the future. Thanks for baring with me, which is just a really big deal.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Metatopia 2014 or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Call Myself A Designer. PART 1

(This post is a bunch of brutal honesty from inside my head. I'm pretty good at writing out the anxiety that I feel internally.) 

Part 1: The Social

I arrived on Thursday evening and was terrified. Sure, there were people I had met before but I was *alone*. My GC partner in crime was in Pittsburgh and sadly, my two best friends who make up Growling Door Games were unable to attend, so alone I went.

Now, I've never been one to get starstruck. I've dealt with famous people before in other jobs before, mainly theater. But there were going to be people there who wrote some of the games that I just love to play. Then my ride arrives from just picking up Cam Banks and I do my best to not fret. I had met him at Gen Con earlier this year and I had no need to worry. See, this was my first con from inside the industry. I had always been a fan, a volunteer, a friend of the designer, just a gamer. Now, I have two games that my name will be on and I'm a member of a group of designers. To say I felt like an imposter is a wild understatement.

I'm naturally a rampant extrovert when I feel like I know what I'm doing. This was a weekend of huge steps into the unknown and all I could do was hope that it wouldn't break me.

We get to the hotel and I meet a few people who I know from online and settle into finding people to relate to. Robert Bohl gets my first shout out of the con for helping me by being the first person to engage with me. The evening proceeds, more and more people are introduced to me and I flex my schmoozing muscles for the first time in quite a while and, of course, I'm a rock star at it. In theater, that's about 25% of the job. Be it with other professionals, donors or audience members. So, this is old territory that just needs an update in my mind.

The evening progresses into a huge amount of fun, putting faces and voices to IGDN members and writers of games and systems that I love. Ran into Sarah Richardson pretty quickly into the evening and was very glad to find a comrade in feeling slightly awkward in the newness of this all. Everyone was excited. The feeling in the room was electric and I at least got the sense of even if I turn out to suck as a designer, I would at least meet a lot of awesome people.

Once the big board was up and the room was open, I went to do what I had been dreading: look to see if anyone had actually signed up for any of my games. Three were full and the last one only had one seat left. I nearly pissed myself. I took pictures of each sheet and sent them to Stentor as I was doing a crazy happy dance.

Part 2: The Kitten Lasers Playtests

Friday rolls around and my first playtest of Kitten Lasers was at 11am. I made myself eat breakfast and get there early to set up. We jumped into character creation and it was so nice to have actual people there to prove that somethings were broken. It's very hard to see that on your own and sometimes asking friends to point out flaws is a bit hard. There were things that stood up, somethings that crumbled.

And it was OKAY.

It made me happy to have players who were happy to be there show me what needed to be fixed. Everyone loved the theme, loved character creations, was happy to give ideas how to make the mechanics flow better. It was a great atmosphere.

On Sunday, I did my second playtest. I went ahead and changed all the things that fell apart. We got through character creation, bidding, the first scene and the second bidding phase. Everything I had changed now worked and I got to actually see what else needed fixed. I can't even express how grateful I am for this experience.

We have a game. That will work.

That people want to play.

(This is a picture of the players of the very first playtest. Thanks so much to you all!)


I will continue on about the rest of my impressions of the con later. This was just such an emotional experience for me that I still need processing time.

Look forward to the dramatic conclusion!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Greetings and Salutations!

It seems it's about time to introduce myself.

Hi there, I'm Cheyenne Rae Grimes. *waves*

I am the newest member of Glittercats and I am beyond thrilled to be apart of this awesome company. Stentor and I have been incredibly close for the last 4 years now. We met through playing a game (well, kickball to be exact) and we have been gaming together ever since.

About myself. West Virginian by birth, currently an Ohio resident. I originally went to school for theater and work as a stage manager for several companies in Georgia and Florida. Due to unforeseeable health issues, I gave up the profession and am now going back to school for psychology. I love cats, contra dancing, giggling as I beat the pants off of you at heavy strategy board games, knitting, karaoke and being overall adorable.

I grew up loving video and board games, but didn't start playing RPGs until I was in college. Around 2009, I began playing any indie narrative game I could get my hands on and started attending cons. For a few years, I helped run the board game meet up aspect of Obscure Games (now City of Play) in Pittsburgh.

Moving to Cleveland has been a huge step for me in becoming a game designer. I started GMing games again, mainly through Games on Demand and got involved with IGDN through working at cons. I also just became an Ambassador for Double Exposure's Envoy program. All of these things are incredible and it's amazing to get the opportunity to work with all these great companies and the people associated with them.

Soon, I will have a Fate core hack published in the Fate Codex with Nicole Winchester. Besides working on two titles for Glittercats, I will also be working with Michelle Lyons-McFarland on A Comedy in Five Acts, the follow up to her wonderful A Tragedy in Five Acts.

Gaming has been such a fantastic step back into the world of creativity for me. It's a well needed return and I so look forward to where it takes me. I will be attending Metatopia this weekend and can't wait to report back on what I was able to take in.

So super excited to be on the Glittercats team!

(Here's a picture of me schooling a kitten. Enjoy!)