Designing Congrats, Grad! for P3 was a great opportunity to both work on an RPG game, and think about ways to help players process an impending and thus quite relevant experience.
Before making a systems game, I wondered how a game could possibly approximate all of our system’s factors, especially emotional effects. Though I do still think that the success of an RPG relies strongly on the players’ willingness to get into their role and the story, it was great to explore with my group how we could make the game venue more attractive and fun to play even for players less keen on the format. One example is how players gave consistent feedback through the playtests that they found it enjoyable to draw from their own experiences, and thus easier to get into the game and create scenarios than they might for, say, a fantasy or speculative RPG. This increasingly helps confirm for me that stories and storytelling really are one of the things that ground us as people, and that given the right framework — like our setup and rules — they are willing and excited to participate. I really learned this myself through playing Hush — though I think it was not for everyone, and I personally hadn’t loved RPGs up to that point, it really inspired me to think about how much a game could get people to create and process in just one page, and all the clever game mechanics that could be implemented in extremely effective ways to this effect. I definitely brought that experience with me into the creation process of Congrats, Grad! During playtests, I also genuinely enjoyed hearing the stories themselves, whether absurd and comedic, or closer to real life, and the ways that it made the players think about how they or their friends (if embodying a different persona) might feel about the system.
Looking at the relatively-final game now, I think I’m pretty happy about how it tries to model the impending and post-grad context. It was interesting to be the one in the group who had graduated and experienced some of the situations in “real life,” because I think in some ways this made me want to complexify the game even more based on personal and friends’ experiences. But there are really a lot of things I couldn’t have learned until it was actually happening, so I think it’s right that the point of the game isn’t to simulate the exact experience. Rather, I see it as a way to process existing hopes and anxieties about the future through play and conversation, and to hopefully create an environment of empathy and understanding, which is its own equally important part of the system. I think if I had had this game when I was about to graduate, it would have been pretty fun to play with my friend group. Going forward, especially as I continue working on educational projects, I’m happy to have gone through this design process, and definitely plan to keep these lessons in mind.