Where are you now? Don’t you care about your sons and daughters?

A lot of things came together last month in a fortuitous way. One of them concerns a social gathering for the local and state branch of the Miljöpartiet (Swedish Green Party; link includes language options), right where I play at Spelens Hus. It wasn’t a promotional event; in fact, it’s useful to understand that a cultural event (at Spelens Hus, e.g.) cannot promote a political party, but a party event can reference and promote a cultural entity, including playing games for fun at one. There’s also a specific fit in this case, as this is the only Swedish party which includes a formal Kultur component. You can read more about Adept Play and real-world politics here.

I was invited to present role-playing and of course to play something, because of my ideas about this activity as a an interactive cultural phenomenon. Including, as you might imagine, my applications regarding Spione and Shahida.

It so happened that I was at that moment resuming design-and-play on Amerika, motivated by all the recent activity in presenting and playing Spione. In fact, I’d even spotted the flaw that had flattened play in the past. I’ve been blocked on it for a long time, years, for the simple reason that I felt the mechanics to be “true,” meaning, they matched my personal experience and judgments of the relevant people and era – but they were also, in the language of those 70s days, a total bummer as the interpersonal dynamics doomed the group to social destruction. I’d built the card rules to ruin them as people, requiring mean and demeaning behavior for the most effective play.

It would be as if the Trespass in Spione required betraying someone close to you during play, or if the Judgment in Shahida required turning into a frothing fanatic. In both of these games such a requirement never occurred to me, being obviously bad design, but for Amerika, I lived too close to the emotions and events to see that I was locking down stereotypical outcomes rather than opening up play.

The event began with a short presentation, and apparently that was effective enough for a lot of people to play or to share the table as non-playing participants.

  • Left Coast, specifically the Trinity Alps at the Siskiyou-Humboldt-Trinity county border, as well as the coast and its complex of cities and towns including Humboldt. I chose it for the event because I have a lot of life-experience in that region.
  • The green content in that file set the content context. We noted that global warming as such was not yet identified as a specific phenomenon in progress, and also that the word “green” had not quite yet been branded (in fact, it was associated with productivity, often definitely un-Green in modern terms).
  • We focused on oil lobbying: context of the two oil crises and the modern-day understanding of “what it will become.”

The initial characters included Steve, the Rebel Pal; Bernie, the Visionary Old Guy; John Smith, the Scary Old Guy, Vietnam veteran; Rhonda, the Scary Chick, redneck; “Joe,” the Scary Pal, Indian. Where no identifier is specified, the character is a non-marginalized white man, in this case, Steve and Bernie. Please note that all terms are based on their use in the 1970s, e.g., no one said Native American, and also highly tuned to the location of play, e.g., “redneck” is not the same here as its use in the southeastern U.S.

It was immediately clear to everyone that our group was a rather frightening bunch, notably, with no member with the Moral Center tag. By the numbers, they are collectively Inspiration 1, Experience 4, Action 4, and Voice 1. They live the life and walk the walk, but on a narrow platform of ideas and only one person who can communicate to the larger society – and that person being doubly marginalized, at that (redneck, female).

As for what happened, well, they put up a good fight to oppose oil lobbying and to promote a green urban design for Humboldt-Arcata, including entirely accurate warnings regarding the future to come. I didn’t explain a particular option during play, which might have led to a successful outcome, because they almost, almost succeeded in getting the message out … but I also note that they were very motivated regarding the next episode, hypothetically.

Here are the notes taken by one of the participants throughout:

The event has given me a big jump in Amerika’s development

  • The flaw is gone, so characters’ interactions develop in a much better, more cumulative way.
  • now, realizing that it’s too focused, as if Spione were only about the Flashpoints, so should either formulate play between Episodes or expand play of the Inspiration and Experience sub-units within Episodes
  • still messing with the card numbers and scoring a little, but it’s either done now or very close
  • The main task now is to write the introductory usable-pages for the “American Nations,” to overcome the claims of ignorance that always arise for these games

Unfortunately, although I really wish I could write the whole thing, I am not sure I can. For one thing, the effort would be life-destroying much as for the two predecessors. My notes and materials for every chapter are extensive and intense, but they aren’t prose yet. For another, I feel as if the moment has passed, in more than one way. My mother died and much of my desire to communicate went with her, neither Spione nor Shahida is understood or played by literally anyone, I’ve assimilated to a great extent into European issues and no longer feel motivated as an American rebel, and the events of the past decade seem to me to be the aftermath of the wreck – in which we are all dying, badly – and therefore a cry of warning just prior to it may no longer be possible.

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One response to “Where are you now? Don’t you care about your sons and daughters?”

  1. Good to see you overcoming what must have been a vexing block. I’m continually surprised how often time solves various (in my case small) design problems. Years, though? Wow.

    And I am very sorry to see you were/are in a dark place. Here’s hoping some distance (via Europe) may allow you to regain some of that fighting spirit. We’re going down, true, but maybe human ingenuity will allow us to salvage some things.

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