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Frantic Fanfic is a party game about writing terrible fan fiction

Party games are one of the go-to gaming options when it comes to groups of friends looking to play together — especially during the last year of the COVID-19 pandemic. From titles like Super Mario Party and Overcooked to the ever-popular Jackbox series, there is a growing number of party games out there. A recent arrival on the party game scene aims to offer players a creative writing option in the form of Frantic Fanfic.

Under development since December 2020 and launched in April 2021, Frantic Fanfic is all about getting the creative writing juices flowing for groups of two or more. Self-described as “a fandom-frenzied supercharged mess of exposition,” this party game was born out of a love of pop culture, convention-going, and fandom by developers Zee and Michael.

Springing up out of an effort to bring back some of the energy of going to conventions that was effectively lost during the pandemic, there’s something special to be found in Frantic Fanfic.

Frantic Fanfic’s origin

Frantic Fanfic started out from creator Zee’s initial idea of having a few three-minute presentation nights (a game that really blew up in popularity during quarantine in which you create a PowerPoint on a topic, usually of your choosing, and present it to a group) with friends, with a twist. The concept was that instead of knowing the topic beforehand, Zee and friends would create topics, shuffle them, pull from a list, and then need to put together the presentation beforehand.

This presentation night eventually morphed into the first online version of Frantic Fanfic that made use of Google Docs, a Facebook event, tracking time on a phone, and Zee manually sending out links to friends. In this form, Frantic Fanfic was a game where several friends would write the beginning, middle, and end of a story before all parts would come together and they would read each story out loud. A few days after this event, Zee was hit with the idea of a website or an app.

“I was staring at the ceiling thinking ‘Damn what a great time that game night was … when can we do it again, how can I make it better’?” Zee tells Digital Trends. “And then it hit me. Oh my God. It could be a website. An app. A something. We could develop this. And so we did! We’ve been developing Frantic Fanfic since December 2020 and it’s been a fun ride ever since.”

A opening menu of Frantic Fanfic.

Alongside wanting to have fun with friends, Zee was also missing the ability to attend conventions during the COVID-19 pandemic. “So I thought really hard about the things that I missed from conventions,” says Zee. “What panels I missed. What the vibe was like. I really missed the bad fan fiction reading panels, which I thought were hilarious. Bad writing plus over-dramatic delivery is very, very funny. If I could combine the presentation parties with the bad fanfic reading panels somehow … I feel like that would be a fun thing to do!”

Michael, Zee’s boyfriend and a software developer, makes up the other half of the two-person team behind Frantic Fanfic. After Zee put together what would evolve into the completed version of the game, she and Michael ultimately decided on creating a website.

“We eventually settled on a website because coding an app was so time-intensive just to get onto all the various app distribution networks,” Zee says. “Then came the concept of the visuals. I’m not a website designer by trade so it was a lot of back and forth and learning what we could and couldn’t do there on the fly. Michael is a back-end developer so he learned all the front-end pieces you see in the game within the last eight months. I made mockups in Photoshop and Michael would translate them to actual working code. The first time we saw text inputted into the page and then carried through to the next section was magical.”

So, what do you get when you pair a love of fan fiction, the humor and chaos you can often find at late-night convention panels, and an idea together? You get Frantic Fanfic.

What is Frantic Fanfic?

Thanks to the work that Zee and Michael have put into the game, Frantic Fanfic is a user-friendly game to get right into with friends. The quick-start guide is chock full of helpful information on how to get started playing quickly with a longer version available, as well as a streamer-specific guide.

But at its most basic, Frantic Fanfic allows a group of friends to each write down character names that will then be shuffled around, names will be chosen by the group, and then each player will be prompted to write a different section of several fan fictions using the chosen characters under a time limit. Once every section of each fan fiction has been written, the group will then be prompted to read each out loud.

An example of fan fiction written in Frantic Fanfic.

Winning a round comes down to the reactions that each fan fiction garners from the group playing. During the part of the game where you read what you’ve written out loud, members of the group can react with as many reactions as they’d like. Frantic Fanfic really leans into the collaborative side of things, even when determining which player has won the game.

The reading section of Frantic Fanfic is where a lot of the energy that the creators were looking to recapture from bad fan fiction panels comes in full force. Much like in live panels where bad fan fiction is read out loud, players of Frantic Fanfic then get to read their own monstrosity that they all just wrote together. This often results in laughter and chaos that feels extremely reminiscent of a late-night convention panel. “We had a session go on for three hours and by the end of it people started to lose their voices from laughing so hard,” Zee said.

With three game modes currently available (Standard, OTP version, and Self Insert), there are a number of different ways to play. Four different timing modes are available to choose from, such as lightning round and a more leisurely option, which can affect gameplay even more.

Zee offered some tips for new players of Frantic Fanfic. “Make the most of it by inviting some people that you know are into fun party games and willing to try something new and get a little creative and silly! We find that the best games are played with about four to eight players, so you can get a really good shuffle in there. But you can play between two to 16 players if you really want to.”

Frantic Fanfic’s future

While Frantic Fanfic is still new on the indie party game scene, that hasn’t stopped Zee and Michael from working on updates for the game. Shared to the game’s blog, a recent update has included some adjustments to the settings screen and, by popular demand, the enabling of a two-player mode.

Since it is a two-person team, updates are done in Zee and Michael’s free time. Zee shared that both work full time, so updates will come as time and energy allow. But, a new mode is coming soon alongside the three game modes that are currently available.

“We’re introducing another mode soon – one where you only see the previous part [the fan fiction section that has been written] and all other parts become hidden while the game is active. We still don’t have the name for this mode yet, there’s a bit of a debate because it’s kinda broken telephone, but not really as nothing is being repeated. It’s more like lost pages out of a diary, trying to continue where someone left off mysteriously sort of thing.”

Alongside a number of future updates that include an interactive audience feature that will allow people to vote on their favorite stories as they view streamed games on platforms like Twitch, Zee’s hopes for Frantic Fanfic are high.

Testimonials from Frantic Fanfic's website.

“Hopes for the future include making a physical copy of the game, making a bunch of different modes, and also seeing a “big streamer” play it live with a huge audience would be extremely cool!” says Zee. “I’d also really love to take this game on the road to a bunch of different cons, COVID protocols pending.”

With a very positive response from players so far, even reaching a goal set by both creator’s to see over 500 people playing at once in June 2021, Frantic Fanfic continues to see more and more ridiculous fan fictions being written by players and some of that real-world convention energy coming back online.

“We did something that made a lot of people happier and got them to laugh at silly stuff,” says Zee. “And during the pandemic and coming out of the pandemic, when things just look so grim in the world… that’s a really nice thing to say you’ve done.”

Interview responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

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