Thursday 28th May at Festival VERS Vlees, we ran the first “definitive” playtest of Vloedelingen.
Damn was it amazing.
I won’t talk about what exactly happened, the important thing to get down are the feedback, audience reactions and conclusions.
Feedback and Conclusions:
I only have time to revise the discussion moment after the show, but some very interesting feedback and discussion points emerged.
-Some players were frustrated, but not because of the game but because of the actions of other players. That’s a good sort of frustration! For example, the Winkelier really didn’t like the Advocaat and her talk of writing up a contract. The Visser didn’t like that the Advocaat wanted to punish him for stealing Diesel, make an example of him.
-One audience member (Oude Monteur) remarked that the whole experience revolved around social interaction, more than interaction with the core mechanic. Once he had crunched the numbers he realised it was impossible to care for everyone, and the Vastelanders would have to leave the Eiland. He explained that this is how it would be in real life.
He also said that he didn’t begin the show thinking the Vastelanders were bad at all. He soon grew suspicious and believed they had ulterior motives. “I’m not like that! You got that behaviour out of me!”
-The Vastelanders really enjoyed stealing the Diesel. In general, physical actions were very much loved by the audience, and they wanted more of it.
-The Kapitein and Burgemeester were very much enjoyed. The Audience thought that they worked extremely well, and without them there wouldn’t be much to work with. Not only did they explain the mechanics well, but as one remarked: “It’s scary to think how easily I can be led to believe in something prejudicial when there’s a strong figurehead telling me what’s what”. Then again, there’s no other point of reference to the setting.
-That leads me to another conclusion, that extreme one-sided opinions are boring and not very open for dramatic conflict. A character should not only hate the other group, they should have mixed feelings, at least. This makes for more interesting drama, and realism, therefore immersion, too.
-The audience liked the fact they sent the Burgemeester and Kapitein away on a boat to the Vasteland.
-There wasn’t enough time at the start to learn and get used to the mechanics, even if they’re simple as mechanics go.
-The passage of time still wasn’t clear enough. The time of day and what you can do then is very important to get clear from the very start.
-The Eilanders were aggressive from the start. They planned to hide all their valuables before the Vastelanders would come. The Winkelier even wanted to sink their boat!
-A cliffhanger ending does not work. The audience were very frustrated with this, and there’s no real reason for a cliffhanger. On friday I tried it again, but with a little prologue.
-There was an interesting discussion about whether to make the player characters moe complex or not. For example a suggestion to make a character alcoholic or have kleptomania. But others weren’t so keen. The characters were bare enough to make sure that while they had a role, function, and experiences to give context to the players’ relation to the setting, they weren’t defined too much, so that the characters were mostly played as an extension or exaggeration of the player’s personality. I think I’d much rather keep the characters roughly as they are. I’d like the pros of having roles and context, while also the pros of players playing as themselves (to different degrees), as the message hits that much harder, personally, to the audience.
“It’s amazing how you can, through your character, make your own personality bigger in just about 4 minutes.”
-For many Eilanders, the histories and prejudices illustrated by their characters and the Leiders didn’t really hit home. Not until the Vastelanders did “bad” things. Them stealing the Diesel was definitely needed to relativise abstract prejudices with actual events.
-The sounds such as the Radio and the Storm were very much enjoyed by the audience. They liked the fact that the Radio message was the very first thing they heard from the outside world.
-The associations the audience had with what the underlying theme of the show was, were interesting. One player immediately said she thought of the refugees in the mediterranean. Others certainly had some associations with discrimination. One person thought of team-building exercises. Another very nice quote “The show sort of showed me, especially when we were discussing what we had to offer to the Eilanders, and all we had were our skills, that we as Dutch people have no idea what it’s like to be a refugee in such a situation. You’ve got absolutely nothing but yourself and each other.”
One of the players told me that the biggest reason why he enjoyed the show so much, and why it had an impact on him, was that while he likes to think of himself as a peaceful person, that it’s not as black and white as that. He explained that the show held up a mirror to make him realise that in such a situation he would, let’s say, steal that diesel!
And the one thing that made me extremely happy after the show, when I was drinking a few beers with some of the audience, was that we started to talk about refugees, immigration, the very topics I wanted to winkle out of my audience’s minds! I’d say my goals were reached very well.