We got a chance to ask Samuel Mui some questions on Horse Girl, his other projects and the South East Asia (SEA) tabletop RPG community.
Horse Girl is a solo tabletop RPG journaling game, based on The Wretched by Chris Bissette, in which you document your physical and mental transformation into a horse by the love of your life.
Hi Sam, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Apart from being a game designer, I'm also undergoing an MFA in Computational Arts which is basically fine arts using tech as a medium. So there's a lot of room and support for me to employ game design techniques in other areas such as VR, physical installation, narrative, and research. I'm currently honing my research towards postcolonial anthropology approaches, which is what my urban asian roleplaying game "Capitalites" is all about. My work also deals heavily with the body and sensation, which could involve everything from eating, sex, to surgery - which is also what "Horse Girl" is about. My end goal here with my work is to improve human connection, not just to create empathy for others but also care and empathy for yourself. Games are powerful in that regard.
All over the place and that's a good thing. Everyone does their own spiel and doubles down on making it their own so it's a great space to be surprised. You really do see things you rarely see elsewhere (I'm thinking of Sin Posada's Lutong Banwa and Zuhayri's Experimental Masquerade - two works which take a familiar concept but place a new spin on it). I think there's an attitude where there's no elitist obligation to be unique or creative, but rather a focus on capturing lived experience or perspective which does end up producing something unique and creative.
What inspired you to create Horse Girl?
Those are some challenging themes for a tabletop roleplaying game to cover, what are your thoughts on people who may see it as too controversial for the medium?
Sure, some people don't like it or get it but nobody's tried to cancel me over it yet... I think that's because it's very clear as to what it's trying to do and it's hard to argue otherwise if you have a smidgen of media literacy. If anything, we should be more violent and aggressive with how we talk about fucked up issues like these, not to bury it beneath hopepunk or tenderqueer bullshit but to express very real and very painful rage.
What's your experience of Horse Girl as the creator?
It took me 8 months to finish the game. My initial idea was "what would a better, scarier, more emotionally resonant Human Centipede movie look like?". From there, I looked at in real life experiences and spent a lot of time trying to process what had happened and what was happening to people I cared about and translated it to the Horse Girl narrative we have now. My main intention was never to shock or disgust but to use shock and disgust to illustrate that aforementioned pain and rage I mentioned earlier. Game creation is powerful in that we can also use it to confront ourselves and surgically rip into our weakest, most vulnerable sides. It's therapeutic almost. And therapy and healing won't work without some level of violence or sacrifice.
What do you think the appeal is for solo tabletop games?
I think it's rooted in our ability to daydream. Everyone has IDEAS on what sort of story they'd like to see but very few have the time or skill to write a full novel. Solo games allow us to tell ourselves stories we like to ourselves and for ourselves. It's decentralized, personalized storytelling. No more complaining about the DC cinematic universe or the Snydercut. Do whatever you want when you want, that's the beauty of it.
I haven't had time to play games or pay attention to ZineQuest much but do check out Garm's Cool Crowdfunding and Thomas Manuel's Indie RPG Newsletter to know more about what interesting stuff is being done in the scene.
Pam Punzalan and Sin Posada's Navathem's End is also coming out for print on Kickstarter soon and it's an interesting, character-focused twist on the usual fantasy genre. I think the way moves are written and laid out inside are pretty solid and evades most of the clunky design you see in a lot of PbtA hacks. Aaron Lim is also going to release "World Tendencies", a collection of settings for his mecha game Spectres of Brocken which focuses on character relationships across past and present.
Anything else you'd like to chat about?
On February 14th, I'll be fully releasing Capitalites: the urban Asian roleplaying game in glorious full layout by Maria Mison. It's a game written from my actual life and the life of my peers from the years 2015-present. There are 22 playbooks, each one based on many real people and each one with their own set of insecurities, toxic traits, and wants. Everything inside is true, especially the problematic elements such as the misogyny and extreme capitalism but I'm not here to visualize an ideal world but to confront a broken one. You can approach the game like a dating simulator if you wish but I feel it's best played as a character study of a group of young adults grappling with their self-destruction... so a lot like Horse Girl but very much rooted in my real life. Actually yea, the events you will in play in Capitalites are the same events that inspired the creation of Horse Girl - so that's something that might interest you if you love Horse Girl.
Horse Girl is currently live on Kickstarter.
You can support Horse Girl here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/leyline-press/horse-girl/
You can find out more about CAPITALITES, the urban roleplaying game here: