I just got the news that my IRB application was approved, and I am now ready to proceed with play-testing! The prototype for Deme is currently occupying the space under our end table—a strange assortment of bits and pieces gathered into a plastic grocery bag.

The next step is to have my participants to play a round of an established tabletop strategy game. This will help me build my coding frame and observe how the group dynamic works with an established product. After that, we’ll take on Deme itself and discuss its mechanics afterward.*

Exposing a game to actual players can be a scary prospect. This thing has been twisting and turning in my mind for a long time now, and I’ve scaled it back significantly since I started. I want my rule system to be a skeleton, not a cage—this has become my development mantra. I remind myself that this is only the beginning of the process for Deme, and I have to keep the players in mind from the start. The game is about building and exploiting player-defined systems, after all.

Once I have a robust and enjoyable rule system in place, I want Deme to truly belong to anyone who wants to play it. It could succeed. It could fail. It could become something beautiful due to unforeseen changes—or even a complete overhaul—made by someone else.

That’s a long way off, though. Deme is still in the nursery, and I’m inviting a few people in to look it over and make sure it’s healthy. It won’t be moving out on its own until well after this project has concluded. I hope it knows how to do its own laundry by then.

*Oops! This is an idea that we had discussed, but it will not be part of this project. I’ll be building my coding frame and doing my analysis based on Deme alone. This will give me a chance to evaluate Deme more or less on its own terms first. It will also give me more time to analyze the data I have, as I’ll have less video data to crawl through. There’s some good existing literature on player discourse in established games.

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