Golden Cobra Challenge (2023)
Part of: Golden Cobra Challenge
Most Mind-bending Sequel or Remix
Time may destroy everything, but it also makes everything weird, too! This is a mind-bending sequel of Karolina Soltys' 2020 Golden Cobra game The Glimpse, in which a family begins to separate into alternate-reality versions of themselves after a computer update. By introducing simple, temporary online tools and a strict, long-term bond with another player, The Reach has the potential to deliver an unforgettable online experience that's also as low-key and easy-to-maintain as any of our ordinary texting friendships. We want to hear about your Tales of Two Robins!
Most Brilliant Commentary or Critique
For those of us who want an experience akin to Don Freeman's children's book Corduroy or, well, Toy Story over a hot beverage, this game promises a fun and odd afternoon. In the spirit of the best Mad Tea parties imbued with unmentionable and random existential worries, At the Doll Cafè takes Jacqueline Bryk's The Porch and makes it about doll things. And it may, indeed, be a commentary on you too, dear player. A clearly-written, well-organized game that promises a simple, effective existential crisis.
Most COBRA GOLD POWER POINTS
The Archive, which specifically references over thirty previous Golden Cobra games, easily amasses the most GOLDEN COBRA POWER POINTS (Cobra Commander's personal statistician calculated that it accumulated 1,136.2 Power Points). And while we can all agree that this is good news, The Archive is also an excellent game that has something really interesting to say about larp as a medium and how we approach it both intellectually and as an activity. By inviting players to explore larp through futuristic archaeological work and Dead-Sea-Scroll-like fragments of previous games to explore and piece together into something new, The Archive gives us a sense of depth and history in a way that is sure to be fun to play.
Game We Are Most Excited to Play
A strong premise for freeform can always be found in specific human situations, and nothing is more human than the chaos of daycare - even cryptid daycare! From the madlib character creation to the stuffy bureaucracy of the incident reports, this freeform larp is ready for any group to pick it up and go nuts. Now you, too, can create a cryptid who responds to stress by prophesying doom!
Game That Made Us Laugh the Most
Merrilee Bufkin's complex and hilarious (and semi-autobiographical) look at the wild interpersonal dynamics among Southern Baptist women of a certain age, is a lovely example of recontextualizing and building on an earlier game (in this case, Tasha Robinson's The Regency Committee on Decorum and Punchbowl Poop Prevention). Something deeply weird has happened in the community and it's up to the ladies prayer group to sort it out, amid religious rivalry, grim rhetorical combat and, no doubt, plenty of bless-your-hearts. You'll laugh, you'll fake cry, you'll flip the snack table. Funny for sure, but also heart-felt and smart.
Game That Made Us Cry the Most
Laura op de Beke's game Benediction takes place over five in-game days, as a group of medieval nuns await the arrival of a holy man set to change all their lives. It's an intensely focused, well-researched, and emotionally heavy game about women given the chance to be introspective about their roles, their God, their fears and their desire.There's lyrical beauty to Benediction, which makes excellent use of ritual group prayer across the liturgical hours to both set the tone and create a sense of (sacred)space, and is driven by a series of revelatory and often disturbing announcements that occur daily at lauds. While not particularly sad on its surface, Benediction promises to be a deeply emotional experience - one that will make us cry.
Special Emeritus Jury Prize
Perennial Golden Cobra rascal Tim Hutchings' game Honeynet deliciously mashes together contemporary anxiety over artificial intelligence and surveillance culture with a beloved Golden Cobra winner from the past - Jeff Dieterle's game Wigilia - and the result is somehow both greater and weirder than its parts. There is a darkness to Honeynet that belies the gentle and sweet game-within-a-game at its core as well as the absurdity of its AI shards' realm of knowledge. Recontextualizing Wigilia as a horrifying exercise by amoral techno-monsters is certainly a bold choice, and it comes together like a delicious piece of opłatek.
Calor é bom pra mosquito! is a direct and scathing climate-change class critique, delivered through punchy Brazilian idiomatic expressions. This is the kind of committee larp that everyone in the Global North might benefit from playing at least once. Since we'll all be "enjoying" increasingly hot weather in the coming years, the game has a side benefit of helping cool the players off - through literal ice!
Grand Exhibition of Prompts certainly seizes on our current technological moment: a fresh, unique take on AI image generation prompts and other late-capitalist delights. We have zero idea how this would actually play out, and whether or not the premise itself would survive contact with players fiddling with their AI tools, but we want to find out - and you should, too!
Sometimes Acata Felton needs to respond to Acata Felton. Reflections at the Witching Hour invites two players to explore what on what is on the other side of the Looking Glass, this time with tarot cards as a major interpretative and randomizing element. A chilling dabble in self-reflection, the occult, and the unsettling power of calm moments in the middle of the night.
We simply had to recognize this cute, prosocial game that actually prompts you to clean out your junk drawers. Beautifully framed, written, and conceived, The Secret Lives of Junk(kin) Drawers, or Why Marie Kondo does(n't) Spork Joy will help you sort your house - and your feelings - while fostering a reflection on what we keep and what we forget.
Apparently your house plants have now taken over the world and are now putting you on trial for the misdeeds of humanity. Cool. Honestly, this is exactly what we had in mind with this year's contest constraints. A relevant, twist-filled remix of Raph D'Amico's They Say You Should Talk To Your Plants and J. Walton's Personal Testimony of the Last Kings of Heaven, this card-based trial larp will elicit the right level of helplessness and surrealism that we enjoy.