Review of “Your Body, an Altar”

Game Type: Solo Journaling
GM-Less: Yes
Players: 1+
Rules: Practically Non-Existent
Mechanics: None
Themes: Self-awareness, negotiation, vulnerability
Author: @sixfeetzen and @zeuswares
Find it Here: https://theivorytowercrumbles.itch.io/your-body-an-altar

What I liked:

  • The evocative art and prompts

What I didn’t like:

  • It’s not a game
  • $5 is too much for 652 words imo

Have you ever seen a psychologist that deals with young children? Or even Mr. Rogers when he engages kids with his puppet, Daniel the Tiger? That’s this “My Body, an Altar,” in a nutshell. You are talking to yourself or others about some anxiety/worry and then negotiating with yourself or others some price you can agree on.

My Body, an Altar (“Altar”) definitely qualifies as roleplay, but I struggle to call it a game. It doesn’t even want to be a game in the sense of mechanics driving some uncertainty or dependent on skill to “win” or “lose.” If anything, it’s a slim set of Q&A that encourages one to ask themselves (or others) about what they need, what they’ll do to get it, and whether or not there’s a fair exchange that you – the player – are comfortable giving to fulfill those needs.

This Q&A is with you – the Supplicant – asking a dark, shadowy thing (see Carl Jung’s “Shadow” self concept) what it fears, craves, etc with your personal, liberal interpretations of what those fears and cravings are specifically manifested as and are most likely intended to be taken from your own life.

See, it’s not really about roleplaying as an existential shadow monster; it’s really about asking your own ‘dark side’ if you’ve got unmanaged expectations. It’s a “how am I feeling about my current anger or sadness? How can I get what I really need?” kind of self-therapy.

It’s more appropriate to call “Altar” a tool; a tool designed to help you with self-reflection, understand vulnerabilities, fear, pains, etc. that you or others you play with might be experiencing. It deals with consent as well, but in a blanket way, establishing a “safe space” whereby no one can negotiate anything without both parties agreeing. (And when both parties are you, yourself, it probably matters most).

As far as games go, however, it simply fails to meet my bar. All the questions being asked in “Altar” are questions you should already be asking of yourself in a regular journal/diary (if you keep one). Maybe its benefit is that it poses questions you hadn’t quite thought of or tries to create the perfect atmosphere for diving into yourself, encouraging you to explore the inner landscape of your anxieties and realize what you truly want.

“Altar” clocks in at 652 words, which is understandable given it was created as part of a game jam, and it meets its theme of “Hot Horror” given the desires some Depictions possess. For a $5 price tag, though, I’ll stick with Mr. Rogers teaching me about being a good person, getting consent, and looking inside myself. Daniel the Tiger isn’t a tortured shadow monster (or is he?) but we learn the right lessons all the same.

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