Wild Cards


Making a game is like writing a story where the readers argue with each other and decide what happens.

Sounds scary right? If you write a story about a bunch of Velociraptors having a race, you get to decide that one of them gets squashed by a Seismosaurus, another takes a short cut across the back of a Diplodocus and one of them stopped to eat some Triceratops eggs along the way and still managed to win (giving your story a message about the importance of good diet for athletes). You decide everything: who the characters are, where the story is set, whether everybody makes it to the end of the story, who wins.

But if you make a game about Velociraptors having a race, well, then who knows? Maybe the raptor who won in your story got stepped on by a Seismosaurus in the actual game and never found the eggs; maybe the Diplodocus never turned up, but a someone got a lift from a Pterodactyl. As for who wins, well, you don’t get to decide—that’s up to the players!

That’s the exciting part of making games: you’re making an experience for others, which they’ll share with their friends, and create stories of their own. And that’s what I hope we’ll be doing in the Wild Cards workshop.

Each week we’ll play some games, like Creatures (where you make mighty beasts from the parts of other animals), Forbidden Desert (where you must work together to find the pieces of an ancient airship before you are buried in a sandstorm) and 1000 Blank White Cards (the card game where you make the cards yourself as you play). We’ll learn both what they’re about, and how they work.

We’ll figure out the ways in which rules build an experience that’s fun and cool and exciting, and maybe a bit scary too. For instance, in the dinosaur race game, should a player lose if they get squashed by the Seismosaurus, or would that be boring? How do you decide if someone gets squashed – is there a card that they draw? A space that they land on? Is there anything they can do to avoid it?

Okay…I need to run off and make this Velociraptor game. But I reckon you could make a great game too. Why don’t you come and find out at Wild Cards?

Ben McKenzie is an actor, comedian and game designer. He is the Games Mechanic for Melbourne-based company Pop Up Playground, which means he is their head games designer. Pop Up Playground have made games about creepy clowns, giant birds and tiny monsters, among other things. In his spare time Ben flies through time and space with Susan from Neighbours in the audio series Night Terrace. His favourite dinosaur is Stegosaurus, and they only reason they’re not in the Velociraptor game is that they died out 80 million years before there were any Velociraptors.