Metatopia: Jade the Problem Child
Game: NP by Matthew McFarland
Episodes: 1, playtest
Theme Song: The Greatest by Sia
Keywords: reactionary, emotional, intense
By the end of Saturday, I was sitting down with Mark Diaz Truman, Matt McFarland, my friend Rob, and a playtester named Lisa to play Matt's new game, called NP, which I was told means Neuroplasticity. The premise is aliens invade earth and kids can manipulate time, kinda, with their little plastic brains. Not actually plastic. Just flexible enough to learn something in the future and bring that knowledge back to the present.
That part was super cool. I really dug the idea that we were using skills we learned in the future, making us tiny, emotional, wannabe adults. Matt and I had talked before hand about the game, and when the time came to play it, I selected the Problem Child because of the discussions we had had. Initially I was gonna play baby Robin, because that's what Rach had done, but I decided I was gonna be the problem kid. I never play the problem kid. And in my own life, I was definitely the honours student.
So I selected the problem child. There was a list of diagnosis I could choose from, and I decided on ADD, as I've been told by several friends they were diagnosed with such as children and grew up to find out it was a misdiagnosis and kinda prevented them from getting proper treatment earlier. Thus, I decided my kiddo had been misdiagnosed, and that the treatment didn't specifically help. She felt this keenly, though, and felt like she was just as strange as the aliens that were invading.
As we made our characters, there were great questions about the other kids in our group and how we felt about them. I was also asked how my diagnosis manifested, what did I have problems with. I had already decided to base Jade off of one of my childhood friends, and also kinda a few other friends I acquired as an adult with BPD. So I decided Jade had trouble regulating emotion. Her highs were high and her lows were low. She was sensitive, and wanted desperately to get approval, didn't plan things and just kind of acted on impulse.
This meant that every other character at the table found Jade scary on some level. Whether because she was loud, boisterous, intense, or because she invoked feelings in them they didn't necessarily understand, Jade was the kid that no one actually liked. I found that immediate treatment as Other really fascinating in the game. The one kid who liked and disliked Jade because she made him kind of uncomfortable in an adolescent way was played by Mark, and he was the honour kid.
I naturally, in my style, ran with this, and I made Tommy, Mark's character, the one that Jade desperately wanted approval from. She'd do as he recommended or she'd ask him to validate what she was doing. She'd apologize to him but no one else. She'd worry about everyone, for sure, but mostly turn that into an external force focused on Tommy.
The games at Metatopia are pretty short, so I didn't get a long time to play her. I tried to make sure her skills were all around the manipulation of objects. She was good with her hands and not with people, so I made sure that whenever she learned something from the future she brought back a tactical skill and not a social skill. Which was interesting because Tommy immediately brought back talking like an adult. Which was an attempt to learn how to talk to girls.
Overall Jade was what I wanted her to be. She was a good kid who felt like there was something wrong with her and the world mirrored that back to her and so, at some point, she started to believe she was a bad kid. She didn't feel loved, or connected, and that's all she wanted, desperately, was to feel those things. Her method of finding that was to seek approval via actions that were validated by others.
Whether I played a person with a diagnosis well, a diagnosis I have never had, I don't know. It did let me explore how it felt to be a child others feared, and others didn't understand. Which was an intense emotional experience and I would do that again to explore that further. While we didn't get a chance to really explore those bonds between us, I would have enjoyed seeing the progression as they became true team mates and learned about each other in deeper ways.