Maybe your parents are divorced — or maybe you’re orphaned, growing up in the care of someone else. Your parent may be out of work and the kids at school may bully you, waiting outside of your house in the morning to chase you all the way to the bus stop. The girl that you Like-like doesn’t even know you exist, and when your math teacher read your note in front of the class, she laughed the hardest. What if your Faith is being tested by a World at War — or what if, honestly, you’re just a miserable brat?

The point is, it’s all too much for you, so you run away — from home, from school, from your problems. You sail on a boat made out of your bed to an island, or hide in a storybook land in the attic, or take off to an alien planet.

And that’s when you meet your Monster.

Your Monster is everything your family is not. She lets you stay up as late you want to, be as loud as you can be, wrestle in the mud and not wash up for dinner (which is anything you decide to eat)! Your parents couldn’t afford new shoes for you, but Applecore is King of the Penguin Slaloms and he gives you all the doubloons you ask for.

It’s all perfect.

It’s exactly what you want, and best of all you never have to leave.

Right?

–Opening to Children Who Play With Monsters

Una and Lion, by William Bell Scott

Children Who Play With Monsters


What Is This?

Children Who Play With Monsters is a concept that formed in my head around Christmas time of 2010, as I found myself inundated with media relevant to the theme of “monstrous friendship” — the idea of children taken away or running away from their homes and families, for however brief a time, and escaping into a realm of adventure with their monster to protect them. I was watching The NeverEnding Story, my best bro was playing Bioshock (and then Bioshock 2), and my group of friends were reading the excellent work of Andrew Hussie known as Homestuck. Fresh in my mind were the plethora of movies, books, and games all attempting to capture that element of “monstrous friendship” that I now hold central to this project… How to Train Your Dragon, Where the Wild Things Are, and (soon) The Last Guardian: each of these approached the idea and did its own part to bring it into focus for me, and spurred me on to try my hand at the genre. Who hasn’t while growing up had an imaginary or invisible (monstrous or otherwise) friend? The entire idea of running away from home and finding a family that really “appreciates” you is a quintessential human experience; the desire to find a place you belong, where everything you want is provided for you by people who love you.

The absolute necessities to replicating this storytelling niche, as far as I can tell, include:

  • A monstrous best friend out of your wildest dreams
  • A relationship in which the participants are, at the same time, each other’s guardian and ward
  • A fantastical world that is a significant departure from the norm that caters specifically to the children (and in effect, the players)
  • A chip-on-his-shoulder protagonist; a protagonist who has a reason to abandon the world
  • Probably more that I can’t think of at this moment…

As of right now, the game is effectively in the Alpha stage — I am working out mechanics, looking for what I need or want to cover, seeing how they fit together, and trying to make something that flows as seamlessly as is possible. In the weeks to come, I’ll be posting what I’ve come up with, generally musing about the options available to me and the decisions I’ve made, and possibly working through a problem spot in setting-writing.

Leave thoughts and comments below: What do you think of the genre I’m talking about here, or the idea of “monstrous friendship” in general? What comes to your mind when I talk about these things?

»Image above is “Una and the Lion” by William Bell Scott, found on the internet

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