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Meaningful Play 2018 at Michigan State University

Game Information

Presenter(s)Allen Turner, Doris Carmen Rusch
SessionConference Reception, Game Exhibition, and Poster Session
TimeThursday, October 11, 7:00p-10:00p
LocationMSU Union Ballroom
FormatGame Exhibition
DescriptionDreamWalk - a Mythical, Storytelling, Role-Playing Game

DreamWalk is a game of personal exploration through storytelling and mythmaking.
It is a table top adventure game that waits for player participation to form its narrative definition. We designed processes and rituals to help players to get into the proper mindset for engaging the
deeper play loop of the game. The game is made of the following parts.

1. Character Creation
The first part is the players' part. It is the creation of a self that will navigate and
explore the Dreamspace. In making avatars, or dream self, players have to identify important
pieces of themselves which we call virtues. These virtues are narrative elements that are the
inventory of tools that they bring into Dream with them. Each player identifies three virtues
which will be used to help them engage the narratives that arise in play. Players also identify
a flaw. This flaw represents the constant struggle and the part of themselves that causes not
only trouble for others, but also for themselves. There is an understanding that it is all the
troubles, of all the players, working in unison, that are the destabilizing factors of the Dream
that would otherwise be at balance and a source of nourishment. In addition, players all have
to manage a resource called Essence. Essence represents the inherent creative ability in
everyone. It presumes that no one is mundane and that we all have a magical spark. Care
must be taken to ensure that the spark doesn't take us towards madness or allow us to turtle
into extreme comfort spaces of bliss. Essence is consumed, generated and transformed as the
player interacts with the places and denizens of Dream. When a player's Essence falls out of
balance (too much madness or too much bliss) they disappear from dream and have to tell
stories to their companions that allow them to re-enter the Dream.

2. Exploring Dream-space / Game-space
The second part of the game is the Dream itself. The Dream is comprised of The
Maelstrom, which lies at the heart of Dream, generating troubles which creep out into the
world. The Havens, which are locations in Dream that represent archetypal ideals of
nourishment and growth; places where learning and transformation can happen. Lastly there
are the Dwellers who represent all sort of archetypal personifications. The Dwellers have
interactions and needs in relation to each other, representing collaborating or conflicting inner
forces. As the player meets and interacts with the Dwellers, the Dweller's present trials to the
player - i.e. the Self striving towards fulfilling of its potential expressed through building and
meaningfully transforming its Essence. The trial is presented in the form of a card that
suggests it is about helping or hindering another Dweller. On the card is one word, an action
verb like "love", or "take" or "guard", that sets the nature of the interaction.
The player's role in dream is to meet the Dwellers, project their own ideas onto the
dwellers to give them identity and then describe the story of the interaction and what trial is
at hand. The players create myth where they must alternately claim the roles of protagonists
and perpetrators. They then support or challenge each other to overcome the challenge or add
to the narrative of the challenge. Success brings the players closer to overcoming their own
flaws, which allows them to all, eventually, descend into the Maelstrom and tame it once
they've turned their own flaws into virtues. The taming of the Maelstrom and bringing
balance to Dream is the endgame, representing the integrative nature of living your authentic
self and coming to terms with existential struggles.

3. The Scribe
Because of the introspective nature of the storytelling process, the players don't do all
of this alone. The game requires an extra player, the Scribe, whose role is to ask the players
what they're doing, why they're doing it, what they find in the Dwellers, what they perceive
the Dwellers needs to be, and how those needs speak to each other. The Scribe also tends to
the troubles that are spilling into the world from the Maelstrom, which players must also
manage else they overwhelm the Havens. If a Haven is overwhelmed with troubles it is lost
to Maelstrom. If enough Havens are lost, the Maelstrom is empowered to swallow
everything. This, too, ends the game.

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