• There's never been a better time to take an adventure 'round the world

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    80 Days is a game based on the Jules Verne novel Around the World in 80 Days, but with a significant steampunk—and anti-colonial—twist. You play Phileas Fogg's valet, Jean Passepartout, who must not only plan the sometimes-complex logistics of the journey, but ensure his master's well-being along the way.

    The graphics and aesthetic of the game are beautiful; they light sepia-tinted fires to the imagination as one plays, and act as gentle companions to the core act of reading, managing income and inventory, and making choices about how to travel and what to do along the way. But it's the writing by Meg Jayanth, with a few stories added by director Jon Ingold, that makes 80Days game so memorable and more-ish.

    While Jayanth loved the original Verne tale, she says she found his portrayal of Aouda, an Indian princess, to be "infuriating." Treated like a "conquered territory" and a "prize for Fogg," the character of Aouda evoked everything wrong with white European portrayals of non-white women in colonized countries. If Jayanth was going to try her hand at rewriting this classic tale, there would have to be an answer to Aouda.

    In the process she wound up writing a hundred.

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    80 Days became a steampunk world where technology was both magical and political, where maps were dramatically redrawn, and where non-white people and women alike had scores of characters expressing a variety of views about this volatile world. Whereas the original Verne tale never left the British Empire, here the boundaries of Victoria's kingdom are reduced, Asian and African empires have more robustly resisted European colonialism (while perpetrating abuses of their own), and Fogg and Passepartout must go well beyond their comfort zone and the protection of Her Majesty to complete their journey.

    When the game first released on iOS, it became an instant classic—interactive fiction games often resist penetrating broader game audiences, but the tablet-friendly beauty and readability of 80Days earned it acclaim in many circles, and multiple media awards. Now the game comes to digital download platform Steam, and with that release comes a brand-new expansion to the game: Canada, the US, and South America have more cities to visit and many more people to talk to—especially Natives, who Jayanth felt got short shrift in the original script.

    "To be honest," she tells us, "the lack of proper representation of native peoples in North America really bothered me when we first released—there are some in the U.S., but not nearly enough. It was always a goal to cover more of Canada and the US, and include more native peoples, but in the end I really didn't want to go in without proper research and time to get to grips with the history."

    The result of that research—writ large in all of Jayanth's stories throughout 80 Days—is an impressive alternate history of Native North America and a bevy of new and interesting characters.

    Assimilationist compromise and vibrant resistance are portrayed in equal measure and with sympathy. A mixed-race gyrocopter pilot who believes the past should be left behind; the Blackfoot Confederacy's ownership of the Canadian Pacific Railway through creative treaty negotiations; a floating city where pan-Native resistance to settler colonialism rules the day, a proud Native woman Mountie; all have their say and make their mark in Jayanth's lush prose. The nature of narrative fiction is such that it allows for such capacious characterization, where finely honed descriptions and dialogue can fill in vast spaces that advanced graphics cannot even begin to render. Jayanth extends the quiet triumph of her writing here: she portrays people of color as diverse unto themselves, with different politics and ways of engaging the world.

    It's not just a breath of fresh air, but a whole climate thereof in a medium where we're used to seeing maybe one character of color burdened with representing their people. Instead Jayanth gives us credible snapshots of civilizations.

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    The new content pops up all over the globe, but is concentrated primarily in the Americas, where several new routes across its vast terrain have been added, along with a bevy of new characters for Fogg and Passepartout to bump into. It really is more of everything I loved in the original; more dashing, muscular women piloting airships, more clockwork dreams come to life, more transcontinental train journeys, more humanizing speculative fiction.

    The Native American and First Nations characters are carefully and elegantly written, many identified by tribe and with various languages represented faithfully; they're active, diverse, credible participants in this volatile world of brass and steam. This is a throughline of the game: exploring what travel technology means to a crowd of characters from around the globe.

    It was a tone that had already been set by the game's last update, which added the North Pole and a lot of lore about Arctic native peoples. Qausuittuq, a secret city at the Pole, "was founded for one purpose—for the Circumpolar peoples to learn and develop the technologies of steam and oil and automata. To make them our own, before they destroy our homes, our culture, our way of life," in the powerful words of Ráijá Juho, a Sami engineer.

    The new content extends that beautiful conceit down into Canada and the U.S. In addition to making this world's wondrous technology their own, Native people here militate with stereotypes—alcohol comes up a lot, but primarily as an indictment of settlers. In one fascinating scene, Passepartout and Fogg are mistaken for whiskey traders by a First Nations woman and dealt with appropriately. Meanwhile, the Blackfoot Confederacy leverages its majority stake in the Canadian Pacific to banish alcohol and tobacco from their trains. Others pilot airships or gyrocopters, others convert to Christianity or act as translators for the settlers.

    In short: they're human.

    But it's the way Jayanth weaves this humanity into the fantastical fiction of 80 Days' steampunk world that really sells the whole thing. My favorite addition to the game has to be Kahwoka Othunwe, the Floating Village: imagine a free Native city held aloft and steered by a rainbow of balloons and dirigibles, where the Sioux, Cree, and Iroquois nations came together to create both policy and foment anti-colonial resistance in secret, their existence confirmed only by rumor and tall-tales.

    It's another wonder that humbles Passepartout and Fogg on their travels. "We are a spark of defiance," Winona Fire Thunder, an Oglala Lakota tribeswoman, says of Kahwoka Othunwe to her white visitors, "A story to be told in the dark, when all hope seems lost."

    In that moment, my tablet became a candle in the night.

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    In reviewing the expansion, I tried to take paths that I knew would lead through the new content, but I hit a snag in the form of the game's best feature.

    You see, it can be surprisingly challenging to commit to a specific path in the game. With most cities acting as forks in your long road, the call of adventure, to skip out on your own itinerary, is difficult to resist. I resolve to take the Trans-Siberian Railway and yet find myself on a ferry to Helsinki, and thence to the North Pole. Why? Perhaps breaking one's own rules is what freedom looks like; often in my real-life travels I've wanted to hop off to some other far-flung locale in lieu of returning home. 80 Days lets your spontaneity run wild on primitive cars, majestic ships, dinghies, dirigibles, hovercraft, trains of every vintage, and all modes of transport in between.

    Last week, in reviewing Wheels of Aurelia, Leigh Alexander wrote about the particular way women experience the freedom of driving; in a curious way, 80 Days does the same thing for us with almost every other form of transport. Though the game centers on the journey of two men, and does so staggeringly well, the lavish stories that vivify the many women they meet on their travels makes it easy for me to identify with them—especially those that accompany Fogg and Passepartout for a few days or more.

    There are a number of examples I could cite from the game's spiderweb storylines, of mighty travelling women for whom a ship or a balloon or a motorcar is a means of escape and survival. But one story, written by Jon Ingold and new to this update, stands out brightly.

    If luck is with you and you find yourself a tad adventurous, you might find yourself in the company of The Black Rose, a nonpareil jewel thief who sets her sights on the mightiest prize this world has to offer. You can catch a fleeting glimpse of her on a train, shove her away from your company for the pleasure of Monsieur Fogg, or make a boon companion of her to travel the world with. The latter option will not disappoint.

    For women, especially queer people and women of color, travel is the essence of precarity; it is purposeful, with each mile potentially being our last. Mission weaves a curious helix with spontaneity and adventure; travel washes away our pasts and gives us the illusion of actually being the machines that convey us to far flung destinations. The Black Rose, an elegant and cunning figure embodies this perfectly; she is the only other person in the game who travels as far and wide as Passepartout and Fogg, and who keeps up with the brisk pace of their journey.

    You may find, as I did, that her purpose and her longing for the freedom of the open skies makes for much better companion than the dour Englishman who initiated this journey.

    I related to her in an odd way; escaping from a hardscrabble upbringing through travel and practised elegance. What else could I do but spread my wings and take flight with her?

  • Read Only Memories breathes life into queer characters in Neo San Francisco

    A fateful and illicit meeting of the minds in 1945 Leningrad between the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova and Oxford philosopher Isaiah Berlin left a lasting impression on both. So much so, in fact, that Akhmatova dubbed her English colleague her "guest from the future," a man who brought ideas from a world beyond the stultified hell of the Soviet Union.

    There was a gloomy scent to the phrase, one very characteristic of Akhmatova's unique style, and it seems well suited to a cute blue robot who brings tidings of their own through the medium of a videogame. Turing, the protagonist of Midboss' newly released Read Only Memories 2064, is a guest from an all-too-credible future— one as layered as Akhmatova's own thoughts about her time. (more…)

  • Remembering Syberia, an adventure game about a woman finding herself

    DAN: Kate! I don't know what they're feeding you in Europe but don't you
    think it's time that you came home?

    KATE: But my mission still isn't finished!

    DAN: To hell with your mission! I don't know why you accepted it in the
    first place!

    Throughout her transcontinental train journey, into ever-stranger lands not found on any map, lawyer Kate Walker's charmingly 90s-style mobile phone keeps her tethered to a less enchanted world. Sometimes that phone is necessary to solve a puzzle, but much more often it's used to keep her in touch with people, like her fiancé Dan, back in New York who are increasingly distant from Kate and the rapidly expanding boundaries of her world.

    B. Sokal's 2002 adventure game Syberia is about Kate's metamorphosing mission to find the lost heir to an Alpine toy company, whose signature she desperately needs in order to close a sale to the conglomerate, Toy Co. that's retained her law firm's services.

    Kate arrives in the village where the small company is headquartered. Briefcase in hand, swaddled in a trench-coat, Kate's surrounded by the curtain of rain dripping from her umbrella. The weather wept for the death of Anna Voralberg, whose death precipitated the change of ownership that Kate Walker was sent to formalise.

    But, it turns out, there's an heir out there—Voralberg's long-lost brother, Hans. Spurred by this revelation, Kate takes a clockwork train, heading east in to the unknown, with an automaton conductor, Oscar, at her side (don't you dare call him a robot). They grow close, riffing on each other, a platonic double-act on rails, speeding into the mist.

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    Along the way, on one of many phonecalls, she tells her increasingly fretful mother: "Looking for Hans Voralberg is what I'm being paid for, but I also just want to find him for myself."

    Somewhere in forgotten lands between the Alps and Siberia I began to realize that the game I was playing was not just an enchantingly obtuse puzzle-based adventure title, but a covert how-to-manual for ending a bad relationship. Indeed, Syberia can be read as an extended parable about women's independence, and it's through her phone that Kate tells that story.

    * * *

    If video games could be dusty old tomes, Syberia might well qualify as a discovery on a forgotten bookshelf.

    Poverty kept it from me back in 2002, when it was first released. A decade later, however, the urge to recover lost artifacts of a never-happened childhood drove me to download Syberia from Steam. After adjusting to its obsolete standard-definition screen resolution, I was immediately lost in Kate's adventure. The story is a steampunk fantasy with a bored New York lawyer, dressed in jeans and a windbreaker, heading off to points unknown—and not just to fulfill her demanding boss' dictates, but to see what lies beyond the horizon.

    What makes it so interesting is that it uses its through-the-looking-glass conceit to tell a rare story of a woman's growth, of Walker shaking herself free of her ossified city life.

    In her first phonecall from Dan, he upbraids her for not being able to attend a dinner party with one of his clients because of the sudden extension of her business trip. You are not given the sense that this is a reciprocal relationship, and Walker comes to realise this for herself as she travels.

    To progress, you do what you do in any good adventure game: solve complex puzzles and explore. From a decaying university to creaking cosmodromes and rusting Soviet factories, age and desolation flow outwards from the railtracks that guide Walker's journey. Like a bright, speeding spark, she summons life from each of these derelict calling points. But here the relationship is reciprocal. What Kate gives to the places she visits, she receives in return: vivification, a new lease on life.

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    This realization—that life need not be entirely about self-sacrifice, and that she can determine her own course while still doing good—drives her on and comprises the throughline fable of the game. In the words of Louisa May Alcott, Kate learns that "liberty is a better husband than love to many of us."

    Reciprocity is the shape of liberty here. Just as Kate helps Helena Romanski, an aged opera diva in a desolate dacha, to rediscover her voice, so too does Romanski help Kate find hers. The Russian soprano is found thanks to Kate placing a phonecall home to her mother and discovering she was "entertaining" another retired opera singer who happened to know Romanski. Here, the need to solve a puzzle intertwines directly with the growth of Kate's character; even as she begs off details of her mother's successful date, she seems thereafter inspired by her mother's adventurous example, which would no doubt have scandalised her fiancé and coworkers.

    But for Kate, her rebellion is about freeing herself from her love life; each phone call finds her more distant from home not just in miles, but in spirit as well. She realises Dan has precious little interest in her work and seems to want her back in New York as a fixture of normality rather than anything else. She attempts to involve him in her adventures, describing the beauty of the aged sights on her travels, such as "an extraordinary train station-aviary" in the town of Barrockstadt. "If only you could see it," she says. Dan hardly cares. It's not long after a loving description of trees and exotic birds that he says "to hell with your mission!"

    To Kate's credit, she doesn't back down. When Dan follows up his Luciferian wish with a plea to "put yourself in my shoes," she replies:

    "Your shoes? Not only do I have to fit myself into your diary but I've got to get myself into your shoes as well? Is there anywhere else sir would like me to put myself now we're on the subject?"

    Her journey to find the mysterious Hans Voralberg, whose automata and clockwork inventions dot the countryside, isn't even half done at that point.

    * * *

    What happens in the end, of course, is inevitable. But the breakup is no flaming thing. It sibilates out of existence, a distant echo barely heard, via satellite, across the vastness between her and Dan.

    There was a grace and maturity to it that struck me; in the hands of a lesser writer, this subplot would've rendered Kate Walker a jealous hysteric. Instead, when she discovers that her best friend Olivia (who also calls her, mostly, to defend Dan) had begun an affair with him in Kate's absence, she is merely contemplative because she has come to know herself. She recognizes that her feelings have moved on.

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    Her mission was initially spurred on by the demands of her law firm, but Kate admits that this became a convenient excuse to pursue something greater. Something more than a grubby business deal was pulling her towards Syberia.

    By this time she's brought automata to life, launched a spaceship, rescued both Oscar and Helena Romanski in a daring escape, and finds herself intrigued by the eponymous Syberia—a lost icy island where wooly mammoths still roam. Dan did not want to be a part of that life, the kind of life so rarely lived by women in video games: one where she grows.

    Time and again, Dan and Olivia's phonecalls remark with worry and disgust that Kate seems "changed" by her time in Europe; she's shed her lethargy like an old coat and her zeal for her railway journey blazes. But the fire she displayed throughout much of the game's correspondence has now become a tightly focused light leading her into the unknown, and in her final call with Dan, she says to him calmly: "I know this trip has taken me far from New York and far away from the Kate you once knew. And you know what surprises me the most? I don't miss it."

    "Maybe," she continues, "we've just realized we don't really love each other, Dan."

    After Kate hangs up she dynamites a mighty, masculine steel giant blocking the train-tracks forward.

    Sometimes heavy-handed symbolism is just what the moment calls for.

  • Let go: this moving game about gravity will catch you

    In most games, you live or die by your reflexes. Your virtual life depends on hair-trigger responses, your ability to bob and weave through each precious millisecond with physics-defying skill. As long as you react fast enough or forcefully enough, you can bend the game to your will. In Gravity Ghost, it's the opposite. You succeed not through speed or force, but by letting go.

    A uniquely eloquent and moving puzzle-solving game by Ivy Games, Gravity Ghost introduces us to a cheeky young protagonist named Iona. While she was once a very corporeal little girl, she appears to us first as a beautifully imagined ghost swirling through a galactic afterlife.

    As Iona, you use the gravity of celestial objects like planets to slingshot you into the sky, where you capture the stars you need to unlock each beautifully hand-painted level. Although you learn new and different navigational skills over time, Iona always remains cheerfully in thrall to the pull of those adorable little worlds.

    At first, you're set loose to explore the universe with little to no explanation, but as you ricochet off planets and soar through constellations, you also start rescuing lost animal spirits that return more and more of Iona's memories.

    Soon, you realize that the world you're exploring is a crossroads, where the real physical universe and Iona's imagination overlap. The physics of the world are not the only laws at work here; the rules and possibilities governing the game flow also from Iona's own trusting and optimistic nature. You learn, for instance, that unlike her earthly friends and family, Iona did not fear wild animals; when others told her to be afraid, Iona opened herself up to the world.

    There's an irony baked into it all. Without giving away too much, the universe of Gravity Ghost—which always "catches" Iona when she falls—was not quite so kind to her in life. The universe you explore now is a place that finally rewards Iona's perpetual sense of wonder, and her boundless trust that nothing will leap out and attack her. As a picture of the afterlife, it reads as an apology.

    You can't die in Gravity Ghost, and you fight no 'enemies' in the traditional sense. Instead, you simply learn to fly and solve the puzzles created by the positioning of various celestial bodies in each level; all is in learning the fluidity of this astral dance. She trusted the world, and in turn the universe does not harm her;

    The world she lives in now is a galaxy that protects her, filled with celestial animals that cuddle with her, and an airless space that allows her quips and puns to echo through eternity. As you progress, you find that this is a story not just about Iona's courage and convictions, but also the universe's way of saying "I'm so, so sorry."

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    Although there's a charming story that runs through Gravity Ghost, it's the controls that truly allow you to know Iona. Games communicate not just through images or words, but through the way you play them. Just as opera demands expression through the ineffable congress of instruments in the orchestra pit, the best games use the unique textures of the medium to say what characters by themselves could not. Even the mightiest Brunnhilde needs a backing of expressive trumpets; Iona needs her enchanted hair tracing elliptical orbits among the stars, yielding to the sensitive and patient movements of your hand.

    My strongest moments in Gravity Ghost—the ones where I accomplished the most and pulled off the most elegant maneuvers—were the times when I made my gestures as minimal as possible. Early in the game, I found myself stuck on a puzzle where Iona spun around in orbit around a planet, trying to tap three shapes in only a few seconds. Over and over, I tried to force her to move where I wanted her to go, each time I heard the puzzle reset with the chime of failure. I started to get frustrated.

    Then… I gave in. I didn't give up, no, I just let go. I stopped trying to tightly control my orbit and instead relaxed into the gravity of the little planet that I'd been fighting this whole time. I stopped seeing Iona as a superheroine battling against an impossible power and yielded to it instead, embodying her trust and turning her into a ghostly moon swinging in the arms of a larger force.

    And lo and behold, I solved the puzzle—and every other obstacle set before me—the moment I stopped struggling. There was no hurry, no clock to beat but my own. I'd find a way, gravity would find a way. Ultimately, the solution was simple: I had to stop treating Gravity Ghost like every other game I'd played.

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    Learning to let go and trust the world is one of the most important skills you acquire throughout the game; you have to truly inhabit Iona's spirit as she is presented over the course of several flashbacks. Trusting, adventurous, unafraid of getting messy, never dwelling on the fear of failure.

    Just flying.

    That is Gravity Ghost's beating heart and the language it speaks. It compels you to give up some of the godlike command that most games treat as our birthright. You are by no means out of control, but what it takes to fly with Iona is a bit of her willingness to become one with the solar wind.

    Put another way, this is a game where you must surrender the godlike command that most games treat as our birthright. Gravity is an uncaring force, but it need not be your enemy either; if you work with it, you succeed; if you fight it like some goblin in a dungeon, you won't necessarily fail, but you will flail in frustration. Your expertise lies not in how quickly or often you can press a button, but how rather minimally and elegantly you can respond and still keep a little girl aloft in the night sky.

    There was something about Iona's magical flight that I needed in my life right now, something about its sincerity that only motion could reveal. The more you treat Gravity Ghost like a game that wants to punish you, the harder it will be. But if you let yourself go and trace long, comet-like paths to your destination, the game becomes easier, more like an extension of your will to fly.

    Somewhere in these stars, amid a bevy of cute puns ("I have discovered the Hugs-Boson!"), spectral animals, elemental powers, Swedish folk songs, and sacred geometries, you don't simply unravel Iona's past, but also something of yourself as you soar in her trusting, safe night sky.

    After finishing the game in a single sitting, I found myself going outside and looking into the real night sky for Iona, imagining a comet's tail of white hair streaming through the night. I reflected on what it was that Gravity Ghost's many orbits and sacred geometry had said to me. It was something I needed to hear—and to feel—after the last seven months: smile, trust, and let go. Somehow, the universe will catch you.

  • Fantasy worlds that break history's back

    If you've ever wondered why the future looks the same in so very many sci-fi games, books, and comics, you would be well served by considering their histories.

    We can often blame poor character design or latent prejudice for the suffocating tropes that bedevil so much fictional media. But what role does worldbuilding play? After all, the society characters inhabit shapes and defines them, as does the history of the world you've drawn for them.

    But too often, fantasy worlds are created like Ikea furniture, popping up whole with minimal assembly from big pre-existing parts that creak and come apart after heavy use. That's why so many many fictional worlds seem to produce carbon copies of real world Western gender hierarchies, even if it becomes painfully dissonant with other details of the setting.

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    For example, the Star Wars wiki says Knights of the Old Republic's Admiral Dodonna is one of the few women serving at such a high rank in the Republic Navy. But while women rarely making top brass is indeed a feature of our real world, Star Wars is set a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

    Why does a 20,000 year old hyperspace-capable society spanning literally thousands of alien civilizations seem to have gender issues that seem ripped from the last decade, without explanation?

    Time and again, major details of settings are skyhooked in wholesale with no explanation or care. Leaving aside the politics of it all, it simply makes these settings (and the games they're played in) less compelling, less memorable.

    More attention to detail and more questioning assumptions would go a long way toward fixing this problem. In the meantime, wouldn't it be nice if there were a fun, structured, collaborative way of questioning the conventions we bring with us to worldbuilding?

    Thankfully, Ben Robbins' Microscope, a unique pen-and-paper roleplaying game, exists.

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    Salesmanship still counts for something, especially among independent booksellers. The affable chap at the Modern Myths Comic Books and Games booth at PAX East excitedly burst into an irresistible pitch as my hand glided over Microscope — he told me it was a lightweight but tremendously rich game that saw players literally make history, conjuring the historical details of some setting from whole cloth.

    What made it click for me, though, was when he told me that he used Microscope not as a self-contained game (as it was designed), but as a setting engine for his Dungeon World players. First they'd collaborate on the setting using the Microscope system, taking turns drilling down from broad historical epochs to individual illustrative moments, and then diving into a traditional campaign running off the Dungeon World system (a rules-light alternative to Dungeons & Dragons).

    It was one of those happy moments when you witness someone breaking something in a way that creates something new. The beauty of pen-and-paper RPGs is that they lend themselves to the most intimate forms of modding, and what that bookseller did with his RPG group was no exception.

    Image credit: The Logbook Project

    Image credit: The Logbook Project

    The three concentric circles that form Microscope's logo are perhaps the simplest description of the game. You begin by bookending the history you wish to explore, defining the limits between, say, cavepeople and interstellar colonisation, or something more focused like the founding of a religion and its ultimate schism. Once set, players take turns being "lenses" who set the focus for a given round of play, say a specific era in that history or a specific point in time, person, or event. During this round, every other player takes turns adding something to the setting and its history. The main rule is that they cannot contradict anything already established.

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    Intriguingly, the game also forbids direct collusion between players at this stage. Robbins believes that any emerging consensus would tend towards the flatpack cliches I described earlier; I don't think he's wrong. Putting each player in the "hotseat," as he calls it, to put forth an original historical concept injects real creative energy into the history being woven.

    The game emphasizes the crisp spontaneity that emerges when time has no meaning for you. You can, at your leisure, wander through history filling in the blanks as you go. You can nuke a city and then travel back 5000 years to paint in all its little details for the rest of the evening, or travel forward in time to when the city is rebuilt. Only when the lens zooms in on a specific moment in time where character interaction is involved does everyone come together to roleplay a given scene. Here the microscope lens is at maximum magnification: You take a historical moment, say the assassination of an empress, and act it out in detail, explaining what happened and why.

    The game forces you to answer that crucial question, why, again and again, and this is where it chisels away at tropes. When you ask why, say, a random sci-fi setting has a patriarchy ripped from the 50s, you'll at the very least produce a much more interesting setting than the chrome plated clones that populate many a paperback bargain bin. This is what made Christine Love's Analogue: A Hate Story so fascinating. It depicting a stultifyingly sexist world where every inch of text seemed to bathe in ichorous misogyny, but the whole point of the game was to figure out why the setting was like this. You were not merely asked to accept the sexism but instead expressed agency as a player through finding a way to explain it and expose the social relations that created it.

    Microscope teaches you how to do this, in a beautifully low-cost and structured way. No one player has ownership of the setting, and the system effectively simulates the sometimes chaotic flow of real world history. In another way, it feels like the old BBC documentary Connections given ludic form. From the chaos of various players' inputs on the history emerges a strange, almost celestial order.

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    "The past is never closed," writes Robbins when he encourages players to hop around the burgeoning timelines they create. It's a particularly enchanting way to look at Microscope. It demystifies the endlessly challenging sociological dimension of worldbuilding and makes it accessible to anyone. As interesting as it was to play around with by itself, I think the Modern Myths chap had the right idea; it's the perfect setting-creator and a brilliant way to democratise setting creation in games that involve GMs. It is specifically designed to draw on the particularities of each player's creativity, while also taking consent seriously.

    At the very start of the game the players collaboratively develop a "palette," a Yes/No list of things they definitely want to include or exclude from the setting entirely. Imagine if one put "bigotry" in the "No" column. What kind of history would result?

    Now there's a story waiting to be told.