#RPGaDay2021 – Day 23 – Memory

Monday, August 23rd, 2021 and for #RPGaDay2021,  it looks like today will be one of the surprisingly rare days where I discover that I will be using the large-print prompt. Today, for the 23rd day of this 31 day marathon of positivity about RPGs, the prompt here will be the word ‘memory’. In a real sense, the topic I have chosen to wrap the prompt in today could as easily address the other three prompts – innovation, quick, and surprise.

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Memory

Last year as August became September in 2020, Camden Wright of Unicorn Motorcycle Games put out a curious game that 500 people had helped the company kickstart. Called One Child’s Heart, the game generated a lot of interest during its crowdfunding stage as well as passionate discussion during the production stage. That passion helped transform the game into a clearer and perhaps more insightful and impactful version of the original intention.

What is the game? In a nutshell it is this:

There are pivotal moments in every child’s life that shape who they become. One Child’s Heart is a tabletop roleplaying game that invites players to take the role of child welfare professionals participating in a new mental health care memory exploration experiment. The Central Limbic Engagement Recovery System (CLERS – pronounced, “clears”) brings characters into the memories of these key moments to give support and guidance to a child who needs both.

Professionals help create connections and teach resilience to children who desperately need someone to care about them.

-Camden Wright, One Child’s Heart

The game is both easy and not easy to play, while being both easy and not easy to pitch. To reach the light in the game means imagining your way through more than any person’s fair share of darkness and in a way that makes a person wish the CLERS technology were real.  This is both something which makes the game and its play truly memorable, but also the sort of thing that puts some people off, and a game unplayed is often soon forgotten.

One Child's Heart is a tabletop roleplaying game about empathy, hope, and human connection in the face of childhood crisis.

Games like this are challenging in ways that a lot of games are not, and they serve functions that both are and perhaps are not intended. As a roleplaying game, One Child’s Heart capitalizes on the potential for empathy present in RPGs and draws on the common desire to help others. At the same time, it completely reframes in the real world what help might mean in a way that models and emulates how the memories that form the main arena of play are to be reframed rather than overcome, erased, or undone. It is an experience of imagined empathy that can inform real world empathy.

On a more subtle level, the procedures of entering into play, the recognition of who might be drawn to play such a game, or who might find more than preference for subject matter dissuading them from trying it, all conspire to potentially transform casual relationships between the players, and very likely provide greater context for aspects of who they are as people which had long since been accepted without question or comment, that now, in being shared, make some amount of difference.

It is never too late to discover another point of connection with an old friend.

In design, in the text, in the physical printing of the book and the deck of memories there is a stark simplicity and a vulnerable beauty. It is the sort of game that shelters an ephemeral potential that seems to require the melding of the solidity of firm intention to play a certain way with the fragile trust of a child toward new experience.

Right from the powerful introduction which is an act of bravery and honesty that has its own impact on the reader and the idea of the game, the game sets itself apart and says calmly that yes, there are demons and there are bad people, and if wishes were horses we might be able to ride over them and trample them to oblivion before any innocent, or anyone else for that matter, got hurt – but they are not horses, they are wishes.

It also says that practice makes perfect and we can start with listening.

Listening is the essential skill of the roleplayer.

It is a game that should not be forgotten, even if not all of us can bring ourselves to embrace it enough to allow it to become one of our gaming memories.

In Our Play

How does this example of play relate to today’s prompt? I leave that to you to discern~

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