Thoughts

Surrender is a physical (completely non-digital) game about touch and intimacy.

We feel that indie game development and game jams have a natural connection to physical and performative play, yet physical games beyond card and board games often get ignored. We want to shine some light on indie “body play.”

At the same time, designing games using only the body (as opposed to board games or card games) has its own unique challenges and benefits. Because no coding is necessary, for example, more time can be spent experimenting and playtesting. 

On the other hand, explaining the rules of an analog game to ensure a consistently fun experience is a unique challenge.  Considering the intimacy involved in Surrender, there we also had special concerns about how to make sure that all players feel safe.

Additionally, our varied backgrounds (one member was a dancer and performance artist who had never created a game before) allowed us to explore new approaches to game design, trying out things like contact improvisation as we searched for a core mechanic. The performative nature of games and game-like nature of performances became a strong interest for us.

Throughout the design process we were guided by a shared interest in playing with submission and power. We wanted to create a game where the player who “submits the best” wins, as opposed to the way most games reward players for dominating each other. This theme of submission gave us a crucial guiding compass throughout the design process.

The game itself is relatively simple, but the intimacy and vulnerability involved in touching and having one’s eyes closed create a special and sometimes intense experience. The person with their eyes closed is in a sense the one in control since his movements determine the winner, and the other two players are trying to please him.

However, at the same time that players on the sides must submit to the needs and desires of the person in the middle, they also have a kind of power in touching his vulnerable and exposed forearms. In this way the game creates complex relationships of power and submission.

In the end, more so than winning, the joy of the game is in exploring and experimenting with different sensations and learning more about yourself and other players.

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