What’s in a Game? Part 2

Gamers field a lot of questions from people once they realize our passion. One of the most frequent ones is “Why do you play all those games?”  It sounds like an easy question, but when you’re talking to someone that just doesn’t get it, making your case gets. . . complicated.

Games give us more than a lot of people realize. First and foremost, of course, is the entertainment value. That’s the easy part. When you sit down to play a game your first goal is to have a good time, and any game designer worthy of the title will do their best to make sure you do.  But there is much more than that going on. See, games also teach us. Think about the first games you ever played. You know, the old classics, like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders, or maybe you cut your gaming teeth on Ravensburg games. The objective were clear, the mechanics blindingly simple. And while you were playing it, you learned to take turns. You learned how to win, and even more importantly, how to lose. Social skills are really what those games are all about.

As you grew older, you moved into the more advanced stuff. Clue taught you basic deductive reasoning. Monopoly disguised math and simple economics training as a fun afternoon. Battleship schooled you in the art of logic and patterns. Stratego taught you basic strategy, and threw in a smattering of history when you asked question like “Why is the Field Marshal so strong?” (For my part, Stratego was also a continuation on the “how to lose well,” lesson. Anyone in need of an ego boost need merely bring a Stratego set to my house. My humiliation is likely to follow soon after that.) Checkers showed you the value of looking ahead, a lesson Chess sharpened. Scrabble improved your spelling and your vocabulary. Concentration trained your memory, Perfection honed your fine motor skills, and Twister showed you new meanings of the word “pain,” you were were probably sorry you learned. Or was that just me?

Many people stop there. The world becomes more important than the game board. They move on and get their lessons shipped direct by living. But for those who continued on the gamer’s path, there were games like Scruples, which forced you to think about ethics, to form arguments and consider alternate positions. Trivial Pursuit shone a light on pop culture and history, while giving you a chance to look back on your life as you searched for the answers.

Say you went on from there, into historical strategy games. From Axis and Allies to World In Flames, these games schooled you in the lessons of logistics, the finer points of strategy, and if you were curious, detailed history. You learned places, names, dates. You learned why Rommel was called the Desert Fox, and what effects mobile artillery had on a battlefield.

And then there are those games which teach you the most important lessons of all, how to conquer the world and rule it after you do.

There are many games out there teaching this mighty lesson, but in my house we only really play two of them. The first is MWAHAHAHA! (No really, that’s what it’s called.) from White Wolf. I’m not sure if this game is in print any more, but as it’s a fairly recent release you should still be able to find it. MWAHAHAHA! is a whimsical romp of a game in which you play a mad scientist bent on global domination. But rather than build an army or go out and blackmail a bunch of people, you decide to do it the old fashioned way. You build a doomsday device and threaten to use it.  You have a base, which determines what resources are easiest for you to get, empires, which are business that supplement  your base and contribute resources, and minions to protect them and steal the resources from others. And yes, Virginia, there are flying monkeys in the minion deck. As you gather resources and build your device, you gain the power to threaten larger and larger areas, beginning with cities, then counties, then states, countries, and finally THE ENTIRE WORLD!! (When we play, villainous speeches are optional, but appreciated.)   Some devices are easy to build, but difficult to use. Others are expensive to build, but almost assure your victory once complete. With evil geniuses like Doctor Dookie, C’Horthutuk, Professor  Kontiki, and Hypatia Gutterjunque using devices that create tsunamis, incite bestial behavior, or that time honored favorite, raise the dead, conquering the world and ruling over its pitiable masses has never been more fun. The game takes two to three hours to play, but hey, taking over the world takes time.

For the more sophisticated conqueror, there is Steve Jackson’s Illuminati. Lurking behind the scenes of modern society, the Illuminati are a shadowy group of conspirators using guile, treachery, political wherewithal, and lots and lots of money to influence and eventually control the world. Perhaps you are the Bavarian Illuminati, pulling the strings of power from the castles of Germany. Or maybe you are the Gnomes of Zurich, using your limitless wealth to steer the course of human destiny. Maybe you’re a Servant of Cthulhu and just want to watch the world burn. It’s even possible to be the UFOs, and stir the pot of humanity from your safe haven among the stars. Using your influence and unique powers, you infiltrate organizations like the Pentagon, C.I.A., and arms smugglers, or fund crackpots like the Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow, or my personal favorite, the Semiconscious Liberation Army. Hey, I could be doing the work of the Illuminati right now, because Bloggers are also a group you can control. Some groups offer tangible benefits to your plot to control the world. Others just add bodies. Spend a little money on expansions and you gain access to Artifacts, like Einstein’s Brain of the Holy Grail. As you play, you see your influence spread over the world through the power structure you construct. A quick game of Illuminati takes about two hours. Longer ones can go deep into the night, which is where the best conquering happens anyway. You can play with two or three players if you want, but the game is MUCH more fun with four or more. It supports up to six players.

When we feel like conquering the world, this is how we do it in my house. How about you? Do you have a favorite way to rule the unsuspecting peons that make up this complex society? What are they?


2 Responses to What’s in a Game? Part 2

  1. 移動電源 says:

    Extremely fine material, turned out that should be extremely helpful to my act on school! Thank people spared a few hours in look of facts, because all kinds of things I that comes with the same page on you! I am in your debt!

  2. dreygeaux says:

    Thank you very much. I’m glad it was helpful for you.

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