The Visitor won the Little Game Chef 2010 competition, in which designers were invited to write up brief comedic roleplaying games that incorporated at least three of the following four elements: Bond, holiday, starfish, and recall. (The rules of the competition are here.)
The setup of The Visitor is that of a sitcom; starfish-like aliens have come to Earth and the US government is in contact with them, though their presence is secret from the public. They have demanded that one of their number be permitted to live with a normal American family to learn more about humanity.
One player is The Visitor, one of the radially symmetrical, multi-limbed aliens; the others are "family members," each of whom has a role in the family (dad, daughter, whatever), a short description suitable for inclusion in a studio pitch (soccer mom, punk rock kid, whatever), and a personal issue (I need to be in control, I don't fit in anywhere, etc.). In addition, NPCs exist in five stereotyped categories, and each player is given the job of playing all NPCs that conform to one of these categories: authority figures, peers, working stiffs, kooks, and aliens.
Each scene, one family member is the "focus," meaning that the story hinges on their personal issue. A complication ensues when the alien fails to understand something about humans or American culture. The game does not, as in many indie RPGs, provide a clear structure for who and how play is narrated, but does provide five jeepform-like interventions any player may use to alter the narrative: "try that a different way," "describe that in more detail," "I'd like an interlude," and "that might not be so easy." The last is the trigger for a conflict, but the "conflict resolution" system is a simple D6 role on a table, producing results like "Yes, but" (a further complication), or "No, and" (the player fails and something unexpected happens.
When it is the Visitor's turn for a scene, the frame is somewhat different; the Visitor is reporting back to his superiors about something he learned about earthlings, and his conversation with the superior frames brief scenes in which the family members play out their roles.
Two clever elements add to the humor: first, rather than going to elaborate measures to try to disguise the fact that an alien is living among us, the family is simply instructed to tell those who are surprised that they are part of a reality TV show, with the expectation that people will then come up with their own bogus rationales for why the alien is really some kind of clever prop or the like. Second, the alien is assumed to understand English pretty well, but cannot speak it, and has an apparatus that, at game start, can say only five words (of the player's choice). At the end of each scene, the alien may increase its vocabulary by one.
The use of the tropes of conventional TV as a mechanism for focussing the narrative is interesting here, and as we are all familiar with the arc of the form, the lack of other structure for shaping play may be tolerable. There is a noticeable paucity of system; the game has a number of D6 or D12 tables that players roll upon at times, but these are more along the lines of throwing in random complications than along the lines or resolving situations. Indeed, their use strikes me as problematic: The Visitor is close to a jeepform, but a jeepform would never use dice to add chaos, since it has plenty of other tools to that end; and while conventional RPGs often use dice for task resolution, here there is no clear system either for that, or for the narrative resolution for which system is used in more conventional indie RPGs.
"Story games" often eschew a gamemaster, but the lack of a single arbiter means that they require, in most cases, some other arbitrary and clear system of governance, which The Visitor lacks. Despite this, the set-up and tropes could clearly create a fun afternoon, or series of them, in the hands of players able to negotiate conflicts with intelligence and good will. Assuming they are willing to throw themselves into jeepform-like improvisation, of course.