This is a video by game designer Anna Anthropy that influenced the design of Covenant a great deal. It’s less than 10 minutes, so it won’t take up much of your time. Give it a look.
The idea of cheap or even free game equipment isn’t new to me. I was first exposed to it in the 1990s when I bought my first game from James Ernest‘s Cheapass Games.
Ernest has some interesting ideas about games. Everyone seems to have at least one board game kicking around their houses, so why not just sell them the bare minimum for your game – a board, some cards, etc. – and let the customer cannibalize their existing games for pawns and dice?
Fast forward to 2015, when this seminar was held, and now everyone has a cheap inkjet printer and computer in their house or has access to one. Why not take the next logical step, and just let people print out everything that they need for your game? Or even better, tell them how to make their own?
Are these original ideas to Anthropy, or for that matter to Ernest? Not sure. They do get the creative juices flowing, though. A lot of things suddenly seem possible once you get production costs and lead times out of the way.
Yes, it’s externalizing your production costs onto the customer. They aren’t large costs, though: a few sheets of paper, a little inkjet ink.
It’s interesting to see how games are reacting to late stage capitalism. You have MMOs, live service games, games that might as well be subscriptions for all the supplements you have buy, games-as-lifestyles, grinding, and GIT GUD, but you also have one-shots, free game mods, and a zine-style DIY ethic. It’s something I want to explore in the future here.