First I want to make a small update on the New Leaf Players’ production of Hills Like White Elephants. Rehearsal is going well, and I will be making a post requesting specific furniture and designs soon. I’m hoping we’re ready to perform towards the end of October or the beginning of November.
With that out of the way, I’m happy to announce a new game for you to play. Mother She Killed Me, Father He Ate Me is a retelling of The Juniper Tree, a fairy tale of the Brothers Grimm. As Grimm tales go, The Juniper Tree is particularly dark. It opens with the murder of a child by their mother and the accidental ingestion of said child by their father. It ends with the child returning as a bird to bring presents to their innocent sibling and crush their wicked mother was a giant millstone. It is the kind of dark fairy tale that conjures up primal fears of neglect, abandonment and abuse. Like Hansel and Gretel, it is the product of a time and culture when children were, frankly, disposable. People in the middle ages were poor and if something went wrong, you just starved. We’re not talking about the middle ages in an enlightened, civilized part of the world in the Middle East, Africa or Asia. This is dark ages Europe! Children were abandoned to die, and stories of pious or clever children surviving helped alleviate both the fear and the guilt inherent in this.
The game begins very faithfully to the original story. The player is a small child who has no control over their fate. After they are devoured and their loving sibling buries their bones by the juniper tree, the player is reborn as a bird. This metamorphosis is not just thematic. The player goes from a position of no power over the narrative, to one of complete control. As in the original story, the player can visit various stores and villagers and sing in exchange for gifts to bring home. But the player also has full control over who they visit and what they bring back, and also who they give their gifts to or ultimately take revenge on.
One of the central principles to this project was the improv theatre idea of “yes, and”. In improv, “yes, and” describes the central philosophy that actors strive to embody. Whatever your scene partner gives you, you immediately accept and agree with. You take their idea, acknowledge it, and build on it. To deny your scene partner their idea is to shut down the scene, while granting them the freedom to put forth ideas knowing that they have your support allows you to do the same and the scene to thrive. In this game, I am creating a story along with the player(s). Whatever action the player may take, I want to be able to “yes, and” that action. There is no wrong action the player can take, no “bad” way of telling this story. As such, there are many possible outcomes and surprises that enterprising players may discover, some beyond the scope of the original story or even the family itself.
The game was made using RPG Maker VXA (an interesting, if convoluted, game maker) and is currently available of PC. I know that it is possible to create a Wine port for Mac, and if anyone is able to do so I would really appreciate it. Let me know.