I’m on a study project to improve my understanding of roleplaying games. To this end, I already have two reading projects, A Game Per Year and An Adventure Per Year. This is the third, with the goal of reading or playing 52 games made in the last few years. Originally I considered making this “A New RPG Per Week” and that’s where the number 52 comes from, even though a weekly schedule is probably not within my abilities.
The Book of Common Games is a short collection of lyric games, minimalist poem-like works which play on the aesthetic qualities of instructional games text. The title seems like a reference to the Book of Common Prayer, a book originally published in 1549 containing prayers and forms for worship. In essence, a ritual manual, and thus close in function to what game books also do: Organize social behavior.
There’s a mindfulness vibe to many of the games collected in The Book of Common Games. It feels that in lyric games, there’s a repeating archetype where the game has you go to a new place and just stop to experience it. This core idea is elaborated in the collection’s first game, The Curiosity. It says that on the 5th of August, you should go somewhere no human structure or object is visible and turn around while humming Happy Birthday.
There’s a wholesome earnestness to the games collected here, under subcategories such as Life, Friends and Feeling. Under the category Making there’s a game called Secret Tomato which instructs you to grow tomatoes and tell them your secrets, shames and anxieties. You then eat the tomatoes.
The games are at their best when they involve an element of time or space that goes beyond just the immediacy of sitting at home. One has the subheader of “the analog research game” and requires you to answer a question about the place you live in without using a computer, and by asking multiple people you don’t know.