Stealing like ravens

It has been said that plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. And, like any creative scene, the Norwegian game design scene is full of… people who are inspired by each other.

In a recent design contest, I wrote a game in three parts, where the third part was strongly inspired by Tomas Mørkrid’s unpublished game “Flukt”. To be fair (to myself), the rest of my game is very different from Tomas’, so in context my ending has a different meaning – but still: It fit so well I just had to use it.

Magnus Jakobsson’s game “Until We Sink” has inspired several other games. Ole Peder Giæver and myself wrote the football game “Until We Score” as a birthday present for a friend; Tomas wrote “Livets Høst” based on some of the same techniques; and many other recent Norwegian games use similar methods. Even my grim Holocaust game “We All Had Names” uses a scene-ending technique from Magnus’ game.

Then again, who knows where Magnus’ inspiration came from? It was written after playtesting a completely different game, which doesn’t use the same techniques. The ideas seem to come from one of his own earlier, abandoned designs, “Den glemte dalen”*. (A wonderful working process for a designer is to create lots of stuff, and then steal whatever works to build better designs afterwards).

Back when I was designing “Draug”, and Ole Peder and Martin were designing “Itras By”, we were a bit worried for a while that since we were playtesting each others’ games and pitching ideas, we might end up having our brilliant designs stolen by the other party. What if I came up with something great for “Draug”, and they published my ideas in their game – before I could publish mine? We talked about it, and quickly reached the agreement “fuck it, let’s steal from each other, good luck to whoever publishes first”**. I think that little talk was an important step for our part of the Norwegian design community – we’re very open-source, and share our ideas and games freely. “Itras By” incorporates elements from many different writers, and continues to do so on the Itras By wiki.

And this blog right here gives all our ideas away for free, to anyone who wants to use them.

Steal our ideas. Steal like ravens.

* Some similar thoughts went into my own “Will the Emperor Fall?”, around the same time as “Den glemte dalen”. There’s an old thread on it over at the Forge. The thread is an interesting read; it shows some differences between the style we were trying to develop back then (“we just talk, and whatever has been narrated is true in the fiction”), and the Forge paradigm (“use a point system to reward people for correct behavior”).

** I searched through my old mail, and the exact quote is: “Vi kom fram til at vi får stjele idéer som ravner fra hverandre, og måtte den best skrevne utgivelse vinne” – “We arrived at the conclusion that we’ll just steal like ravens from each others’ ideas, and may the best-written publication win”. That’s kind of scary. I wrote the title of this blog post before re-reading that four-year-old message.

5 thoughts on “Stealing like ravens

  1. I’m wonder what the word “Itras” means? I had an aunt with that name and have been unable to find origin. She is deceased, but my sister was named after her?

    • Hi! “Itra”, in this context, is a made-up name, as far as I know. “Itras” just means “belonging to Itra”.

  2. Pingback: Nørwegian Surreal: An Interview with Ole Peder Giæver | Analog Game Studies

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