I started to feel that I didn’t know roleplaying games well enough so I came up with the plan to read a roleplaying game corebook for every year they have been published. Selection criteria is whatever I find interesting.
My Body is a Cage is a deceptively simple game with OSR underpinnings and a philosophically complex concept. You play an ordinary person, the kind who you’d find starring in a slice-of-life story. You’re struggling, trying to make do in a difficult world. At night, you dream and in your dreams you visit a dungeon. When you wake, you bring the treasures you found with you.
The concept reminds me of the Persona series of videogames but this time the dream dungeons are more about the subconscious creative struggles of your inner self and how they influence your life. The design obviously hearkens back to the primal dungeon crawl so prevalent in roleplaying.
In this sense, you can see the game as a metaphor for roleplaying and roleplayers. You’re an ordinary person, playing a roleplaying game from which you draw mental sustenance. The game you play is My Body is a Cage in which you’re an ordinary person dreaming of dungeons where you find real riches.
The design of the game is very minimalistic, presenting simple mechanics and generally favoring striking graphics over text. It borrows from other games, incorporating them as mechanics inside itself. For example, there’s a system based on bingo where you have sheets of various activities you can do while awake and as you do them, you cross them over eventually reaching BINGO! and game mechanical benefits. Another example uses a paper fortune teller to randomize treasure.
In terms of design ideas, My Body is a Cage is a very rich game. This is all the more obvious because it spends as little time as possible on establishing things like place or people. What you see on the page is graphics and cleanly expressed design.