Post Mortem: Our Mutual Friend Felicia

Hello every reader out there, I’m back after another hiatus, to actually start this up again. I’m going to get into posting once a week again, it was a nice habit and allowed me to talk about game design.

So what do we have here?

Lately I’ve been working on Alternate Reality games and Ubiquitious games a lot and it all boiled down to a game I like to call, Our Mutual Friend, Felicia.

Our Mutual Friend, Felicia (or OMFF for short) is a treasure hunting, experience sharing game. The game is played in 4 simple steps.

A player finds a Diary, which tells them to read it, Within the diary or journal there is 3 rules.

1. Read through what is written in the journal.

2. If you like, write an entry in the journal, please keep it anonymous

3. Leave the Journal for another person to find.

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A player will read through the book, reading about other peoples experiences and feelings, without knowing them. This will give them a sense of knowing someone, someone that they actually don’t know.

As players are then asked to write down their own experiences into the book, this allows them to share experiences that they want to share, traumatic experiences, happy moments or just anything that they want to write that they want to share, but feel they are unable to share in person for any reason.

So it’s not much of a game but more of an experience, where players are supposed to share things that they might now be able to share. It is a Game as Therapy. Allowing people to talk about anything, with anyone, without knowing who will read it.

The History of OMFF

OMFF actually started out as a much bigger ARG which was focused on puzzle solving. much like http://notpron.org/notpron/ and I actually even built a concept document for that game.

It was a forum/youtube password hunting game, that was supposed to talk about invisible illnesses, such as depression and bipolarity. But after looking at my design and discussing it with a friend of mine. I ended up changing it, mostly due to that the game was more in focus then informing people about invisible illnesses.

After that I got the idea of writing a notebook, with puzzles and an alternate reality story in it, about a person with an invisible illness. the game was supposed to be played with a physical notebook, missing pages with clues on the none missing pages of where to find the online puzzles, that in turn show you the physical location of a bundle of missing pages.

The problem with this was two fold, it still wasn’t focused on invisible illnesses and it was still just lots and lots of puzzles that made the game interesting.

So I had many sleepless nights thinking about it, writing notes on how I would make the focus of the game into what people feel or have experienced and I realized that the interesting part of the game wasn’t really the puzzles, it was the journal.

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So I said to myself, as I have had depression earlier in my life. When I was depressed, what would I have needed, someone to talk to, that didn’t judge me or that I would never have to talk to again. Someone that I could just throw my emotions on and just walk away from it.

So a diary, but I have always felt personally that when I needed to talk to someone, just writing about it didn’t help, at least not enough. So having a way to anonymously share the experiences or my feelings would have been priceless.

That is the story of OMFF and how it went from a super complex puzzle game, into a game about sharing emotions anonymously.

Problems With OMFF

There are several problems in the design of OMFF, but the biggest problem is that it isn’t testable, If I as a designer put my game into play, I have no guaranteed way to get the book back or talk to the people who have encountered the book as it is anonymous.

I have resolved this by putting the link to this blog in the back of the book. So people can find this and talk to me about the book and their experiences about the game.

Hopefully someone will get here through the book and talk about it in the end!

Another problem with it is that players might be able to see the handwriting and a friend and recognize it. But it shouldn’t be a major problem if the book travel far enough.

I do not know if the engagement level in the game play is hard enough as I can’t really test the game yet (releasing the game and hoping to get feedback might be a weird way to do it, but it was my best idea this far)

Conclusion on OMFF

I would love to hear the feedback of people who have found the book and as OMFF is a pet project of mine, feel free to create your own book of OMFF if you want to(I will post the Concept document under the My Game Design tabs).

OMFF was designed to allow people to open up about problems they might have that they don’t want to or can share for any number of reasons, such as anxiety, not feeling comfortable with anyone about the problem. The game can although be used to convey a certain emotion or experience to a specific person, by leaving the book intentionally to a person after you have written in the book. But they might not know which of the entries are made by your.

Overall I would say that I’ve worked with OMFF over a longer time than I thought I had, it took me about 6 weeks to even realize what it was I actually wanted to do, creating the book and setting the rule wasn’t that hard, but getting to a concept that I was comfortable with and felt was strong led me on a minimalist path. Scoping the game down and down, but creating a product I felt was stronger and stronger each step along the way.

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