Geek Native noticed First They Came slide into Kickstarter at the start of the month. It was hard to miss with the word “Blindfold” highlighted in darkness.
Yeah, this is an RPG that the designers suggest you play blindfolded and while tackling Nazi horror. Here’s the pitch again.
Chaos League, the creators, got in touch, and with the clock ticking on the Kickstarter (there are 5 days left to go), we managed to squeeze in an interview. Then, in the end, after I speculate about other games played in the darkness (Pitch Black, anyone), they admit a maybe…
Answering for Chaos League is Daniele Bergonzi, the game’s designer.
Can you tell us a bit about Chaos League?
The Chaos League is a collective of game designers and immersive experience designers coming from different educational and professional fields: actors, musicians, directors, pedagogues, screenwriters, researchers.
We have been working together since 1992 and we have organized immersive events in Italy, Sweden, England, in the Sahara desert…
We are transmedial storytellers, we like to tell stories through first person experiences in which body, mind and heart of the participants are involved at the same time. We are dreamers and navigators, with a common artistic vision.
First They Came is described as the world’s first, as a blindfold roleplaying game. How do players find the dice if they’re blindfolded?
Simple: there are no dice! Of course, there are simple rules and mechanics that facilitate the development of the game but the heart is the interpretation of the characters and the shared creation of the story.
To ensure the greatest immersiveness possible, the scenes are played in the dark guided by audio tracks that reproduce the sound environment in which the story takes place and carry on the narrative through important information and twists.
First They Came is divided into three phases: in the first one, players experience a flashback of their characters’ past; in the second one, they find themselves in the dark attic of a building in Berlin, 1942; in the third phase, depending on the outcome of the previous two, they will take stock of the entire story from different points of view.
Ah, okay, that was a facetious question, but I bet you’re getting quite a few questions about the project? What’re the most common ones people have?
How do you play blindfolded?
A lot of people are amazed by this aspect of the game. It’s a key design element for us. We wanted to create a different level of listening and also intervene in the perceived game space.
In a way, it’s a small change that doesn’t require any technical effort from the player (just any piece of cloth to use as a blindfold or turn off the lights), but it changes everything. Suddenly you find yourself immersed, disoriented, even a little helpless.
These are interesting feelings that we wanted to highlight in this experience. We were fascinated by the idea of bringing an element of diversity, a different perspective to the play space we are used to being in.
I like “transmedia” as a concept, it often applies to franchises that come out as movies and comics, or games and movies, so I suppose most manga to anime productions are transmedia. Did the term come naturally to First They Came, and do you think other RPG-minded publishers will start to use it more often?
Yes, in First They Came there is a real use of different media: it’s a book, there are more than a dozen different audio tracks, players will have to write letters, there are many heterogeneous handouts such as city maps, medical records, identity documents etc.
Everything contributes to stimulate the creativity and imagination of the player. Yes, I believe and hope that in the future more and more hybrid games will be created, which will be an exciting challenge for both designers and players.
I’m a bit intimidated by First They Came. It sounds intense, not just with the darkness, but with the whole issue of dealing with Nazi’s. Is it supposed to intense? Is that part of the attraction?
The theme of First They Came is primarily symbolic. What was important to us was to find a setting that was iconic and offer complex and interesting choices to players. It’s not a historical game, the focus is on the characters and their personal experiences.
The original idea for the game came from Martin Niemöller’s famous phrase in which he emphasized that often it’s not only “the bad guys” who create problems, but also the people who, by their silence-absence, do nothing to prevent situations from getting worse, just like what happened in Germany.
The ambition of First They Came is to make us reflect on the fact that sometimes we can all be “part of the problem” or fight and become “part of the solution”
The Kickstarter mentions safety tools but can you give us some examples of the safeguards you’ve put in place?
First They Came deals with adult topics and potentially difficult issues such as violence, racism, gender discrimination, ideas and disability. We have been working for years on these issues with care and respect, so in the manual you will find tips and tools to handle them responsibly during the game and to put everyone in a position to have fun in a positive way.
We conceived some safety mechanics to de-escalate and break potentially uncomfortable scenes (including the X card). Also we will provide guidelines to negotiate the experience before the game. Safety is important to us.
At the time of asking, you’ve more than doubled your Kickstarter target. You funded in less than a day. After you launch First They Came, what you will do next? A sci-fi set on a permanently dark planet infested with predatory aliens?
Ahaha, why not? For now, we’re very happy with the interest First They Came is generating and grateful to all the people who have supported us and will support us in this final week of the campaign.
We’ve been working hard on the project for the last few months, so the satisfaction is even greater. We were also a little bit scared as it was our first Kickstarter, but the positive response and appreciation we received will certainly give us the right motivation to create new games out of the box.
The act of blindfolding oneself to play, of crossing the boundary between sight and sound is a bit like crossing a portal to an infinite number of possible worlds, some of which are already being created. So, we hope to introduce them to you soon.
What are your thoughts? Strike up a discussion and leave a comment below.