It’s morning and I’ve slid into my first cup of coffee and the second hour of my work day. It’s almost 10AM. A familiar notification appears at the top right of my screen, following that notification, I see a spinning card in the center. Words flow across the screen describing the experience to come. I’ve read them a million times, so I go to chat and type the first of many things I’ll type in chat that day: !ticket.
It’s time for !Permadeath with Wrigglemania.
OK, let’s take this from the top and start with the man Steve Wrigley. This man has created a digital deck of cards and with them has created a unique experience with a couple of Bethesda titles. Namely, Skyim and Fallout 4. On each stream, viewers in chat collect a currency called “caps”. The caps are then spent in turn to play one of these cards from what is called the Permadeck. The effects of the cards are random and can give items, take away lives, spawn one or more creatures that can be friendly or deadly, even going so far as to control when Wrigglemania can or cannot save in game.
Each card is uniquely suited to the game he is playing, so in Skyrim you might spawn a horse, while in Fallout you may spawn an angry Deathclaw. As for lives, there is a limited number of them that viewers in chat can add or take away via the Permadeck system. When there are zero or fewer lives, the character is in !Permadeath. If a death occurs and there are no reserve lives on hand, this happens.
Which is to say, it’s hilarious and dramatic.
Those are the mechanics of this stream, but we would be remiss not to review what the flow of this system looks and feels like. What Wrigglemania has created in this is a unique, episodic experience. Bringing his experience with talk radio to the fore, he gives backgrounds to each character and adds to their lore based on the cards played by the viewers. As he goes through each stream, in addition to playing the game, he also has to be wary of the efforts among his viewers to either keep his characters alive or kill them by making certain kinds of plays or drawing cards and seeing what fortune comes from there.
This brings us to his community: the Deckheads.
The viewers that follow him are called the deckheads. As each viewer comes to the stream, they find themselves on the sides of helping, hindering, or just causing general mischief. This is the hidden gem of the stream; Wriggle’s storytelling, personality, and general antics in stream create a bond among the people that see his characters and interact with them. Long time viewers often find themselves created in the game as their own card which enhances an already rich experience by seeing yourself rendered as an NPC in the game who assists Wriggles or tries to kill him. Each team celebrates depending on how the day turns. Since characters – and the effects of the viewer interaction with that character – have a form of permanence, each consecutive stream has an episodic feel, leaving you want to see how each character’s advent turns out.
Each story requires investment from the viewers and that investment, plus the relationships, make this a wonderful experience for everyone involved down to the newest member. The overall community is warm, welcoming, and more than eager to bring anyone new into the overall adventure. The streams are anywhere from 4 to 6 hours long and are filled with moments like this one.
Or this one.
Or this beauty.
If you’re up for an adventure – especially one that is partly of your own making – I’ll see you tomorrow morning at 10AM.