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Redneck Life – Play, Mods and Women

December 13, 2007

We got a chance to play several games last night, Fluxx, Blokus and Redneck Life. I’ve reported on Fluxx before, and I’ll report on Blokus a little later. For now, let’s talk about Redneck Life.

Redneck Life

There are a couple topics to cover: “making mods isn’t just digital” and “women in games”.

Redneck Life is effectively a humorous board game mod of the ol’ standard Life board game. The nutshell of Redneck Life, as you’ve probably already guessed, is being a redneck. You work your way through your life:

  • Getting an education – I ended up making it out of 9th grade, making me the genius of the table.
  • Getting a job – I got a pretty high paying one as far as the game goes, $340 per payday. Of course, money is relatively pointless in the game. You start with none and have to borrow it from Uncle Clem (I think that was his name).
  • Getting married (2x) – My husbands, Jebediah Ray and Jebediah Lee, left me with four kids.
  • Having, receiving or otherwise finding offspring – I had 4 of my own before another player gifted me with his six children, all named Darrell. One player ended the game with – if I’m not mistaken – 20 children. He left one, accidentally, at the Grand Canyon.
  • Random stuff – You also get ve-hick-les and “houses” which may or may not actually be a house. The pictures are priceless. Sometimes, they blow up or get sold out from underneath you when you’re drunk.
  • Teeth: Your goal is to get to the end of the game with the most teeth. You lose them in every way imaginable.

There were five of us playing this game, and we laughed so much completely unaided by alcohol. The game is genuinely funny at length, something you don’t often see in video games. From a design perspective, humor is easier to pull off where multiple people are playing the game together. As a designer, you intentionally (or unintentionally) facilitate the humor of the group by putting players in particular situations and letting that collective experience play out. Stage comedians do this all the time.

There’s really no strategy here. You roll and laugh at the situations the game puts people in. This is also a shortcoming of the game for me. Like other content-driven games, once you know the material on the cards, the game’s not really worth many replays. I could see it being great for parties or fun to introduce people to, but I don’t know that I’d go in for more than a couple replays with the same group. They’ve released an expansion pack with new content to address this. In Koster’s book Theory of Fun, there’s a great discussion on adding new content vs. new patterns. That’s a whole separate post, but instead, I’ll suggest you just buy his book and read it.

As a mod, the game provides an important lesson to aspiring game designers out there – take what works, add your vision and leave the rest. We do it all the time in digital games, too, and end up with either mods or clones. My recent fascination with Jetman is derivative of at least 20 other games, Helicopter being just one of them. Monopoly – which was a mod itself – has been modded to death. Counterstrike is probably the most famous digital mod. Anyway, my point is this – whether you’re working out of your garage, your basement, your bedroom or your classroom, it’s possible to make a successful mod and get it published. Stranger things have clearly happened (wait until you see my greeting card post that I’ll put up later on today).

Redneck Life was designed by Lisa Steenson and Lori Dieda.

This brings me to my last point, and perhaps a rather defining moment for me. I’m often interviewed about female designers, and when people ask me about being a woman and a designer, the number of female designers and so on, my focus is always exclusively digital. I *never* think beyond that realm. This realization struck me as a major omission on my part. After all, the core skill set is the same, and many digital game designers either a) make paper prototypes, b) were board game designers before making the leap or c) both. I find it odd, the divide between these two implementations of what is essentially the same thing. Thinking of “game designers” as a part of this larger whole was both eye opening and intimidating for me (now I feel compelled to go research female board game designers, and there are a lot of games to research).

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. David permalink
    December 14, 2007 11:27 pm

    Curious, have you tried Chrononauts or Munchkins? I have derived a great deal of pleasure from both. Card games, both involve having secretive hands and manipulating the other players to fulfill your goals (Munchkins actually says in the manual that cheating is only illegal when caught).

    Munchkins is a dungeon crawler of sorts, each turn you take involves kicking in a door to encounter a creature. The mechanics are simple, the humor is good (“Gender Change! You lose 1 attack due to confusion in battle.”)

    Chrononauts has a short timeline of American history, with alternatives of events, patches of events for different outcomes (Germany Invades Poland/Polish Enjoy Sauerkraut at International Picnic), artifacts to be found… And paradoxes. If 13 paradoxes occur, the game ends. A player tries their best to find either all of the artifacts they need, or get time rearranged to their needs.

  2. December 15, 2007 12:10 am

    Hi David,

    I have played Munchkin several times, and plan to try Chrononauts when I get through the current festival-o-game-buying purchases. I’ve actually worked on a few non-professional mods to Munchkins, too. It’s pretty adaptable.

  3. December 20, 2007 2:08 am

    Redneck Life was a hoot to create and has launched us into game conventions having to create a business around the game, , and all sorts of new adventures. It is “Blowing them out of the Water” at Alliance with it’s almost cult following and word of mouth orders and reorders! Who knew?!?
    Trailer Park Wars! is next. Gotta go with what you know!
    Lisa,

  4. December 20, 2007 9:23 am

    Lisa,

    Having grown up in Northern NY with farms in the family, I hear you. Looking forward to Trailer Park Wars!

    Brenda

  5. jill steenson permalink
    January 15, 2008 11:35 pm

    Lisa,
    Your game is the most awesome game in the whole world. You are so smart and talented. And i’m not just say’n that ’cause i’m your kin.

    Love, Your daughter Jill

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