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May 01, 2009

How a board game can make you cry

The Escapist : TGC 2009: How a Board Game Can Make You Cry

This is amazing. I'm breaking my usual rules of post length for this one.

The first game came about after a discussion with her 10-year-old daughter about her elementary school lesson on the slave trade. While her daughter had the facts memorized, Brathwaite was dismayed to learn that she didn't grasp what the Middle Passage was like for the Africans who were kidnapped and shipped across the Atlantic. So she did what any game designer worth her salt would do: She made a game out of it.

Brathwaite assembled a collection of tiny wooden figures, then had her daughter group them into "families." After her daughter was finished, she picked them up by the handful and placed them on a makeshift boat. Her daughter was confused: Why would she take the parents but leave the baby? Why wouldn't brothers stay with their sisters? "No one wants to go," Brathwaite explained. That's when it started to click.

Then Brathwaite devised a primitive resource management mechanic. It took 10 turns for the boat to cross the Atlantic. The boat had 30 units of food. Each turn, the player had to roll a d6, and reduce their food stores by that number. By the trip's halfway point, it was clear to her daughter that her "cargo" wouldn't make it. It wasn't a "fun" game by any means, but it served a different purpose: It helped her daughter intuitively understand the emotional experience of the slave trade, a lesson that numbers on a chalkboard couldn't provide.

. . .

But no one in the audience was prepared for her third game, unassumingly titled Train.

The object of Train is to get a collection of people from Point A to Point B by placing them in a boxcar and sending them on their merry way. Played among a group of three people, players draw cards from a pile that can impede other players or free them from existing obstacles. The first player to reach the end of the line wins.

The destination? Auschwitz.

The "game" didn't stop there, however. The game board, pictured above, is an allusion to Kristallnacht - Brathwaite explained that she needed to break a fresh piece of glass each time she "installed" her work in a new location to properly evoke the violence of the experience. She even typed the game's instructions on an actual SS typewriter, which she purchased solely for that purpose.

There were audible gasps in the audience when Brathwaite revealed Train's shocking conclusion; one attendee was so moved by the experience that she left the conference room in tears.

April 29, 2009

How To: Stop Using Shampoo

How to Go No Poo

132 Ways to Die of Electrocution - A German Picture Book

30 Ways to Die of Electrocution - a set on...

Continue reading "132 Ways to Die of Electrocution - A German Picture Book" »

April 23, 2009

Hot-Ass Fusion in the Hizzie

Gallery - World's highest-energy laser to create mini-stars - Image...

Time Warner pressuring states to outlaw community-owned internet service providers

Monopolies: Time Warner Cable Cannot Possibly Compete With The Small City Of Wilson, NC

The city of Wilson, NC was tired of high internet, cable, and telephone prices, so they decided to do something about it. They started their own, city-owned, ISP. Now Time Warner Cable and Embarq have teamed up to convince North Carolina's legislature to propose bills outlawing community owned ISPs because the big guys cannot possibly compete.

We can see why they are worried. Wilson's ISP sounds great. It's an all fiber optic network that has 81 basic cable channels, 10 Mbps (download and upload), and a digital phone plan with unlimited long distance to the U.S. and Canada, all for $99.95, says Daily Tech. A comparable TWC package would cost $137.95, for an introductory rate.

In defense of Twitter

BLDGBLOG: How the Other Half Writes: In Defense of Twitter

This echoes a lot of my own feelings on the matter. Namely, Twitter is just another communications medium with all the same limitations, strengths and social possibilities of any other. I don't get why people seem to feel so threatened by it.

. . .Again, I fail to see any clear distinction between someone's boring Twitter feed – considered only semi-literate and very much bad – and someone else's equally boring, paper-based diary – considered both pro-humanist and unquestionably good. Kafka would have had a Twitter feed! And so would have Hemingway, and so would have Virgil, and so would have Sappho. It's a tool for writing. Heraclitus would have had a f***ing Twitter feed.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, now that the other half writes – all the jocks and high-school girls and video store employees and D-list celebrities – it seems comparable only to a kind of police action that the people who once thought they were the chosen writers, that they were this generation's idea-smiths, are now so up in arms.

Those other people – those everyday people who weren't supposed to have thoughts, who aren't known for reading David Foster Wallace or Dostoevsky or James Joyce, those overlooked people from whom we buy groceries, who fix our cars, clean our houses, and vote differently than we do – weren't supposed to become writers. . . .