When I finally got to the Indie Palace area at Lucca, in the Palace Hotel, Beatrice Da Vela and Filippo Zolesi, the latter a.k.a. our very own Pippo Jedi at the Patreon, came to see me with their game Quella Volta Che. It’s not funny or cute, but head-on, headlong into the thick of sexual harassment as experienced by anyone. It’s intended to be published with a collection of survivor/testimony accounts of harassment. The title is a little idiomatic, meaning “the time when …,” or I guess, “that time when it happened,” “at that moment,” or similar.
They didn’t expect that I’d respond to them by beginning to play, which I suppose is the occupational hazard of game design when I’m around. As with the briefer play of Blood Red Blossoms, this was held in the noisy room, so the poor Yeti mike had to work overtime. It did heroically capture our voices clearly, but the background is still pretty bad. You’ll see that I switched cameras in the middle too, as I’m still figuring out the right strategy for my tech.
The topic itself is certain to prompt all manner of rhetoric, but since anyone can find the standard rhetoric anywhere on the internet, at this site I’d rather attend to the structure and play of this particular game. Especially since it is wonderfully clear of all such blather. You might not believe it, but I think it captures very well the difference between responsibility and blame – if a person thinks either that harassment only occurs because bad people do bad things, or that harassment is some arbitrary accusation that can be flung casually at anyone acting in any way, the game will go far to show the tem wide-ranging, shadowy reality between these fantasies.
I especially appreciated how the standards for the boundaries are themselves constructed from the input and response of actual people at the table, without negotiation or tedious discussion. I drew heavily on my own experiences as a college grad student and prof, and felt OK with taking them farther in the fiction than they went (for me) in reality, due to the boundary methods that threw “stop” points to the table rather than left up to me.
The “enough” mechanic looks a lot like one of the Witness’ mechanics in Shahida, but it also differs in that it allows a brief spin-back in the fiction itself, so that the circumstances occupy a fine knife-edge between what the first person said and the second one responded to.
Now, I might have this wrong, so correct me if necessary, but I think the rules about pauses and similar Veil-ish, Line-checking techniques are inspired from what Stefano Burchi is doing with Stonewall. However, since play was followed by a phenomenal conversation about such things, I’ll mention them here. Specifically: that these two designers, Stefano, and evidently quite a few others comprise a veritable revolt against the X-card. Beatrice was especially firm, stating that the latter technique is a silencing and violent act, not merely “poor” or “weak,” but literally bad.
I’m agog with admiration for that. Cue plans for a Monday Lab as soon as possible. This makes my criticisms during my talk with Keenan Kibrick look positively mild.
Hey, something else that occurred to me as I was typing here. In the first part of play, several possible protagonists (or victims, or survivors, whatever term you’d like) are created, but only two are used in the harassment phase, and the rest are removed from play. I’m probably making this up, but it seems to me as if “something happens” to them too … but we never learn about it; they’re the invisible instances.