What is a Yawhg? I don't know.
Where does it come from? I'm not sure.
What does it do? Destroy.
What can we do? Nothing.
As it turns out, Indie storytelling RPG The Yawhg is about everything but the Yawhg.
The Yawhg is a short multiplayer game created by Damian Sommer (who provided me with a review copy on request) and illustrated by the amazing Emily Carroll (this interview with the pair from Canada.com has more background on the game's development, if you're interested.) In it you play as 2-4 characters, living their lives (and raising their stats) as one does. It's multiplayer in a pass-and-play sense, making it a great game to bust out with a few friends in the room when the evening's winding down. This is more or less what I did last night when I gathered a few friends on Skype and streamed it on my Twitch channel. I controlled one character, while each of my friends as well as the audience watching the stream controlled the others (with me inputting their actions).
It was late; the music was relaxed; we kept our voices down and settled in.
From the beginning, you as the player are told that you have 6 weeks until The Yawhg arrives, but the character(s) you play are none the wiser. They go about their lives chopping wood, tending gardens, attending balls at the palace, betting on fights in the arena, every choice illustrated in Emily Carroll's incredibly charming signature style. But it's not always so mundane. Magical encounters and lucky/unlucky events happen along the way that can have a permanent effect on the world, and they can swing from lighthearted and fanciful to heavy and aching at a moment's notice. For example my character tried to use magic to dispel a swarm of leeches let loose in the hospital, but being untrained in that skill meant that my spells fizzled. I ended up creating a complete leech infestation that affected what was happening to other players during the turns that followed. The character being controlled by the stream viewers even loses a few stat points in a leech attack.
What this game lacks in length is easily made up for in replayability. The variety of locations, actions, events, and outcomes mean that every character's personal story plays out differently each time, in ways beyond just their stats. These little changes manifest most obviously when, after 6 turns, the Yawhg finally comes...
... And goes.
Spoilers, I suppose, but you will never see the Yawhg. You only see your life before, and your life after. The game fades out, then in again on the destruction left in this thing's wake. You all help rebuild, and watch as your society succeeds or fails. Even in the best-case scenario of a prospering post-Yawhg society, personal failures are always a possible outcome. Almost all of the character endings I've seen so far are bittersweet, and very human.
In my first run I was something of a bookworm; I became a doctor; I helped restore society; I prospered; I grew close to a colleague; we shared a home; we drifted apart; no relationship since has been able to take its place. The end.
If you'd like to see more (or if you're already sold) then you should absolutely visit The Yawhg's website, where you can buy a copy and play it for yourself. You can also vote for it on Steam Greenlight. And you absolutely should. I know that to regular readers it must seem like I fall in love with some new indie toy every other week, but damn... This is one hell of a game.
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.