Why kickball?

Did I mention that I’m creating a board game about kickball?

You may ask yourself, out of all the infinite possibilities, why would this guy choose to build a game based on a children’s playground game? 

Fair question. I’ll try to answer that with-

Why not make a game about bloodthirsty barbarians bartering bananasor a game about space dwarfs racing north following in the footsteps  of the great race that came beforeth? Now that – that would be a game, you nod affirmatively.

Yet out of all the possible game themes I could choose, I indeed chose kickball

And here are the the Top 3 reasons why. Let’s go!


 

  1. I’m passionate about it

What is the first step in designing a game?

(bear with me, I’ll get there.)

I think there are two logical places to start.

The first is figuring out what mechanic you want to utilize in the game and then building around it. Maybe you’ve come up with a way to use dice in a unique and engaging way. From there, you can begin wrapping layers around the mechanic adding depth, complexity, and story. Ultimately, you hope to end up with a game.

This is probably the tidiest and most efficient way of going about things.

However, I’m guessing that the most common starting point is to simply say to oneself, “I want to make a game about Space Dwarfs”.

Note: Doesn’t have to be space dwarfs.

The design trajectory then becomes working backwards, a consideration of important questions like, “how the hell am I going to make a game about Space Dwarfs.” Thus begins the all important trial and error process of actually building a playable game. Hopefully after you’ve done that, the game is also enjoyable. If it’s not, then it’s time to try a new approach.

Although this method is definitely a round-about, the designer is guaranteed to be passionate about theme, which gives the final product character and heart.

Think about it like this… Nobody says, “I want to make a game about the Third Punic War” if they have no interest in the ancient roman squabble, and without that passion, the game will probably end up a pile of heartless manure if they go ahead with it anyways.

My love of playing kickball in Lawrence, Kansas is the reason number one why I chose kickball as the theme of a board game.

I could go on for a long, long time about why I love kickball and how it is the greatest sport ever, in the world, period, end of discussion… Instead, just watch this video!

An incredibly talented friend of my team put it together for us last season. If your curious, I’m the guy in the American flag bandana. Yes the one with the weird t-rex arms in the picture at the top of the page. 

KVKL Love Garden Squids vs Sacred Sword 2015 from Steve Rausch on Vimeo.

Yes, I know that there may not be a huge built in market for kickball, but I’m the one spending the time and energy to make the game, so I better make something I’m excited about; in the end I think the game will be better off for it.


 

  1. I love the character(s)

The character and characters of the Kaw Valley Kickball League (KVKL) provide an incredibly rich source of material that I can draw from while building the game.

One thing I absolutely love about that video is how well it captures the spirit of KVKL and the eclectic, eccentric group of people that make up the league.

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The lush character(s) of the league has been a huge point of inspiration for me thus far in my game design.

For example, when I say I want to incorporate a booze mechanic that makes players more prone to errors as they consume more beer (in the game), it’s not just because I think it would be a funny and interesting mechanic, but also because in it’s a part of the game.

In the KVKL level of beer intake is a question that captains and players actively think about when strategizing. How drunk is the other team  going to be at this point of the of the game? Is our team too drunk to pull this off? Should I have another beer even though the game is tied up and my next kick will be crucial?

Likewise, these are the type of questions that the player will have to grapple with while playing Kickball All-Stars.

In the KVKL there are a variety of approaches. Some very competitive teams have gone as far as to implement beer bans during the game, while others winning teams hang their hat on their ability to drink and still perform. One guy is even known for shotgunning a beer before every kick. As I was saying, the league is full of rich characters.

Why is this so amazing from a design perspective?

It’s because when I design a player card like Drunken Master, a character with the special ability to improve as they drink more beer, it’s not just an ambiguous concept; I’m literally talking about that guy who shotguns a beer every time he kicks and seems to just get better.

Being able to draw inspiration from these KVKL realities is a luxury I intend to use.


 

  1. It’s just so much fun

It’s true. Nothing beats playing kickball. If you don’t agree with that statement, then you haven’t played kickball recently.

Because everyone I know who plays agrees, kickball is the best.

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(Commence list within a list, we have to go deeper.)

  1.  Anyone can play

Unlike most sports, which have a high barriers of entry, kickball has none.

To play soccer competitively you need to be able to run continuously for 90 minutes. Well there goes 80% of the population. On top of that you have to have incredibly precise foot-eye coordination. Welp, there goes another 15% of people.

The point being, if you take 22 people off the street and get them to play soccer, chances are that not very many of them won’t really have the skills to play.

But, take those same people, put them on a kickball diamond, and let the good times roll. You don’t have to run for long periods of time. Catching kickballs is pretty easy. Most importantly though, kicking a ball rolled slowly at you is easy too. You might not get on base every time, but that doesn’t matter because the act of kicking a ball as hard as you can is just plain fun.

  1. It’s a kids game

Why this is such a great virtue may be less obvious, but if you play in a local recreational softball, soccer, or basketball league, then you will know what I’m talking about.

Here’s why.

Normal rational adults tend to turn into crazy people when competing against one another. 

In kickball this is much less common. Don’t get me wrong, people can still be hot headed, but this time you are equipped with the ultimate trump card.

Just say, “dude, we’re playing kickball right now.”

Say that and antagonistic people tend to recognize they are getting unnecessarily angry, calm down, and begin having fun again.

It’s magical.

  1. The possibilities are endless

Yes. You can have a blast just kicking the ball as hard as you can every time. However, hitting the ball with just enough curve to bend over the infielders and in front of the outfielders takes skill, finesse, timing, and strategy.

Like any sport, there is no limit to how good you can be. Just in this one, it’s much easier to be relatively competent, but even if you aren’t it’s still fun.

Looking at this list of reason’s that makes kickball fun, I’m realize these are the same things I love about my favorite board games.

I want this board game to be simple enough that anybody can pick it up and play right away.

I want there to be a layer of strategy and depth below that so a player can become skilled at the game as they play it more.

Finally, I want it to be fun and not take itself too seriously. This isn’t chess, it’s a game about kickball and beer. And when you get your girlfriend/boyfriend out, they’ll still be having fun because, hell, it’s kickball!


 

So there you have it, an incredibly long winded explanation of why I chose to make a board game based on kickball.

And if at this end of this article you still think that a game about Space Dwarfs sounds better than a game about kickball, then you should go make it.

For me, however, I feel like the best game I can make right now is about kickball, and that’s the game I want to make.


Here’s how you can stay up to date on the project:

Like the blog to get notifications when there are new posts.

Join the email list HERE to receive emails with important project updates.

As always you can hit me up in the comments!

Thanks for reading.

 

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