[Results] Writing Contest: What's Your Story? - Vol. I

Friday, Nov 13 at 17:00

Dear readers and writers - two months ago, we started a writing contest looking for the backstories of three of our beloved NPCs. Today’s news post will be mostly about announcing the results and celebrating our winners!

🤖 Other Updates 🤖

Before we dive into it, we just want to mention that we’re still at work with fixing the bugs and issues created by last week’s transfer of the player profiles to V2. If you click here, you will come to a news post in which we collected all known issues. Please comment there if you have noticed any issues regarding the V2 profiles that aren’t on the list. We will also keep that post up to date whenever we put a fix out. Our next news post will go into more detail about our ongoing work again, but today we want to shine the spotlight on the winners of our writing contest.

📱 Mobile Design Survey 📱

Want to help us go mobile? While a mobile version of Horse Reality is still a long way off, we don’t have to wait to think about designs that are intuitive and fun to play. While we have started on a design, we joined forces with a grad student to improve it further and create the best user experience for when you take Horse Reality on the go.

Part of that process is talking to you, our players, and learning more about how you play on your mobile devices and how you play Horse Reality. You can help us by filling in the survey down below. Doing this directly contributes to the development of Horse Reality. You can give us the information we need to make Horse Reality the best horse game out there!

You have until November 16th, 17.00 HR Time (5pm CET) to help us out!


✍️ Writing Contest: Our Conclusions ✍️

Our team was overwhelmed and humbled by your participation and we think it’s safe to say that this event was a huge success! We didn’t know what to expect when we announced our first writing contest, but we for sure did not plan for the 118 entries that we received across servers. It was fascinating to read them all, and so much fun to see how different the background story of one and the same NPC could have been. Choosing the winners was by no means an easy task. We hope you forgive us for taking almost six weeks to decide, as we needed to share our reading time with working on all the anniversary surprises and day-to-day tasks. We have learned a lot about what to expect and how to plan for such a writing contest. We certainly hope to put this new knowledge into practice with future editions of this contest! But, right now, we have no concrete plans for this. There are lots of other pressing to-dos on our team’s task list that we need to tackle first.

🏅 Writing Contest: Here Come the Winners! 🏅

For us, all of you are winners for participating in such large numbers and for helping us find the backstories of our beloved Gisela, Joseph, and Mia! We enjoyed reading every single entry. However, these nine players convinced us the most:

1st prize Gisela: Biancaneve (.com)
2nd prize Gisela (.nl): Alicia
2nd prize Gisela (.com): TheWhisperer7

1st prize Joseph: Belle_Sorciere (.com)
2nd prize Joseph (.nl): Evita_Amber
2nd prize Joseph (.com): Whimsy

1st prize Mia: ValkyrieNZ (.com)
2nd prize Mia (.nl): Seara
2nd prize Mia (.com): KassPratt

Congratulations to our nine winners!

Our prize system was explained in the original contest newspost (under “prizes”). Everybody who won a second prize will receive 12.500 DP as a reward, and everybody who won the first prize will receive 20.000 DP! The DP will be transferred to your account shortly after this news post is published. For the people who got the first prize: We are happy to tell you that your ideas will now become part of the Horse Reality universe! Congratulations, this is amazing - you have actively contributed to the creative development of our game world!

About the first prizes

As was promised, the three backstories by the first-prize-winners will be added to the official Horse Reality lore and displayed on the NPC’s profiles and in our Wiki. We have made some edits to all winning stories to make the three match in style and fit our team’s vision of the NPCs and our game. That’s why you may see some changes when you compare the texts with the originals in the contest thread, and also why the versions edited by us may exceed the 800-word limit a bit.

But wasn’t that other story much better?

Picking the winners was a haaard decision since we had so many amazing entries to pick from! In the end, we went with the ideas that we liked the best and that, to our mind, made the most sense for the respective NPC and our game as we envision it.

👩🏻‍🦳👴🏼👩🏽 The Winning Entries 👩🏽👴🏼👩🏻‍🦳

Without further ado, here are the winning entries of our writing contest! Have a lot of fun reading! But, when you’re commenting on the posts, keep in mind: Writing is a highly personal and sensitive thing. If you don’t like our winning stories, that’s a matter of personal preference. We hope none of the comments will make anyone feel bad about what they’ve written (and we won’t tolerate such comments). Thank you!

If you’re in the mood to read even more, you can find the republished forum thread with all entries here.

👩🏻‍🦳 Gisela Lenz 👩🏻‍🦳

First Prize: Written by Biancaneve

Gisela Lenz is the proud owner of retirement homes on all of Horse Reality’s six continents, where she provides unwanted horses with everything they need for the rest of their lives. Any horse that gets sent her way will be taken in, free of charge! Under no circumstances will she ever give them back, so be careful.

Gisela grew up in the heart of Cologne, as the daughter of a successful salesman and his equally hard-working wife. The youngest of three children, her summers were spent exploring the countryside near the village where her mother grew up. She enjoyed lazy summer days catching frogs in a small brook behind her uncle's house, birdwatching and hunting for butterflies and ladybugs all the while admiring a small pasture of horses on a neighbouring farm.

Her parents instilled in her the belief that hard work and dedication would lead to prosperity, not only financially, but emotionally as well. Initially, the bright and curious Gisela hoped to pursue a degree as a veterinarian - she was certainly intelligent enough, and she had a boundless empathy that she knew would serve her well in the field. Her plans changed, however, when she enrolled in her first year of university and took an introductory course in business. Despite her initial misgivings on the subject, Gisela found that not only did she enjoy the class, but she also had a real talent for immediately understanding the concepts. Her professor too was impressed, and after some convincing, long conversations with her parents, and a good deal of soul-searching, Gisela put her veterinary ambitions on the back burner and dove headfirst into the world of business.

Following her education, she found work at a multi-national firm and rose through the ranks, from an associate to a project manager, to department head, to junior vice president, and up, and up, and up. She found professional success and financial security beyond anything she had ever expected, and by the time her retirement was approaching, she'd all but forgotten her 'childish' dream of working with animals for a living. It wasn't until her mother died quite suddenly that Gisela found herself questioning the life she had spent 35 years building for herself. Her mother's last request was to be buried in the family cemetery plot in the village of her birth. If asked today, Gisela would be unable to say if it was the grief of losing her mother or the memories of her happy childhood at this place that awakened the long-dormant feelings of purpose inside of her. Regardless, the visit to her mother's hometown had shaken something loose inside of her. She was tired, truly exhausted. She had worked half her life for a company that likely wouldn't miss her the moment she left. And despite giving her time, energy, and intelligence to this workplace, she felt utterly unfulfilled. She had a dream, and she had given it up in the pursuit of something that she never cared for at all.

With a new sense of resolve, Gisela submitted her retirement request and went forward with a revised plan of how to follow her parents' advice. Near the village where her mother was born, she purchased a plot of land and established her first equine retirement home. She understood how it felt to have worked hard in life, and how important it was to find a place of serenity and solace after years of service. Using her business savvy she acquired from her life in the cutthroat world of multinational companies, she founded branches of the retirement home overseas and eventually expanded her firm to over six continents. She keeps the retirement company running like a well-oiled machine, while still allowing herself the time to care for the animals who need her the most. With her elderly father at her side, the 65-years-old Gisela has finally found the peace and sense of purpose she was searching for all of her life.

Second Prize: Written by TheWhisperer7

The Equine Retirement Co.

Who would have guessed that such a small organisation, started on a little farm to the East of Munster, would grow into a huge venture recognized the world over? Certainly not its founder, a little old woman, one Gisela Schmidt. With a plump face, kindly eyes and silver hair cascading down past shoulder length, Gisela is hardly the type of person to be running a massive non-profit. However, when she is not busy baking chocolate chip cookies or reciting nursery rhymes with her grandchildren, you might find her busily strolling up and down the isles of the barn, personally checking on every horse stabled there. If she is not in the barn, sweat-streaked and with straw in her hair, she may be discovered poring over figures in her office, chatting with potential benefactors over BOOM (the local video chat network) or helping tend to the fields of Teff with her husband, Stefan.

At 65, Gisela is no spring chicken (and should technically have retired - but try telling her that!), although she never lets her age hinder her. The way she explains it, she uses the sorts of challenges she faces every day to inspire her to better care for the ageing horses living out their golden years in her barns. Even as a young girl of ten, Gisela could remember skipping down the country lanes and wondering what happened to the big old palfreys and gentle plough horses when they could no longer carry out their duties. They had always intrigued her, sticking their soft noses over pasture fences so that she could give them gentle scratches on their brows. Upon arriving home one day, she had asked her parents the question, only to be utterly devastated by their matter-of-fact answer. Since that moment, Gisela had always known that she would one day open up a sanctuary for discarded and ageing horses. Her entire life, Gisela had worked hard in the eco-tourism industry, earning money which she later saved or invested. Even after she had met and married her husband, then a medical student from Munich, Gisela had continued to ferret away her funds. Stefan, who also had a deep love and affinity for horses, was only too happy to scrimp alongside his wife towards her valiant goal.

As time wore on, the couple went on to have two children, Nadja and Hans. The children too were raised to have a deep respect for horses, and both went on to be successful equestrians in their own right. Nadja went on to become an Olympic bronze medalist in vaulting (a sport she only gave up after becoming pregnant with her own children), whilst Hans began breeding several types of warmbloods in order to perfect certain lines specialising in jumping and dressage. All the while, Gisela and Stefan kept on with their saving until, one day at the age of 55, Gisela announced that she would be retiring from her day job. Stefan, who was four years her junior, continued to practice as a doctor while his wife bought a plot outside Munster and had built upon it yards of old-fashioned, whitewashed fences and a massive red-brick barn. Finally, at the age of 58, Gisela was able to realise her dream of opening an equine sanctuary. Her first horse, a sway-backed chestnut mare called Fine Tune, arrived on that Saturday and the rest, as they say, is history.

When the media caught wind of the fantastic work done by Gisela and her family for the ageing horses of Germany, they quickly aired a heartwarming story about several of the older residents at the sanctuary. This attention garnered much sympathy from the public, and Gisela was soon inundated by phone calls from people wishing to donate to the cause. Before long, Stefan joined his wife in retirement and, instead of working with scalpels and forceps, the doctor took up pitchforks and tractors. Together, Gisela and Stefan managed the haven, slowly acquiring both staff and volunteers as the farm became too much for them to handle. For this reason, it only seemed natural when men and women in other countries began to enquire as to where they could send their own poor, old horses to enjoy the twilight of their lives at the sanctuary. Seeing a need, Gisela let purpose again drive her, and she busied about getting the necessary permits and finances together to open up sanctuaries in other countries, heading them up remotely (as the saying goes: ‘no rest for the wicked’).

However, when Gisela does manage to grab a few moments to herself, she always sneaks away to the stables to spend time with the reverent beings who ignited such passion in her heart so many years ago.

👴🏼 Joseph Glen 👴🏼

First Prize: Written by Belle_Sorciere

Joseph Glen is the owner of the North-American wildlife park. The gentle giant has dedicated his life to caring for wild horses, but he may let you catch one of his fosterlings if you bring a ticket and some luck. He loves his work and cares greatly for his home and herd, though it can be tiresome. Now in his early 50s, he is ready for the next generation to learn and take over, which is why he may tell you about his life’s story if you are a good listener.

Back in the day, Joseph’s parents didn’t take long to realise that their adopted son was a gifted young boy. While other children played baseball, little 'Joey' was beneath a shade tree, reading as many books about nature and wildlife as he could get his hands on. When he wasn’t reading, he was trying to turn his postage-stamp-sized backyard in the suburban hills of Baltimore, Maryland into a tiny oasis for wildlife - much to the neighbours’ chagrin. His parents supported him as best as they could without ruffling the feathers of the homeowner’s association. Still, the city was no place for Joseph and he dreamed of wide-open plains and blue skies.

By the time he reached his teenage years, however, his life had grown more… complicated. Even with the love and support of his parents, 'coming out' was difficult. Times were different then and they worried about their son’s safety and future happiness. Shortly after Joseph graduated from high school, his parents asked to talk. Around the kitchen table, they shared their worries. Worries that Joseph himself mirrored: He was unsure what to do with his life or what direction to even go in. It was during that heartfelt talk that his parents honoured the wish of Joseph’s late birth mother - by giving Joseph the address of where she used to live.

The San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona - once known as Hell’s 40 Acres. The revelation shocked Joseph, but it gave him a new direction. With his parents backing him, he made his way across the country. When he arrived, he was met with people who looked like he did - something that he could never say back home in Maryland. The residents were sceptical of him at first, but when he revealed his reason for coming they welcomed him as one of their own. He knew in this instance that he had found his home.

Life there wasn’t easy, but over the years, Joseph found his place in the reservation. There was always something that needed to be done, so there was never a dull moment. He was content with his life and had no bigger plans, until one winter evening he happened to step out into the cold and right into the arms of his true calling. A wild Mustang - staring him down. He had never seen one of these feral horses so close, but somehow he knew right away it needed help. Very carefully, the young man approached the large Tobiano mare, and sure enough, a piece of barbed wire was wrapped around her heel. Though he feared she would nip him at any moment (or worse), Joseph freed her. The horse galloped away as soon as she felt the wire gone, but turned to take one last look at him before disappearing into the wild.

After that first encounter, Joseph found his home to be routinely visited by wild horses - all being led by the Mustang mare he helped. Some of the other residents of the reservation began to call him a 'horse magnet'. One elder, however, recognised that Joseph had formed a powerful bond with the wild horses. He encouraged the younger man to nurture that bond and see where it led him. It was advice Joseph took to heart and led to the formation of the Sonoran Wildlife Park. It encompassed much of the wild territory around the reservation, but with local government approval, spanned outside of it as well. Like his ancestors before him, he helped cultivate the land, so that it supported the horses and other wild creatures calling the desert area home. He always kept an eye on the herds, letting them remain wild and free, but intervening when necessary.

The elders of the reservation thought Joseph might be too good at taking care of the horses: Under his care, the herd sizes in their lands had quadrupled. Though he couldn’t be prouder that his work was making a difference, Joseph knew that wildlife was a delicate balancing act. For the sake of the herd, he needed to reduce their numbers. Special permits were granted to catch some of the wild horses - permits issued by Joseph himself based upon the actions of prospective caretakers of the Mustangs he protects. This was how he met his life partner Leon. Joseph was making camp with a group of Mustang-owning hopefuls, collecting brushwood for a fire… only for Leon to mistake his rustling in the brush for a horse hiding in the thicket. Fifteen years later and they still act like they’re on their honeymoon.

“It was love at first lasso.” - Joseph
“I didn’t catch a horse, but I did catch a stud of another kind.” - Leon

Second Prize: Written by Whimsy

Joseph saw his first wild Mustang when he was seven years old. He remembered the moment vividly; he was on vacation with his parents and sisters, on a wild horse tour. His twin sisters were squabbling next to him when the guide pointed towards the crest of a high hill. There, outlined by the cool blue sky, was a red mare, her coat rich and wild as fire. She lifted her head and let out a whinny that touched Joseph’s very soul. It was a challenge and a proclamation all at once, unbroken and fearless.

Joseph lived in a daze after that. The mare visited his dreams every night. He could think of nothing at all except horses. His parents were at a loss on what to do with him. He drifted through childhood, learning all he could about horses.

His first job was mucking stalls and feeding boarded horses at a stable in Arizona. He loved the tall, athletic sport horses, but he knew in his heart that he wanted to work with Mustangs. Wild, rugged, beautiful Mustangs.

He continued working with sport horses, eventually moving on to become a trainer, but he kept his eye out for work involving wild horses. Finally, in his twenties, he found a job as a wild horse tour guide. Now he was the one pointing out magnificent red mares to wide-eyed children, and many more colors besides.

He still got a thrill every time he gazed upon one of the magnificent creatures, and that never changed. He continued his work, explaining to visitors about wild horse behavior, habitats, herd management, and many other things.

Then, he met Wyatt.

Wyatt was a confident young man looking to purchase some mustangs, and Joseph was tasked with taking him to the recently culled horses. This task was normally outside of his duties as a tour guide, and he was never quite sure why he was chosen to take Wyatt to the holding pens, but looking back, he felt fortunate that he had been chosen that day.

Wyatt was charming, and Joseph was immediately drawn to him. He would later find out that likewise, Wyatt was immediately taken by Joseph. As they stood talking at the holding pens, watching the mustangs mill about, they lost track of the time. The park was closing soon, and Wyatt would have to come back another day.

He came back another day, and another. They started dating. The two men talked about opening their refuge for wild horses. Joseph was knowledgeable and passionate about the Mustangs, and Wyatt was ambitious, and business minded. With their skills combined, they knew they could make a sanctuary that would draw people worldwide. A place where every Mustang would find a home, and a place where they could teach others about caring and protecting the wild horses for years to come.

In their thirties, Joseph and Wyatt pooled resources to buy their first bit of land and their first horses. Joseph was chosen as the face of the operation, as Wyatt preferred to be behind-the-scenes. Joseph was the herd manager. He was careful to keep the wild herds healthy, and he also taught others about the care of Mustangs and the importance of wild horse preserves. Wyatt managed the income and expenses, and took care of the technical aspects of the operation.

Over the next twenty years, the park grew in both population and popularity, as buyers were coming from all over the world to buy their Mustangs. They had to expand. They bought more land and hired more employees.

Wyatt and Joseph lived each day taking on the challenges of the business with passion, and sharing the evenings on their front porch, listening to the horses rustle around in their paddocks. They decided to share their world with children, and adopted a boy, Kit, and a girl, Ciara, both horse-crazy, of course.

Ciara already loves telling others all she can about the wild horses, and Kit says that one day, he’s going to be a veterinarian.

Joseph and Wyatt know that their operation will continue to be in good hands for many years to come.

👩🏽 Mia Brown 👩🏽

First Prize: Written by ValkyrieNZ

Mia Brown is the owner of the Australian Wildlife Park, where a ticket and a bit of catcher’s luck will help you to a wild horse. She loves this place and always has, ever since she first arrived thirty years ago. Born in Brisbane on March 10th, 1976, Mia's life had been far from easy. Her mother had been strict and over-bearing, her addict father constantly in and out of jail. At fourteen, Mia dropped out of high school and ran away, falling in with a bad crowd. Caught up with the thrill of rebellion, Mia soon found herself on the wrong side of the law.

And that's when she was sent to Second Chance Station. This wildlife park, run by Robert Wellfield, was a place where unwanted kids were given the opportunity to work with unwanted horses. Second Chance wasn't just a place for two-legged delinquents but also a dumping ground for Brumbies mustered in off the nearby Snowy Mountains. The tough little feral horses were hated and persecuted by farmers for the destruction they caused and the competition they posed towards resources needed for sheep and cattle.

Initially, Mia had been terrified of the horses. They were wild and quick to react. When cornered, they would fight their way out, even if it meant hurting themselves or others.

“These horses are no different than you,” Robert told Mia one day after she broke down in tears. “You've both had to fight to survive. To protect yourselves. That is why we go slow and gentle. You have to earn trust. You can't demand it. See, these horses have no idea that you don't know what you're doing. If you're kind to them, they will trust you to care for them. Kids are the same.”

After a few weeks, Mia grew comfortable and relaxed. She found herself enjoying the hard work, even mucking out the yards in the blazing outback heat. She smiled more and felt her anger at the world slowly ebb away. But the course ended too quickly, and she was forced to return to Brisbane where her pleas to return to Second Chance Station fell on her mothers’ deaf ears. Mia grew restless again and trouble had a way of finding her. But one thing had changed - Robert kept in contact with her and, as if they weren’t generations apart, became the first person she trusted enough to open up about her struggles. In the end, he was the one who arranged it all. To this day, Mia has no idea how he convinced her parents to let their teenage daughter move halfway across the country to work in a strange man’s park. But that was just like Robert - he always had a way with horses and humans alike.

She has been at Second Chance Station ever since, slowly working her way up from volunteer to full-time employee, teaching other kids how to find themselves and grow in confidence. Not only has she helped countless teenagers, but thousands of Brumbies have passed through her hands as well. Once they've been handled and trained it is Mia's job to find them new homes with riders. It gives her no end of satisfaction to see trucks and buses full of happy students - both four-legged and two - leave Second Chance Station for a fresh start at life. Mia saved every penny she made and eventually bought the adjacent property to expand the park, and nobody was surprised when Robert made her co-owner of Second Chance as the two of them had been running the project together for a long time anyway.

But Mia's happiness over the years has been tested. Her first marriage had been a mistake. And the second not much better, although she had been blessed with her two beautiful children from that one: her ten-year-old son Lachie and his little sister, the two-year-old Ellie, who always had a thumb stuck in her mouth. It made Mia a little sad that her daughter would never get to know Robert, who had just died when Ellie was born. Suddenly being the sole boss of the park with two little children and an entire herd of horses and teenagers to look after was a challenging time. But it was also when Mia realised what a beautiful community she had built for herself, where there was always someone ready to lend a helping hand or a listening ear. No matter what other obstacles she would come across, Mia's heart always sang when she woke up in this beautiful place.

Second Prize: Written by KassPratt

G’day everyone, my name’s Mia Brown, I’m head of an Australian wildlife reserve and ya probably have at least seen one of my Brumbies runnin’ around. I'm the one that leads the round-ups, trains rescue brumbies, manages the herd and promotes the protection of these animals. I eat, sleep and breathe brumbies, and I have for a long time. They’re like my kids, although they’re not to be mistaken for my actual human kids. I’ve always had a soft spot for animals, especially horses.

I grew up on a ranch in the middle of the outback, it was hundreds of acres of open land and my earliest memories are being up before the sun and feeding animals before shovelling down breakfast myself. My father and I spent most of the day out on the range and in the saddle, and I loved every second of it. My schooling was a little haphazard, I lived in the middle of nowhere, so I was homeschooled. I learned to read underneath a twisted gum-tree, while watching the sheep graze and I did equations in the barn, because the best way to figure out a math mistake is to try and explain it to your horse and see where you went wrong. While I learned what I had to from school-books, I think the ranch was the best teacher. I wanted to be the best herdswoman I could, so I worked my tail off. I think that’s my best(and sometimes my worst) trait, I’m a hard worker and I don’t like to stop until the job’s done.

I was about fourteen when I found a Brumby mare caught in some fencing. My father and I spent an afternoon freeing her and caring for her. Her and I bonded as she healed, and I called her Cinders. I’m lucky my father let me keep Cinders, because she set my path in life without either of us realizing it. She was my first wild horse, the first of many. I went to university, studying zoology, focusing on conservation and the balancing of ecosystems. My first job was at a wildlife park, and during my years there, I expanded the park and began yearly round-ups of the Brumbies in order to keep the population stable. Last year I ended up stepping up to become the owner of the park. The brumbies got adopted and I ended up adopting my two kiddos, Charlie(Charlotte) and Kitt.

Charlie is probably a more avid equestrian than me, which is sayin’ somethin’. I was her foster mother starting from when she was six, and she was a rebellious kid. I was terrified that I was going to mess things up, I didn’t want to screw the poor kid up. But she came to the ranch and something just clicked, the only thing she wanted was to be with the horses. She came from Melbourne and she had never stepped foot on a farm before. Her behaviour didn’t change overnight, but each day brought progress. She’s a fiery kid, she didn’t mind taking a tumble if it meant that she could spend just a few more moments in a gallop. She’s ten now and she’s starting to compete in eventing and cross country, and I don’t think my blood pressure has ever been higher. Shows are hectic but luckily I have my father to help out, and he’s probably the proudest grandfather on the face of the earth. I taught him how to change his phone and computer screensaver and now all of his devices have pictures of Charlie and Kitt all over them.

I don’t know if Kitt has been bitten with the ‘Brumby-Bug’ yet, he’s only two. He’s certainly more cautious than Charlie though, I know that for sure. I was contacted by the foster care system about him when he was about a year old, he is Charlie’s half brother and had just ended up in the system. I couldn’t say ‘no’ of course, so he was brought into the family. He’s a handful, but I’m lucky that my father helps with him and that my coworkers don’t mind if I have to bring a toddler in with me at the office.

Sure, juggling my job, the kids, and the horses is hectic, but it’s what I love. I couldn’t imagine my life any other way. I think I’m too high strung to do anything else, honestly, I don’t do well with down-time. I’m a human perpetual motion machine. I’m exhausted most of the time, and I certainly look that way, but there’s nothing I’d change about my life.


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