This May, I partook in Mermay. I didn’t draw mermaids – I’m not very good at drawing, so who am I kidding – but I was inspired by the variety and lovely artwork to think in terms of the kinds of things I can do, and what I would want to do in the context of just the art produced. I make card games, I make tabletop games – they’re things that exist in a space where still images, often with the game as context, convey game information.
Every day, I wrote a game concept for a tabletop game involving art of mermaids.
Now, I intend to go through some of these game ideas and work on them individually – why, depending on when this goes out, one of them may have already been made – but I wanted to put up some thoughts about examining the thoughts of all the mermaid games at once.
One trend that goes throughout the mermaid games is water – I mean, obviously. Some games care about sinking, about depth, about framing ‘down’ as being dangerous, which is perhaps a view I inherited from Narnia books, of all things. This water theme plays into some of the other ideas; there are games about merfolk views on human trash, how they can cook without fire, the types of currencies they recognise, and also in the time you can hold your breath in some of the games about communication.
Another recurrent theme was royalty and monarchy. There’s perhaps something primitive about the idea of royalty in the context of the merfolk – I don’t like royalty as its own thing, I think it’s pish, but I still was making sympathetic games about mermaid princesses and important noble weddings, and noble houses. That’s possibly just something I like as a setting element, even though I think they’re jerks in reality. Of particular interest was how in Atlantean Guard, the challenge was to cooperatively raise a prince who wasn’t a jerk, as if the assumption was reasonable that they would be otherwise.
I had a bunch of games about theft. Merfolk were often showing up as playful or trickster characters, stealing or hiding treasure. Many of the games were puzzles about locating treasure, treasure that – reasonably speaking – there’s no reason to believe the explorers seeking it are more entitled to than the merfolk.
I didn’t do many games about combat. Of the concepts, Temple, Flooded London, The Dredge, and Conch Of Glory had some kind of combat to them. Of those, Temple, Flooded London and The Dredge were all framed as being against an unjust opponent – imperial London, or polluting capitalists, or invading adventurers, for example.
Finally, most of my ‘merfolk media’ that framed these games were either Aquaman or The Little Mermaid.