24 Hours of Spoons

I've been meaning to take part in the BGG 24 hour contest again for a few months, but I just haven't managed to line up the time and inspiration, but this weekend I figured I had a chance, though I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to manage the full 24 hours, so had to plan accordingly.

This month's requirement is "Procrastination". Cue a load of joking on the contest thread about putting off entries until later, and so on.

So after a couple of weeks of pondering (this is allowed as long as you don't write things down or create any game materials), the idea came, but it was a weird one, and it might merit some discussion, so please bear with me while I wander off-topic a little.

For the last few years I have been seeing occasional posts on Facebook from some of my friends saying something like "Out of spoons."  This is a reference to a thing that is sometimes referred to as "spoon theory", which is basically a metaphor for suffering from a long-term condition that results in you having limited resources of mental, physical or emotional energy to deal with the challenges in your life.  The idea is that each day you have a limited supply of "spoons" (the reason for this particular image is due to the physical items that happened to be available when this way of looking at things was first explained), and everything you do uses up a spoon.  When you run out of spoons, that's it, there is no more "you" available to deal with anything else.  You may be able to borrow spoons from the future, but tomorrow you'll feel that deficit.  Furthermore, for many sufferers of certain conditions, the activities that use up spoons may seem totally trivial to the rest of us, so sitting up in bed might use a spoon, then getting out uses another.  Maybe you'll appear to be fine in the morning, but if you haven't been careful with how you use your limited spoons, you'll be good for absolutely nothing by lunchtime.

This does not seem obvious material for a game theme, but there was something nagging in my head for a while making me want to do it. After all, the idea is simply about making use of limited resources to do as much as you can, which is hardly a new concept in gaming, and the "procrastination" aspect comes from the fact that as part of play you will have to put off many activities until later.
My game materials. I think if I hadn't been so tight for time I would probably have added images to the cards to make them look a little nicer.

The problem is that, when working with subject matter like this, it risks trivialising struggles that many people really experience and, probably even worse, passing judgement on or preaching to them.  For instance, applying the concept of winning and losing to something that people go through every day as they deal with a condition they have, seems fundamentally wrong to me.

My solution to this might seem to be a bit trite, and I'm sure I haven't got things right here, but I decided to call this a "game-like activity" for one player, which you play for as long as you like, and which has no victory or loss conditions.  You play through one "day", completing what tasks and activities you can, and then move on to the next day, and repeat if you wish.  I have taken some significant liberties with the concept of spoon theory, not least of which that the game is a series of decisions about which of two or three activities to complete, rather than purely being about managing your spoon supplies, but the whole spoon theory is just a useful metaphor rather than anything scientific, so I hope my changes work OK in general.

As far as the gameplay is concerned, from the limited testing I have managed so far (I have 24 hours to make components, test, revise, write up rules, and upload all game materials, remember) the project I now call "One Day at a Time" works more or less as intended.  Some days are straightforward and cause no problems, then after a while you end up with a nightmare day or two where you just have so many tasks to do and so little time or energy to do them.  I'm not sure I will do any more with this project, but it has been a very interesting process.

If you would like to see the rules and game materials, they are all available via the contest entry post on Board Game Geek.

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