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Have You Played... Sleep Is Death?

Collaborative storytelling without the pen and paper

Featured post Me, responding to Rohrer's other games.

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Sleep Is Death brought a little of the pen-and-paper experience of collaborative storytelling to the PC.

One player is, effectively, the game master: they build a world using art they’ve drawn themselves or stock assets that came with the game. Maybe there’s a roome, a mattress, and nothing more; maybe there’s a forest and a cast of characters standing around a body.

Whatever the case, they then invite another player into that world. This player is the lead actor in an improvised stage play the two parties are now going to put on together. The actor makes a decision, to speak to someone, hit someone, walk somewhere, or anything else they can imagine and type, and the storyteller then has to react by moving objects, drawing objects, deploying new music, and so on.

The story thus bounces back and forth, spinning in new directions – often completely off the rails – depending on the style and personality of the people playing.

The limits on the time each player has to respond lent itself best to madcap comedy, in which half-formed ideas, half-drawn pictures and mistakes were simply incorporated into the story. It was undoubtedly a thin game, with basic editors and zero structure, but it thrived on good will and, with the right people, was just as entertaining as sitting round a table with a few friends to play something more structured like D&D.

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Graham Smith

Editor-in-chief

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