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Story Games Seattle Message Board What We Played › The Disappearance of Gary Bell ("Milk Carton")

The Disappearance of Gary Bell ("Milk Carton")

user 8261819
Seattle, WA
Post #: 28
Last night was the alpha playtest for my new game, "Milk Carton". The game is designed to reconstruct the last days of a person's life before they go missing, as well as the investigation that follows. Last night's intrepid playtesters were: Natalie, JC, Brenna, Tim, and myself.

A few interesting features about the game:
- All of the information about the missing person is true, including: names, photos, the detective's name, and the circumstances surrounding the disappearance.
- Each player creates one Person of Interest (POI), who knew the Missing. There are two shared characters: the Missing, and the Detective. Players rotate between playing their POI, the Missing, and the Detective. This allows players to engage the case from multiple perspectives.
- Each POI has a secret, which they are not allowed to share with anyone, EVEN AFTER THE GAME ENDS.

Last night's game was prompted by the following (real-life) circumstance:
Gary Bell, then 33, disappeared March 2, 1983, from Tacoma. He was living in Spokane with his wife of one month. He was working in a carnival, and living in their 1974 Ford Econoline van, license EQA-043. Gary was last seen leaving for work in Vancouver. Gary never made it to Vancouver, and was never seen again.

- The Veil was exercised last night! It came when one of the players became uncomfortable about how we were portraying Gary. The player said they would not have drawn the Veil if the story were not about a real person, whose pic was lying on the table. This prompted some interesting discussion about bleed, and ethical gaming.
- POIs were as follows: Serena, the wife (Natalie); Davis, the resentful co-worker (Brenna); Steve, the clandestine lover (JC); John, the high-school friend (Tim); and Doreen, the drinking buddy (Jerome).
- There was some debate as to whether we should reveal Gary's fate. The game leaves it up to the players. We ended up revealing what happened, though it would likely have been just as satisfying to leave it open.
- Play flowed naturally, and we were never stuck for material or direction. I found it very encouraging. Of course, having an excellent crew made a big difference!
- The secrets did not come into play as much as we wanted them to, so I'll be adding mechanics to make them more prominent.

In all, I would call it an unqualified success! Thanks to all the players for bringing their A-games, and for being patient through the playtest process. Thank you!!!

If you played, and have thoughts to share; or if you didn't play, but are curious about the game, drop a reply below!
user 12605913
Seattle, WA
Post #: 19
We shared so many thoughts last night and my brain only allows me so many a week, but let's see...

First off, awesome game! A moving and haunting premise that played great right off the bat. I agree with Brenna (known now as BOMBSHELL BRENNA cause that is what she drops) that it was one of the best story game experiences I've had.

Having had some time to chew it over, what stood out about "Milk Carton" to me was that it a) had tons of dialogue, which is my favorite thing but is often forsaken in story games and b) never seemed to lag or linger on one note. It's a mystery, it's a character study, it's strategic questioning and thoughtful world-building.

Very excited to see the next iteration of this, especially the changes to secrets and the possibility of staggering the missing and detective roles.
Tim M.
Seattle, WA
Post #: 39
This was an odd gaming experience for me. Mostly because it is the first time I have ever drawn the Veil in a game...and I think I waited a little too long to draw it. My advice: draw the Veil the moment you start to feel the unpleasant kind of uncomfortable. Don't wait a little while to see if it goes away.

I also had the last scene in the game, which I ended up pushing in a kind of intense direction...even using some language that I never use in my normal life. And, perhaps, that isn't the greatest idea when you only drew the Veil about fifteen minutes before that.

So I'm needing a little decompressing from this gaming session, but it's good to realize where some of my boundaries are. You never really know unless you run into them.
Seattle, WA
Post #: 28
[quot]The game leaves it up to the players. We ended up revealing what happened, though it would likely have been just as satisfying to leave it open.[/quot]

The more I reflected on it, the less I liked having a solid final answer. We left a little bit of a mystery with what happened to Bell's body but I think it may be worthwhile to have a rule precluding absolute finality in the story. I know the game is about the stories those left behind spin out for themselves every day but since we only get to tell one story, seeing their corpse – at least in a missing scene – is a little off the mark. If our last scene had ended with Irons leaving scared but then cut back to Bell taking a shallow breath, I feel like I'd have been way more satisfied (and that part of the fault for this is on me for not making that happen at the table).

If, on the other hand, the resolution comes how it does in real life, in the detective piece of the game, I don't think I'd have such opposition.

[quot]never seemed to lag or linger on one note. It's a mystery, it's a character study, it's strategic questioning and thoughtful world-building.[/quot]

Yes! But world-building at such a human scale that the reality of lived experience doesn't get lost to "ooo what if the magic rabbit-dragon hybrids had spaceships when they attacked the ant queen's fortress?" kinds of stuff.

This games seems like it is very much on the darker side of the story game spectrum. I don't think I'd be able to play this every week but I love that the design space is being explored in a way that seems less manifestly "show bad things happening" than something like Penny.
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