In our play we reveal what kind of people we are.
At the weekend I was part of an epic game of War on Terror in which I was able to, quite unashamedly, unleash Holy Nuclear Armageddon upon my playmates, including two of the game’s creators: Andrew and Tom.
It didn’t end well for the Great Powers, although even after worldwide holocaust, oil revenue rebounded and the expansionist ambitions of the surviving empires remained surprisingly well-financed.
Following “The Great Burn” terrorism inevitably flourished, and while more and repeated nuclear devastation followed, history records that none of it was launched beneath a terrorist flag. Empires fell; countless perished; billions were squandered; and although World Peace was at last petitioned for, that ship had well and truly sailed. Terrorism ‘won’, although it’s probably more accurate to say that capitalism lost.
I think there might just be a point in there somewhere.
Andrew commented that he had never seen me as gleeful while playing any other game, and wondered aloud what this might have to teach me about my oft-proclaimed favourite Carcassonne. He’s right: “I lay down my meeple and claim this 12-point farm.” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “I lay complete and utter waste to the developed world and the majority of its peoples.” Clearly, we are dealing with two very different classes of playthings.
And if Ovid is right, then I am a true agent of chaos and a terrible person.
But perhaps the lesson here is that games allow us the remarkable opportunity to play with a class of things which are not toys, and to experiment with a class of ideas, even personalities, which are otherwise unspeakable.