A downloadable writing game

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I want translations with copious footnotes, footnotes reaching up like skyscrapers to the top of this or that page so as to leave only the gleam of one textual line between commentary and eternity.

Vladimir Nabokov, writer of Lolita and Pale Fire

Be careful what you wish for, Nabokov…


  1. Introduction
  2. How to Play
  3. Files & Features
  4. Purchase


This is a game about a Writer and a Translator who have every reason to be the dearest of friends, most vicious of enemies, or even both. Writer left their home under great duress, bound for a foreign land; Translator, out of pity and admiration, supported them in their time of need. Now, Writer is working on their magnum opus; Translator is appending their lines with footnotes to relay its deeper meanings… or so they think. Perhaps Writer disagrees. Perhaps Translator knows them better than they know themself.

The two are set on an inevitable collision course:
like armies marching grimly in their battle lines;
like hands reaching elbows in jocular embrace;
like skyscrapers blotting out the sun.

How to Play

Like Skyscrapers Blotting Out The Sun is a 2-player game of excessive footnotes, killing the author (figuratively only, please), and woes in translation.

It begins with a single page of paper. One of you plays Writer, setting down their story line by line from top to bottom. The other of you plays Translator, sitting across the table from Writer and writing footnotes up the page from bottom to top. Each footnote links to something in Writer’s story and explains what (Translator thinks) it means and how it connects to Writer’s history and opinions on all kinds of things.

Each page ends when Writer’s lines and Translator’s footnotes inevitably collide. Between pages you discuss the events of Writer and Translator’s life together before either starting another page or ending the magnum opus.

Along the way, you can turn to four card oracles for inspiration:

  • The Seed Oracle gives Writer 52 themed key words, phrases, and ideas for their story, or the next page, or their next turn.
  • The Footnote Oracle gives Translator nearly 52 subjects for their footnotes, ranging from Writer’s opinions on the new country’s culture or the act of translation to linguistic techniques and veiled remarks about your peers.
  • The Event Oracle gives both of you over 13 events that might happen in Writer and Translator’s fraught life together, such as news from the old country, literary fads, and the dreaded writer’s block.
  • The Figure Oracle gives you nearly 52 people Writer and Translator might meet in their day-to-day lives, from other writers, to book-making and -selling labourers, to government officials, to literary critics.

Files & Features

Like Skyscrapers comes in 2 forms: an HTML file with custom fonts and interactive features and an EPUB file/ebook.

The HTML file is TTS-friendly, responsive to your screen size, and has a slew of display controls, from colour schemes to text formatting! Not only that, it has play diagrams to explain the game, navigation links to help you traverse the text, and even a built-in generator for grabbing random prompts from the oracles. All this is encoded in the file itself, so you only have one file to handle, just like a .pdf.

For designers: the structure of the file is fully reusable, but, for ease of use, there's a freely-available template version (Note: based on an earlier version of this game) called Write Skyscrapers with all the game content stripped out. You’ll need at least a basic understanding of HTML to work with it, but the template links to some useful resources to learn this stuff. Check it out here:

  1. left their home, a fictionalisation of Vladimir Nabokov’s complex emigration from Russia to the U.S.A. from 1917 to 1940.
  2. supported them, referring to the U.S. literary critic Edmund “Bunny” Wilson, who became fast friends with Nabokov and helped him find work.
  3. magnum opus, meaning “great work”, often defined by critics as an enduring masterpiece that aims for or receives critical praise.
  4. battle lines, a double meaning referring to lines of text as well as military formations.
  5. jocular embrace, referring to an entry in Nabokov’s dream journal after his and Wilson’s bitter falling-out over his translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin: somebody on the stairs behind me takes me by the elbows. E. W. Jocular reconciliation.
  6. like skyscrapers, referring to Nabokov’s demand for translations with […] footnotes reaching up like skyscrapers to the top of this or that page while arguing for direct translations with extensive explanatory notes rather than “localised” translations that change the writer’s original meaning to something familiar to the translator’s audience.

CategoryPhysical game
Rated 5.0 out of 5 stars
(15 total ratings)
AuthorSpeak the Sky
TagsComedy, drama, GM-Less, meta, tabletop-role-playing-game, tragedy, Two Player, writing
Average sessionA few hours
AccessibilityColor-blind friendly, High-contrast, Blind friendly


Buy Now$10.00 USD or more

In order to download this writing game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $10 USD. You will get access to the following files:

Like Skyscrapers v2-2.epub 114 kB
Like Skyscrapers v2-2.html 215 kB

Exclusive content

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Community Copies

Each copy of Like Skyscrapers Blotting Out The Sun you buy opens up a free copy for someone else who's experiencing financial hardship. If you have low or no income, feel free to take a community copy!

Development log


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I helped make a video review of the game!


We loved reviewing the game, it's so cool! Thank you!

Holy shit, thank you so much! I've gotta go back and give it another listen, but I liked the discussion about the Translator's power, and the suggestion to use lightweight character playbooks was interesting and one I might implement in the next version of the game (probably as alternate character creation prompts).


Thank you.


Added your game to Goodreads, which was interesting.. I've included the asterisks in the title. :)


Author name is Speak the Sky, but if you'd like a "real" name added, that's possible!

I'll read and review the game there soon. (I'll drop a link when I'm done.)

Nice, thank you!


(Psst, for somereason the text on this itch listing is for Write Skyscrapers - you might want to edit it to be thr description for Like Skyscrapers!)

Thanks! I updated this and Write Skyscrapers a few days ago but must've accidentally pasted the WS text in both.


No problem! I only noticed because I was very confused by the recursive link lol

I absolutely love the layout and concept and very excited to maybe play next weekend

Thank you—feel free to let me know how it goes!


"Let me state that without my notes Shade's text simply has no human reality at all ... For better or for worse, it is the commentator who has the last word" ~ Nabokov, Pale Fire

A fascinating game with a good portion of the wit and metatextual verve of its inspiration occluded subject, Like Skyscrapers Blotting Out The Sun is an impressive feat of visual and ludic design, about which very few quibbles critical comments can be made*. The good humor with which it approaches its subject, as well as the layout and structure of the game as an object, recommends it to anyone interested in playing games with literary concepts.

*The author uses 'speculative' as the general term for fiction of the estranged, terminology I personally abjure for theoretical reasons; this is unlikely to bother anyone who has not thoroughly dissolved their good sense in the heady draught of Suvin, Freedman, and Chu.