16 September 2011

The Game of Publishing

One day I'd like to design a board game that allows you to experience the ups and downs of a writer's life. It'd be super complicated and not straight up boring like Monopoly -- although I do love me some Monopoly.

I'd pattern it after Settlers and the other German games, with their more advanced and involved mechanics. It not only has to be engaging but also informative and educational. Creating such a game would be quite the challenge but if done right, it would be amazingly fun! Luckily I know how to make it just right.

There would be a general path you'd have to advance on of course, but it would also have some branching options where you can flex your powers of free will. Plus every player would have to accumulate cash and reputation points in order to buy things like equipment and good karma. Event cards would also dictate much of the action, similar to Community Chest and Chance.

Create a writing schedule and swear to stick to it: Spin your playing token in a furious circle, like an angry dreidel. Do not actually move the token forward or backwards any spaces.

Hit your word count for the day: Move forward one space. If you draw this card again, move forward two spaces. If you draw it a third time, move forward four spaces. A fourth time, move forward eight spaces. And so on.

Find a critique group: Choose someone at the table to become partners with. You will now revel in each other's successes while supporting each other through setbacks. If you pull this card again, choose another person to join your duo and decide if you want to be referred to as "The ____ Mafia" instead.
An agent wants to see a full manuscript: Move forward three spaces and roll D6 to see how many weeks before you get a reply.

Bidding war ensues: The banker flings a handful of (play) money in the air. Grab as much as you can before they fall to the ground. Other players must rate your effort as "nice, very nice, good, significant, or major" while clapping enthusiastically.

Keep the day job: Collect $X each time you complete one pass of the board. Collect $X times 2 if you're a lawyer. Collect $X divided by 2 if you work in publishing.

Decide to self publish: Draw three extra cards and keep them in your hand. You can play these cards at any time but which one is randomly chosen by another player.

Throw a book party: Roll a D20 to see how many people attend, D100 if you're famous or in your hometown. D4 if you're anti-social and people generally dislike you.

Publisher gives you their cover design: Change your playing token to the first thing you find in the person sitting to your right's pocket. Hope you love it!

Debut day: Roll a D100,000,000 to see which Amazon rank you're at. Roll it four more times. Take the arithmetric, geometric, or harmonic mean of those results. If you're confused and don't know how to do any of them, well, you should have paid attention in math class instead of journaling.
Bloggers flame your book: Dunk your playing token in any nearby acidic liquids. If nothing appropriate is around, every other player must spit on your token.

Censored: Remove your token from the board. You now must remember where your token should be and play in invisible mode until you can get 75% of the other players to sign a petition to bring your token back. Bribes encouraged.

Google check: Go to a computer, type in your real name. Move ahead five spaces if you are the first hit. Otherwise take one step back for each result down you have to go until you find something related to you. Double the penalty if it's something embarrassing or inappropriate.

Kirkus rips apart your book: Shrug, like literally. If you don't shrug, you lose your next turn.

Hit massive writing block: Quickly flip the entire board over in one swift motion. (Apologize to everyone immediately afterwards for being an asshole.) Reset the board from memory.

Royalties come in: During your next game, you get $X extra to start with but only if the next session is played at least six months from now. Any earlier and you must wait to receive that $X.

Suffer poor sales related illness and go to the hospital: Lose half your cash. Have the player sitting directly across from you shoot a Silly Bandz toward your face. You can close your eyes but you cannot move. For the next two turns, complain about lack of health insurance and threaten to go play in a game environment with socialized medicine.

Film option for trilogy sold: Collect $X minus 15% and announce to the table who your dream cast would be. Hit redial on your cell phone and scream excitedly into it for five seconds before hanging up. Move forward three spaces, then back two. Then back one more.

Disparage another author: Within the next five turns you must slap the player sitting to your left. Bonus points if you knock something out of their mouth. Like food. Or a tooth. If they slap you back, you are now enemies. If they don't, that player has chosen to take the high road and you are now penalized one turn while they go twice.

Secure a teaching gig: Change your outfit into something scholarly and semi-presentable. Other players can offer their clothing if needed. Everyone must now address you as "professor" for the rest of the session and they must raise their hand before doing so.

Make it onto the NYT Best Sellers List: Roll D10 to see how many weeks. Roll D20 to see which spot. Affix a star sticker to your token. If you land on the same square as another unstarred player, your token must be displayed more prominently and pushed to the front. That player can then give you jealous eyes.

Shortlisted for the Pulitzer: You've instantly won the game! Now keep playing.
Oh man, I had so much fun thinking about this that I may need to make such a game right now. I could create event cards for hours. Forget my other responsibilities, this is much more important. Someone please find me a distributor and some collaborators and artists. The Game of Publishing is going to sell like those Henry Potter books. Pre-order now!

I was inspired to create this thing after thinking about how much (additional) fun publishing would be if you got scores and points for every little action. A bonus for social networking, three scores for prompt email responses, etc. The idea of making everything you do count for points is "gamification" and I for one would like it to take over the entire world.