Consentacle is a cooperative card game about trust, intimacy, and communication where two players take on the roles of a human being and a tentacled alien trying to negotiate a romantic encounter. Players draw and play cards that let them earn and invest tokens that represent trust and satisfaction in this inter-species liaison. The challenge of Consentacle lies in coordinating strategy and playing combos without resorting to direct verbal communication. Gestures, eye contact, divining your partner's intentions and next moves, and salacious (but not explicit) illustrations on the cards all play a role in non-verbal communication and guesswork. At the end of the game, players find out how intense, satisfying and mutual their encounter was based on their tokens.
The concept for Consentacle was influenced by several sources: in 2012, a card-game called Tentacle Bento was removed from Kickstarter for its careless casting of players in the role of tentacled monsters who win by raping schoolgirls. In the midst of that controversy, I started discussing with other queer game creators the possibility of games depicting consensual sex with a tentacled Other. Although tentacles and sex have long been associated with perverse rape fantasies imported from Japan, the potential to rehabilitate the "tentacle monster" was interesting to me--bothas a Japanese-American who grew up hearing too many pop connotations of tentacle-rape attached to my cultural heritage and as a member of queer & trans communities where negotiations around non-normative bodies and desires are essential to connection, trust, and fulfillment. In developing the game I was also fascinated by the curiously intimate nature of two-player card duels such as Android: Netrunner, where one player tries to pierce the secrets and defenses of the other while each player manages a complex economy of resources. In Consentacle I sought to repurpose some of these dynamics: can we create games where we "read our opponent" in order to collaborate rather than vanquish? Could a game economy be designed not as a vehicle for snowballing power, but as an awkward obstacle that must be overcome in the pursuit of human connection? Is it possible for a tabletop game to result in an outcome that's not a win, or a loss, but something more qualitative? These kinds of design questions motivated me--but most of all I wanted to see if I could get people (ideally strangers) to make bizarre licking, grasping and biting gestures across at a table at one another. So far that objective has met with resounding success.
The concept for Consentacle was born out of conversations I had with my friend and colleague Anna Anthropy. After being commissioned by No Quarter, I found James Harvey through mutual friends and began coming up with concepts for cards and characters. We collaborated over the internet; I suggested descriptions and style for the illustrations and what they should depict, while James provided invaluable feedback on my graphic design of the other visual elements on the cards. I also collaborated with Melanie Bossert, a graduate student at Parsons: the New School for Design, who volunteered to cut plastic sheets into tokens using a laser cutter. I did the final graphic design on all of the elements, wrote the text and rules, and playtested the game until I was satisfied with how it worked -- thanks to a large cadre of playtesters in New York City.
IndieCade Festival 2015 - Impact Award