If you are from the millennial generation like myself, most likely you have never heard of the game Fiasco. The game is unlike any other you have most likely played recently. Fiasco is not played with a console controller, mouse/keyboard, or electricity. Now, you are probably thinking Fiasco is a board game. You know, one of those games that comes in a cardboard box, you choose a game piece, and you try to make it from start to finish before everyone else. Surprisingly enough, Fiasco is not one of those games either. Fiasco is a unique game where, instead of playing and following a given path, you are placed in the seat similar to that of a game designer. As opposed to consuming stories, you are now creating them. And not only are you creating them, you are creating them collaboratively within a group of three-to-five people. Fiasco gives you a template of fundamental story qualities such as settings, location, plot twists, events, objects, and a tone to guide how stories should pan out. Your story, and more so your experience with the game, primarily depends on your willingness to contribute your personality, creativity, and style to the group.
Set in a suburban area, I, Silly Sam (Nick), was a long-time drug dealer with Frank (David). I lived in a white van with no wheels and had bad blood ties with Sigmund Freud (Brian), a brutal and ethical cop who held qualities similar to that of Commissioner Jim Gordon from Batman. When setting up the fundamentals to the story, each of us were completely open with each other about our character’s personality, habits, and intentions. Having picked qualities of romance, death, cops, and drugs, each of us quickly came to realize that our story was going to share many similarities with that of a Mexican soapopera. By the end of the game, drug deals went wrong, people went to prison, people got out of prison, good cops struggled with internal corruption, romantic relationships turned bad, betrayal occurred, people died, and once again, people went to prison.
One way in which my experience playing Fiasco was similar to other RPG games was that decisions had to be made and my personal objectives were constantly changing. However, unlike a vast majority of RPG games I have played, my focus with Fiasco was not really about winning or loosing. It didn’t matter to me that my character did not become the drug lord of the era and instead ended up in prison. In retrospect, I now realize I consistently made choices that were perfect opportunities for me to be betrayed. This may be because in reality, I try to trust others and network of people as much as possible. This lead me to making a poor choice of seeking Office Sigmund Freud (Brian) in hopes of gaining his companionship. As a result, I was sent right back into prison. But in the end, in the scope of playing Fiasco, these mistakes were alright because they contributed to an exciting and thrilling, dramatic adventure.
Throughout the collaborative story making process, I was more concerned about my overall contribution of substantial creative ideas of impossible, dramatic, yet entertaining events. As we played, I imagined that scenes in my head and was more concerned with if our story would also prove interesting to my group members and others who may visualize our story through a T.V. show or movie. Playing Fiasco built upon my exposure and experience of composing and creating within a group. In our collaboration of creating this story, there was a big disconnect between how we wanted the story to turn out initially and how the actual decisions we made took us further from that realization. We were all a little disappointed and shocked that the story had not turned out to what we wanted it to become. I think that, although we had a similar end goal in mind, our small variations in vision, the friction and bouncing off of each others ideas, and the pulling of trying to come back to our own realities, created a widely different story than of us had expected.
Featured Image Credits: Art from one of Fiasco’s playsets. Image found on Flickr account “oneseven”.