2020, Amble and the mystery of emergence

Sometimes in role playing games something mysterious and delightful happens. A story that no one designed or wrote, emerges, seemingly of its own accord, from the interactions between the players. Rather than playing through a prescribed story the players discover a story through play.

A group of people walk across a field towards the camera.
Hailey takes a selfie with the team at Amble Camp.

It was gaming experiences like these that put the Amble twinkle in Hailey Cooperrider’s eye. As a longtime collaboration practitioner Hailey had high regard for the deep collaborative capacity of her role playing buddies. She wanted to find a way to bring that latent potential into the workplace.

When Hailey invited me over to design a board game with her I thought it would be a fun way to give a little back to my long time Dungeon Master and friend. By the end of that first session I was hooked. The agile design process was thrilling. I left with fully charged creative batteries, high on the freedom that comes from making something and testing it, without trying to make it perfect.

“Board game designer” was nowhere on my list of hopes and dreams for myself but as ‘Awesome New Project’ began to take shape, Hailey started asking me if there was a game I wanted to work on. I admitted that there was something. I wanted a board game that would help my 10 year old understand some of the personal development work I am passionate about. So began the journey of The Feelings Game.

The feelings game: A purple pawn and a grey gremlin on brightly coloured maze tiles.
The Feelings Game, a surprising result of 2020

Then COVID happened, lockdown, panic, grief. As a professional freelance facilitator all my work evaporated as folks scrambled to make sense of the situation. Suddenly I had a whole lot more time on my hands, Hailey and I worked to get our games online using Tabletop Simulator and continued developing them. Come June she was ready to bring together a crew of people to start Amble Studio — a place for folks to make games for creating and growing together.

Over the long and lonely winter of Melbourne’s lockdown, Amble became a warm fire of inspiration and support. The team that gathered to share their passion for games and human connection moved me from tears of sadness to tears of laughter. As we learned how to work together, in classic Amble style, we made a game of it.

In this context of generative co-creation, the whole extraordinary mess of 2020 became another player at the table. Circumstances pushed us to find ways to put our games online and gave us the opportunity to connect with an international scene that would have previously only been available to ‘locals.’ The lack of work and the JobKeeper safety net gave me time to explore this new endeavour.

Amble began as a twinkle in Hailey Cooperrider’s eye but it took a whole party of folks to breathe life into it. Jason’s rampant enthusiasm and corporate know-how, Bec’s quiet encouragement and solid skill base, Logan’s curiosity and unfettered creativity, each member of the crew contributed what time and energy they had (they want me to tell you that “Kiri brings gifts of grounding support and exciting insight” as well). Out of our shared commitment and desire for playful collaboration has emerged something greater than any of us alone could conceive. From the inside Amble feels like a story that we’ve written together.