Call to Arms 2008

Steve Gaynor of the Daruma-headed Fullbright blog recently spammed me about his "Call to Arms 2008", a community game design challenge to eke out the creative in all of us and hopefully come up with some novel game ideas. Though I usually shy away from giving away game ideas to the public for gratis, the first thoughts that came up when pondering this challenge were obviously not commercially viable, so I will hereby give away my intellectual property to any idiot who wishes to make it into a product. May God have mercy on your soul.

The basic idea behind the challenge is to find new ways of expressing conflict, or to find new game design ideas to express this. "Tradition vs. Progress" was an obvious hook for me, living in Japan, as was "Indulgence vs. Prudence", as a tobacco, caffeine and alcohol abuser, something quite close to my heart. Of the proposed emotions, again, a few seem tailored to my situation. As the Brit the "anxiety of uncertainty" struck home with me, as did the obvious "alienation of being in a foreign land".

But after some soul searching I have decided to think of a new game idea revolving the most ancient of conflicts, "life vs. death" in an environment which is close to my heart, my life. The emotion I want to convey is the "will to live", or loss thereof. I considered calling the "the Fall and Rise of JC", but such arrogance is off-putting and, considering the basic mechanics of the game I propose, a more appropriate title would be


Using the Wii balance board as a control mechanism the player must, simply, survive a commute on Tokyo's busy rail system. There will be a set of difficulty levels of increasing commute length, all played out in real time, from the "easy mode", a roughly 10 minute ride, right down to "salaryman mode", a full hour and a half of commuter Hell.
The player stands on the Wii Balance Board and must keep his balance in the face of the train's swaying and the crowd of other commuters who will try their best to pick fights with you or shove you around simply for being foreign. Special boss characters will be "broadsheet guy", the idiot who will try to read a newspaper, and "roidrage", the racist knuckledragger who will shout at you to die or go back to "your country".
On-screen a delicate balance must be held by shifting your body weight to match instructions. Sudden jolts from the train's movement or idiots will give you a very brief chance to correct your pose before you fall over and are penalised. Holding the Wiimote and nunchuck you can control your on-screen commuter's hands to slap away newspapers, though if a woman happens to be standing in front of you, the player must adjust his pose so his hands are at all times visible for fear of being accused a groper, "chikan!", at which point you'll be arrested and the game will end. Push-fights take the form of a series of balance challenges and hand motions wherein the player must fight for space with another commuter who won't grant you the room to breathe in favour of his own comfort.

Along the top of the screen is a "health bar", titled "the will to live", which constantly, slowly, depletes. The only way to top up this bar is to unbalance aggressive fellow commuters or to find a spot next to an attractive female (boy, for the female players, who can only ever play on "extreme difficulty" and must use the nunchuck to constantly elbow perverts in the groin). Once the bar is completely depleted, the player's avatar will exit the train and jump in front of it.

Special periodic challenges include covering your face when old men cough and sneeze all over you and jostling for a seat when the previous occupant disembarks. If successful the commute time will be depleted by several minutes of comfort.

If enough commercial interest can be found, a special peripheral could be created; a velcro band to be tied around your chest which, much like a blood pressure meter, would slowly fill up with air to restrict your lung capacity and, literally, crush you to death.

Successful completion of a level will unlock the "bonus mode", which is the return commute on the same ride, but with a machete, controlled by the Wiimote, and a taser, controlled with the nunchuck.

The game will not only teach you vital survival skills, but strengthen up your calves and resolve but mostly, it’s an exhausting, depressing experience, constantly jostling, readjusting your balance and gradually losing all hope in humanity and any will to live. Playing the game is living the game and if you don’t want to kill yourself after playing it, you haven’t played it correctly. The bonus mode is pure, classic fantasy fulfillment gaming at its best.

Fun for all the family!

Available on WiiWare, Q1 of HellFreezingOver. Price: TBA


  1. I'm really surprised that you don't tend to encounter roughly the same crowd on your work commutes. I figured it'd be like a monorail or subway where you tend to see the same faces each day because they're all going to work/school at the same time as you. Does the mix of people really differ so frequently that it's a new game setup every time?

  2. Pretty much, yeah. Trust me, there are a LOT of people on that train. I do occasionally recognise a nemesis or previous victim/victor, but mostly it's an entirely, refreshingly new Hell every day.

  3. Just when I was looking to do something more interesting with the balance board I'll have to wait till hell freezes over :(

  4. This sounds like a successful WiiWare game. Hope a investor with plenty of money in his pillow comes across this post.

  5. Make it perhaps slightly less realistic, add the cheerful Grand Theft Auto 2 disembodied announcer ("Raspberry Ripple!"), and I think you've actually come up with a game I'd blow 500 Wii Points on for shits and giggles. This at least deserves to be a level in "Incredible Crisis 2: Revenge Of Ferris Wheel 'Back Massage.'"

  6. I just found your blog today (linked by JapanProbe) and I LOVED this post. I've only visited Japan once, mostly in Osaka but we did go to Namco/Bandai's HQ and then TGS 07 so I got a taste of the train. There were two of us Texans running around with 2 locals so we didn't get picked on too much on the trains, but I can imagine how it would be going solo.

    Just wanted to say hello and let you know that I'll be keeping an eye on your blog to live in Japan vicariously through you.

  7. Hey JC Barnett, I think the game idea is pretty interesting. Now if only developers would make a wiiware game based off of working at a Supermarket.

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