Where did the name “Freeform Games” come from?

sharpandsensibility

This is another weekend freeform – Sharp and Sensibility where I played the British Prime Minister who, as well as running the country, had to deal with his demanding daughter and her friends.

In the UK and Australia, the games became known as “freeforms” whilst in the USA they became known as “theater-style larps”. They are often run at games conventions.

Freeforms/theater style larps involve giving players prewritten characters in a setting designed to create lots of conflict. After I played my first freeform in 1992, I realised that if you removed the genre trappings (most freeforms are steeped in fantasy/SF/horror) then you could create a game that anyone could play and enjoy.

Thus Mo and I started Freeform Games, and started bring freeform-style murder mystery parties to the Internet.

The main differences between a Freeform Games freeform and the freeforms run at games conventions are:

  • We provide detailed instructions for our hosts as we appreciate that our game might be the first time they have tried this sort of thing.

  • Freeforms at games conventions are often steeped in the fantasy or SF genres – it’s not unusual to be playing a vampire or a spaceman or even a vampire spaceman. We try to keep our games fixed in the real world. (Although we have made a couple of exceptions, such as Spellbound and A Heroic Death.)

  • We also ensure that our murder mystery games are fairly simple and take no longer than about three hours to play – other freeforms can be quite elaborate and involve dozens of players and take an entire weekend (see my post on The King’s Musketeers).

So when Mo and I talked about starting a business bringing murder-mystery style freeforms to the Internet, “Freeform Games” just seemed to be perfect.

There are perhaps two downsides to calling ourselves Freeform Games. The first is that the name itself doesn’t mean anything very much, particularly if you aren’t involved in freeforming. Second, and probably more importantly, it’s not a particularly good name from Google’s perspective, as it doesn’t contain the words “murder mystery”.

Despite those two drawbacks, I can’t imagine being called anything other than Freeform Games. It suits us just right.

Steve Hatherley

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