By Rachel Vellanikaran
Playing Fiasco was quite an interesting experience, to say the least. With some initial difficulty figuring out game-play and rules, we eventually rolled the dice to establish various relationships, needs, objects, and a location. This initial process of deciding these contextual aspects was a little different from the last time we played in class, as this time we actually selected dice before reading the category and descriptions — adding to that surprise factor that’s so prevalent in this game. My fellow teammates, Austin, Cherie, Sadie, Giovanni, and I chose to play with the Main Playset. Taken place in Hickory Smokes “nursing home,” our narrative included multiple adulterous sexual affairs, backstabbing, murder, and more. My relationships included a friendship with Giovanni as a “manipulator” of some sorts, and co-worker of Sadie, non-coincidentally at this particular nursing home. The narrative started out with Austin and Cherie fighting over financial issues in their marriage, and Austin eventually kicking Cherie out of the house. One of our two needs was to get laid, and with the other need already utilized by another team member, I chose to incorporate this into my narrative. My character was working towards a sexual relationship with the newly-divorced Austin, and would take some deceptive measures to do so. Conveniently, Sadie, a fellow colleague of ten years, was friends with Cherie and Austin and thus my way in. The story continued to take creative and unexpected turns throughout our game-play, from Austin and Giovanni’s conspiracy to murder Austin’s grandmother’s best friend to Cherie acquiring loads of money through her gambling habits to my character’s affair with the divorcee who was simultaneously trying to kill and steal from the elderly woman at the nursing home. It was absolute chaos, but quite fun, nonetheless.
It was particularly interesting to see how events change so drastically before you even realize it. This game is based on your own creativity when it comes to establishing and resolving scenes. You, yourself create the narrative and can manipulate it for better or for worse. I didn’t realize how open-ended and flexible the game design is, where you(and your teammates) create the basis of a story and see how it plays out. Because it was truly up to improvisation and our imagination, as I said before, it got a little chaotic. For example, at one point the hoodlum murders the old lady in front of me, the unsuspecting, innocent nurse, and I decide to cover up for him and end up in jail — where I eventually kill myself. It was a lot…but it was actually very enjoyable to see how everything played out as we all added new twists to the story. The game design itself does have certain guidelines and rules, but it doesn’t really limit your ability to, for the most part, change the narrative as you wish — at least until the very end where they add in “the tilt.” My tilt was a little out of place for the situation of my character. The description was basically along the lines of “you f**ked up hard; you’re probably going to kill yourself,” when I truly hadn’t had much involvement in major conflict up until then. So from then on, I had to come up with creative ways to set-up this ending for my character — even if it meant some far-fetched additions.
Admittedly, playing the game seemed a little intimidating at first, since I was playing with new people and felt pressure to conjure up captivating story-lines and premises. But, obviously these initial apprehensions subsided as we continued to play. Since much of the the game is about “winning” role-playing situations and acquiring dice, I found myself being a little more assertive or defensive in my responses to others as I took on the role of my character more seriously with the game’s progression. It was important to be strategic in the stories you created. You had to manipulate the situations created by others in favor of your own plot or chosen line of fate. It required a bit of planning, particularly in predicting how others would react and respond. Overall, playing Fiasco was a rewarding experience, as the game was captivating and enjoyable despite its natural chaos and unpredictability.