I think that short form RPGs need of be about one idea. The shorter the form, the more focused and concentrated they need to be. If an RPG takes less than two hours, it has to be a punch in between the eyes.
Which is why it seems like so many of them seem to be so darn tragic. Let’s be honest, it’s easier to make folks cry than to make them laugh. Comedy is harder than tragedy.
Which brings me to Laika, an RPG about saying good bye to something forever and is designed for one player.
When you deal with more indie, more experimental RPHs, they sometimes blur the line between an RPH and a board game or story telling or a drama exercise. In the case of Laika, it blurs the line with ritual. To be fair, it’s not the first time I’ve seen that happen. (Brave Sparrow comes to mind)
The game is just a few pages long and free to download so I won’t go into detail about the game. In a sentence, you go through several steps to make something go away that you will never get back.
That can be a very powerful experience to put yourself through. Possibly unnecessarily traumatic but powerful.
But what made Laika absolutely brutal for me was that invoked Laika, the first dog in space. Who the Russians sent up with no plan or intention of bringing back. By putting a face and a true story to the process, it really made it visceral.
Laika skates the line between RPG and something else. Its not something that I can see myself playing more than a couple times and not in a row. But I think it succeeds in its goal of creating a sense of loss.