Storium is a successful Kickstarter project which aims to merge creative writing with the mechanics of interactive gameplay. Each team of players works together on a collaborative story using a set of virtual cards as both plot devices and character outlines.
The story begins with a game master called the Narrator who selects the template that the story will follow and the directs the action by providing challenges to the players. Currently in beta, there are ten basic templates to choose from (including both Sword and Laser, of course). These provide the backbone and setting for your story. Players create characters from a selection of strengths and weaknesses. As the story progresses, characters play their cards to fulfill challenges and overcome obstacles. The outcome of the story depends on which cards are played, allowing the player to decide what happens next when strength cards are played, but leaving it up to the narrator to finish when weaknesses dominate.
The use of cards gives players direction and help keep the story on track without dictating the content. However, while Storium seeks to combine the benefits of collaborative writing and gameplay, it also suffers from both of their problems. There is no turn-based system to prevent one person from dominating the story or stepping on someone else’s shoes. In our own runthrough, one player had to rewrite her story twice because two others took a turn while she was still writing. A player may also play a number of cards at once and finish challenges before others have a chance to respond. It would be better if tighter rules could be enforced by the Narrator as an option. As it stands, the few rules that the game has depend on the honor system. While strict rules can stifle creativity, having virtually none negates the need to even have a game.
The story I played was rather fast-paced and ran its course in only a few days. This makes it ideal for keeping interest going, but would quickly become difficult for someone with a busy schedule. This is another instance where structure would help by establishing deadlines that let a player take some time to reflect without pressure of being left behind. Again, giving the players the options to customize the gameplay would greatly enhance the playing experience. Not likely to be the source of any great literature, but like any collaborative writing project, a great way to have some fun and sharpen your writing skills. The site does provide a convenient place to gather, organize your work, and enjoy other’s stories.
The Kickstarter ends May 8, 2014, but since they’ve already raised over $170,000 toward their $25,000 goal, it’s safe to say the site should soon be available. It’s obvious that there is a great deal of interest in Storium. We can only hope they take their windfall funding and user feedback to implement some much-needed improvements. When Storium goes public, Foil & Phaser will likely run free games as a supplement to our workshops.
Here’s the first scene from our game: