Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my great honor to present to you, after over a year of hard work, planning, testing, and design, Devil’s Playground! It was originally conceived as a game that simulated the stock market experience–not so much the actual practice of day trading, but the high times and pitfalls that sometimes get associated with a great amount of success in that particular field. You know what I’m talking about–the women, the parties, the cars, the rush–all that over-the-top stuff you see in the movies. Of course, to have a game, you have to have a point first. You can’t just want to recreate an experience because you like the feel of it and put it down on paper for everyone to read; that’s what books and movies are for. But tying a set of mechanics to the whims of the stock market, or even something that would faithfully simulate the stock market, proved to be more challenging than you might think. Personally, I think, to this day, that the reason for those early struggles was that the stock market is already a game on its owdplogon. Fortunately, I didn’t run my brain around in too many circles trying to figure out a way to simulate the rises and falls of life with the market before a friend pointed out, “You know, if that’s the kind of atmosphere you want to create, you could just move your setting to Vegas.” Ah, yes, Vegas. Vegas had everything I needed. The risk, the reward, the lusty, undisciplined motives, and most importantly, the atmosphere. It is this atmosphere that answers the most important question about the first steps of the Playground’s design process.

During the year and some odd months that this game was in development, many people on the outside assumed that I had been hard at work designing a video game. Perhaps that was because that’s the age we live in, or maybe because everyone who knows me knows that I love video games, but whatever the reason, that was the popular assumption. But even at the outset of this ambitious undertaking, I knew, without doubt, that the idea in question was most definitely NOT an idea for a video game. It was something much more meaningful, and for me and everyone else who would sit down to play it during the design process, much more fun.

Devil’s Playground revolves, in more than one sense, around people–our interactions with them, our ability to manage conflicting relationships with them, and the element of unpredictability that always comes with having to deal with them. This is even more true for the players sitting at the table than it is for the 30 characters imagined specifically to create opportunities for such interactions. I’ve heard it said that these days, when we’re all so well connected via social media and smart phones, we’ve never been so apart. These words get to the heart of what I think so many of us are starting to miss in our daily lives–real interactions with people, especially in the gaming world. Gamers, you can’t tell me you aren’t tired of the vile obscenities shouted at you through your headsets by woefully immature strangers whose only validation in life comes from belittling others during a death match. I say, how about we all start spending some more time with people we already know we like? I once heard someone ask the great Stan Lee if he was worried that the oncoming digital revolution would destroy paper comics, to which he replied: “You cannot substitute the experience of turning the pages of a comic book.” And I believe he was right, then as well as now. I believe you also can’t substitute the experience of sitting down at a table and playing a game with people whose company you enjoy and matching your wits against theirs in a friendly bid for dominance, to whatever degree and however temporary. There is a human element that gets lost in an online interaction, an element that cannot be replaced by a record kill streak or the right to trash talk that little obnoxious kid on the other end of the line. The human experience is vital, and it is the human experience that drives Devil’s Playground in concept.

The Playground is a gritty place with a very dark element to it that is intended to bring out the worst in people, in a harmless, superficial sense. It was modeled to be a loose fictional equivalent of Las Vegas, and features both the light and dark sides of everything they sell in the tourist pamphlets there–mostly the dark side, in fact. The game itself is complete with gambling, crime, help from unlikely places, betrayal from even more unlikely places, law enforcement, assassins, con artists, strippers, and shocking last resorts that are typically reserved for only the truly desperate, among other equally despicable things. Obviously, this game was not made with children in mind, and I want to go on the record now saying that I wouldn’t want anyone under the age of 21 anywhere near this thing. The game is built on the premise that if several people who are familiar with each other are thrown into an arena and told that only one of them gets to leave, you never know what lengths they might go to in order to stay ahead of the pack. It’s the process of finding out what will transpire among the people you think you know that helps to make it so much raucous fun.

The Devil’s Playground is a very unique experience, unlike any other game that I’ve played, I can tell you that much. We’ll be getting into all the devious reasons for this in the weeks and months ahead, as well as introducing some of the characters and talking about the creative process behind its creation in more depth, as well as showcasing some brilliant artwork by Schilling Concepts. The game itself will be officially debuted at this year’s Baltimore Comic-Con on September 7th and 8th, and it will be made available for purchase at the end of November. So look forward to that, my deviant friends, and when you come back, make sure you bring your worst intentions…