This week, the GDC Vault has debuted a free video of GDC 2011’s Game Design Challenge, which saw the rise of the unorthodox multiplayer title Chain World.
This session, officially dubbed, “The Game Design Challenge 2011: Bigger than Jesus,” tasked developers with creating a game that also served a religion, and this premise spawned some very interesting results.
The August 2011 issue of Wired magazine recently ran an in-depth feature discussing the challenge, titled ‘Chain World Videogame Was Supposed to be a Religion – Not a Holy War.’ The article, which is also available online, offers a fascinating look at this standout session from GDC 2011, and provides a look at what happened afterward.
As author Jason Fagone explains in the introduction, independent game designer and IGF Nuovo award winner Jason Rohrer (Between, Passage) created an unusual game based on a USB memory stick and Mojang’s hit indie game Minecraft.
Fagone writes, “According to a set of rules defined by Rohrer, only one person on earth could play the game at a time. The player would modify the game’s environment as they moved through it. Then, after the player died in the game, they would pass the memory stick to the next person, who would play in the digital terrain altered by their predecessor — and on and on for years, decades, generations, epochs.
In Rohrer’s mind, his game would share many qualities with religion — a holy ark, a set of commandments, a sense of secrecy and mortality and mystical anticipation. This was the idea, anyway, before things started to get weird. Before Chain World, like religion itself, mutated out of control.”
On the way to winning the Eric Zimmerman MC-ed Game Design Challenge — against stiff competition such as legendary Doom/Quake designer John Romero and Flower/Journey game creator (himself re-named after a Final Fantasy game character!) Jenova Chen — the following happened to Rohrer:
“Then the presenter playing God looked down and saw a crippled man standing before him. He was short and wore rimless glasses. With one hand he gripped a metal walker, and with the other he reached up for Chain World. I can’t believe this is happening, Rohrer thought. He placed the stick in the man’s palm. What he said next was misheard by several people as ‘Be healed’ but it was actually more of a startled bleat: ‘Hunn-yaaaaaayy!’ Rohrer returned to the dais, and the man with the walker muttered, ‘Thanks,’ and bowed his head to the crowd.”
Of course, as you’ll read, the person in question wasn’t actually crippled, but “was using a walker the day of the challenge because, the night before, he had injured himself dancing at a game-industry party thrown by Electronic Arts.”
Nonetheless, the rest of the article goes into the fascinating next steps, which include throwing memory cards into volcanoes, multi-thousand dollar auctions won by mysterious entities called Positional Super Ko, and the interesting consequences of imposing real-life rules on playing a video game.
To check out the event that marks the beginning of this unusual story, visit the GDC Vault for a free video recording of GDC 2011’s Game Design Challenge, as well as a host of other talks from throughout the history of the Game Developers Conference.
Full GDC Vault access is available to GDC 2011 All-Access Pass holders, speakers, and All-Access Pass buyers to other GDC events for the rest of 2011. (Subscribers having issues accessing content should contact GDC Vault admins.)
Individual Vault subscriptions not tied to All-Access passes are now available in a limited-edition Beta invite process — those interested in signing up to be invited in on a first come, first served basis should sign up on the GDC Vault website. In addition, game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company. More information on this option is available via viewing an online demonstration.