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TerrorBull Games Manifesto

Last Updated: 05/12/2012

We live in TerrorBull times. We are surrounded by tools of convenience, but then we have more to do. We are drawn closer together, but in a virtual world. The more efficient we become, the busier we get. Life is fuller and yet the void inside and between us grows. Something just doesn't feel right. A billion islands of hope are floating in a sea of Facebook; it's hyper-interactive but we're forgetting how to interact. We need things that will help us do that again...

We're not suggesting that board games are a panacea for anything, let alone the manifold angst of modern life. An evening of Scrabble won't unite your estranged family. But how about if the tactical use of vocabulary were essential to living? What if lives depended on it? Then the game would be a bit more urgent. If games dealt with subjects that affect us all, then the arguments that inevitably spill out of them won't be petty, they'll be cathartic, educational even.

You might be thinking 'I play games for escape; I don't want my games to be cathartic thank you very much'. And that's OK, our games are not for you. But also be aware you're ring-fencing your own hobby. You're behaving like a movie buff that will only watch Disney... or worse - after all, even Disney cartoons have a message. Games have evolved and they will still; they're no longer just a means of entertainment; they're a tool for learning.

TerrorBull Games are designing a new breed of game. We tackle the nastier stuff in life. Subjects that don't have an easy "right" or "wrong". Maybe they're subjects you naturally avoid? We want people to confront those subjects, interact, discuss, fight, laugh, win, lose and then do it all again because it was so damn fun.

Why games? They are fun, interactive and powerfully educational. Our aims can be boiled down to these two things: We want our games to have the power to change how you think. And we want you to have the power to change the game.

Everything is a game

"You've got to be in it, to win it"
"Team meeting"
"Drop the ball"
"Level playing field"
"Team leader"
"Ballpark figure"
"Time out"
"Huddle up"

All this bulllshit sports and games-speak in the workplace, down the pub, even on the battlefield... makes you wonder why everyone takes things so seriously.

So this is rule no.1 at TerrorBull Games: everything's game. World politics, environmental catastrophe, life and death... It's all fun. It's all fair game. Why should anything be excluded from a game? Are some subjects so hallowed that we can only discuss them in hushed, respectful tones? We don't believe so. Being 'hushed' represses opinion, supresses discussion, interaction, shouting, anger, laughing. Natural human responses.

Here's rule no.6 (rules 2-5 are concerned with TBG office dress code): If you're expected to have a certain opinion purely because everyone else holds this opinion, it's probably wrong - or at least worth questioning. Worth talking about. Worth making a game about it. Pull it apart. Laugh at nonsense. Make it fun.

Just because the majority of people believe something to be true, doesn't mean it's right. People are insane. They're illogical. Unpredictable. Why believe many insane people but not one? That's just ... insane.

Satire was funny once

What happened to our venerated tradition of satire?....Swift, Johnson, Pope, Dryden, Gillray, Hogarth... but for modern satire, it could be said it's a different story. People are both afraid of and ambivalent towards politics and power. So making fun of political matters is, at best, terribly dull and at worst, trying too hard - a big faux pas in a society where everyone likes to pretend they're not trying at all.

Rule no.18 - Satire is in. Eating Irish babies. Terrorism. Whatever. If it makes you laugh and THINK at the same time, it's going to be a good game. If it provokes you, even better. Shock isn't bad as long as you have an aim beyond shocking. Sometimes you can't imagine a different way of looking at things until you've had a shock. Ask anyone who's been in a car crash how they felt about driving before and after and you'll know what we mean. You sometimes need to be jolted awake to see a reality that is so present and unpleasant, that we are conditioned to happily ignore it most of the time.

Rule no.18.5 No one has a right not to be offended. We are all offesive and offending. And there's nothing more offensive than someone suggesting that their personal feelings are so precious that speech around an entire subject needs to be surpressed or filtered. You offend me; Be quiet. This is the current sickness of our day and it's a privileged, arrogant, narcissistic rot.

Above all, however, it's funny and healthy to poke fun. Try it sometime.

Games are only fun if you can lose

There's a great fashion for collaborative games right now. Fuck that. This isn't a team-building exercise, this is WAR.

Rule no.19 Everyone wants to win, true. But everyone wants not to lose more. There needs to be more at stake by losing than there is to gain by winning. The driving force is negative. Losing makes people nervous and when they're nervous they're liable to do something stupid. And that's when you make your move.

You'll be a better player as soon as you get used to the idea of losing. Come to terms with failure. Seneca said "Great men rejoice in adversity, just as brave soldiers triumph in war". When you're up against it and things look hopeless, make it your war; be great and brave. Remember it's all a game. And if you're going to go out, do it in style, in a blaze of glory...

And if you win? Avoid the lap of honour (not cool). It's a great feeling - but be calm; your next failure is just around the corner.

Rule no.20 Sometimes a game beats you. What? You thought you were just playing against your friends? No way. Every time you play one of our games, you're also playing US. And we like to win. So we can't guarantee that you'll finish our games every time you play them, or that it'll be beautifully balanced from start to finish, or that the game won't implode and tumble into a chaotic pit that is impossible to recover from. But we can guarantee you'll have fun trying. Dedicated boardgamers like to call this "broken". We call it real life.

3 (Three) players and up

Games are fun when you can lie. That takes two. Games are more fun when you can gang up on other players. When you can bargain, haggle, swap and trade - that takes three. There's a natural conflict with three. We believe the best games involve more than two people. That doesn't mean we don't make two-player games, we just like the 'aggro' generated by a group.

Essentially, boardgames are fun because they involve real interaction with real people in real space and time. However, we have - and continue to be -tempted by the many interesting possibilities for experimentation in digital games too.

Rule no.41: Games should change depending on who plays them. Players should define and characterise the game they're playing. Playing a game can be as creative as making one. In fact, we hope our games will be in constant development in every home that owns one.

Rule no.42: REMEMBER: cheating is creative! Also, there are no rules.