Catherine Chenoweth-Smith and Nicholas Smith
Bringing Fantasy to Life
Every child has the same dream, wishing at some point that the book they are reading or the computer game they are playing would suddenly come alive and transport them away from normal life. We all want our own Oz, our own Hogwarts, our own Wonderland. This is the universal dream of the all-camp program. Almost everyday we at Trailhead Games travel to a different universe with our campers and give them a chance to start a new life where heroic acts of bravery and courage are both attainable and recognized by their peers. We create a fresh world that has not had time to become familiar and lose its sparkle and allure. The rules of everyday life are rewritten. It is no longer about the clothes you wear or the social circles you belong to; it’s about running a flag, solving a puzzle, working as a team, defending your area, and so much more.
The creation of this world is no simple task, it needs to be a unique and exciting place. It needs to grab the attention of campers and entice them to find out more about it. No world was built in a day but most of those we’ve created follow a similar process…
The spark that starts it all. It can come from anywhere at anytime, so be ready for it! How will this world differ from the norm? What creatures/empires/energies await discovery? Most importantly, what is the core conflict? Why are the campers there and what role will they take in the resolution? While piloting giant robot dinosaurs may be cool, will they engage the imagination of every camper? It’s their buy-in that will make or break this world.
A game can be built in several ways, choosing the right one to compliment your world and it’s core conflict can really boost immersion. Does the game lend itself to a run-around style? A world where angry spirits are on the loose and campers need to capture some and avoid others would suit this well. Alternatively a land where crystals need to be gathered to break an ancient curse may be better experienced as a station game, where campers seek out a series of activities or challenges spread around the play areaand get a reward for completing them successfully. Creating hybrids of the two core styles can result is some very dynamic gameplay.
Campers will interact with this world largely though the staff playing roles in the game. Make interesting characters for them, with backgrounds, motivations and souls. An invested staff member will pass on their energy to anyone they interact with.
We do not believe that anyone who has ever gone to camp could deny its power to promote play and spark the imagination. Camps and their staff are life changers, taking kids into a world beyond their own where they are never too cool or too old to chase forest spirits and wield magical popsicle sticks. Camp shows children a place that inspires them to go out and create their own world and reclaim some of the wish, wonder, and surprise of childhood. That is the power of an all-camp program.