Full disclosure: I read about Shawn’s contest submission on Twitter and ended up Beta testing it and providing actual play examples to the final version. That was a lot of fun, thanks Shawn!
What is this game?
New Best Friend can be played with multiple people, but is primarily a solo-RPG. You play it in diary form, adding a bit of your narrative with each play session. The game will give you clear cues on what bit of narrative to add on each day and will subtly steer you into the mood the game is shooting for.
Unlike classic roleplay games where you escape from real life into a fantasy or science fiction world that has nothing to do with you as a player, New Best Friend wants to create a space where your game and your real life start to overlap. It encourages you to work with elements from your real life and to play the game from your own perspective.
For an intensely personal experience, play as yourself.
If the idea makes you uncomfortable, instead create an
alter ego persona that you will also learn about during the project.
Playing the game as yourself can be confrontational and intense, but it can also be insightful and a lot of fun! If you are interested in this type of play, but a bit scared to try it in a group, a solo-RPG like this would be a great start! I love it when a game offers new insights or a mirrored experiences, but not everyone will catalogue this as “fun”, and that’s okay. You can easily play the game with a made up PC instead.
What is the game about?
I don’t want to spoil too much about where the game will take you. It’s a great journey with a few really nice twists and turns, and enough leeway to make your interpretation matter, to make the story your own.
But it starts with you choosing one person who will be the main NPC in the story. He or she, your new best friend, will play an important part in your life and become a big influence. You’ll spend a lot of time talking about them from your own perspective and, in doing so, sketch a picture of both you and them.
DAY I. Discovery – Who are you?
Journal a short paragraph about your typical day, including
some key thoughts. What are you excited about today?
What frustrated you? Where did you go? Who was the previously
unknown person who stood out to you? Describe them, physically
and in terms of mannerisms.
These are the types of writing cues you will find for every day of this month. You can write as much or as little as you like each day. You can play the game in a month real-time, or you can push ahead and fly through several days in one session.
Day II. A chance meeting
Today you cross paths with that same person. What a happy
coincidence! Where? What were you and them doing? Did you share
a glance or a few words or a mundane interaction? Journal this.
What new thing did you learn about them?
Perhaps this isn’t news to our large group of Play-by-Forum enthusiasts, but there’s a real freedom in roleplaying through text and without time pressure. I found it to be very immersive at times to be able to think through my current roleplay situation as I was working on my daily chores.
How did your game go?
I’m only halfway through the game myself, so it’s a little early to tell. But so far I’ve enjoyed it a lot! Your story never gets boring since it evolves slightly more each day, and not always in the direction you were expecting. It’s a lot of fun to write it, and a great experience to play it. I’m impressed by how craftily the daily cue sets you in a certain frame of mind, and how you are able to put your own story within the outlines given.
I took the personal option and played from a perspective close to my own. It was certainly interesting as quite quickly your normal experiences and your play experiences start to diverge quite strongly and it becomes stranger and stranger to identify with your own play persona.
I wouldn’t expect a game like this to have much replay value, but I would actually love to play again with an NPC of a different gender, that would be an equally (if not more) interesting experience, I think.
What about the game’s presentation?
It’s quite smooth! The typography, writing and layout all have the air of a finished product.
Since the game itself is written in a procedural fashion, I especially appreciate the addition of out-game notes in the back that talk about how the game was intended, and gives some more hints and support on how to play.
This is a very glowing review, are there no points of criticism?
Some day’s writing cues are harder than others, some may not click for you, and you may find the game pushes you in one direction when you may have preferred to go into another, which can lead to a bit of an author-reader ownership battle (but that tension is familiar in roleplay, isn’t it?)
A solo-RPG like this is mostly an immersive writing exercise which might be hard to keep up for the full duration of the game. No scheduled group sessions to keep you at it.
But no, I don’t have very many points of criticism, except the self-evident one: that this game might not be most people’s cup of tea. But if it is (or if you think it could be), I would certainly recommended it.