If you’ve ever watched a rap cypher, you’ve probably wondered how someone can string together a substantive narrative of rhymes while also ethering someone or offering a sociopolitical analysis of some form.
Who really knows? But new freestyle rap-based game Vers, developed by 21-year-old Northeastern University entrepreneurship student Jerry Spatch, is offering people a chance to experiment with the rap form. Spatch, who is originally from Southern California, said the idea for the game was sparked from freestyling at college parties.
“Afterwards people would come up to me and say things like, ‘That’s amazing, how does your mind work so fast?’” Spatch told The Huffington Post. “And I started to think, ‘If I can do this, why can’t they?’ Freestyling is a mental exercise, it’s not like a piano or guitar where you have to strategically train your fingers.”
Outside of his realization that people were fascinated by freestyles, Vers is also a product of Spatch’s entrepreneurial mindset.
“The resolution was that if I could give people what a freestyle rapper does in their head and then make it as fun and accessible as possible, it could be a pretty great game,” he said.
The Kickstarter for Spatch’s game launched on Wednesday, but the game is available to download and print on the website. He hopes to raise $10,000 for the game’s production.
“What I like about freestyling is that it’s a primarily idea-based form of expression,” he said. “You’re really just connecting the concepts in your head and putting those into rhymes.”
In the game, players are given a category card and a base card that will inspire the freestyle. The base card lists the words to be used in the rap whereas the category card determines what the freestyle is about. If players think someone’s bars are weak, the freestyler has to try again until they drop something semi-impressive.
“Anybody can rap with this game as long as you can read the words on the card and you can think,” Spatch said in a video descriptor for the game.
“The process is like giving people a crayon and a piece of paper and then letting them do what they want with it. One person might draw a cow, another might draw a horse, and the last might melt the crayon and use the paper as a stem to make a candle,” Spatch said. “Freestyling is like that except the crayon and paper are all the thoughts, feelings and ideas you have.”
Not only is Spatch allowing others to try their hand at what’s otherwise a mysterious art form, he’s bringing some very necessary diversity to the gaming industry.
“When you look at the tabletop segment, it’s extremely, extremely non-diverse and it has a very noticeable impact on the games produced,” Spatch said. (Tabletop games are a reference to card, board and dice games, among others, that can be played on a flat surface and are distinguishable from video games).
Spatch said when browsing Kickstarter, he mostly sees fundraising campaigns for games involving dragons, space, cowboys, dungeons or medieval times.
“It’s very likely the majority of the development team [for these games], and possibly the whole, is not representative of the culture,” he said. “More diverse people in games would likely mean more diverse and relevant games; as opposed to the current state of the industry, where it’s saturated with a lot of the same.”
Lack of diversity isn’t limited to tabletop games. According to a Newsweek article published last year, which cites the International Game Developers Association, only 3 percent of developers in the video gaming industry are black.
“No one really talks about this because it’s games, but we really do not have a diverse influx,” Spatch said.
The print and play version of Vers is available for download here.