My friend Drew Jacob sends along a link to what is clearly the perfect birthday gift, a military strategy board game that’s set in the ancient Middle East. I’m not sure it’s quite worth its $55 price tag — or that any board game could be worth that kind of price tag — but this review definitely pushes all the right buttons with me:
The Campaigns of King David is a board game that simulates the creation of the Kingdom of Israel. Despite the title, it’s not really a game about the conquests of King David. Call it a military strategy game of the Biblical era, circa 1,000 BCE, where Judah is just one of several contending powers—and far from the strongest—striving for mastery of Palestine.
The war game can be played by up to five players controlling five Biblical-era powers: Judah, Philistia, Aramea, Moab and Tyre. The battlefield is a roughly two-foot-by-three-foot map that stretches from the Mediterranean coast and the Negev to the Jordan River and Damascus.
Sort of like Risk, the map is divided into hundreds of provinces that are either plains or hills. Plains tend to produce more food while hills tend to offer greater mineral resources. The more fertile breadbaskets tend to be concentrated along the Mediterranean coast, the Damascus plains and the area south of Jerusalem, while the Moabite territories east of the Jordan River are especially blessed with mineral resources.
But, ok, seriously, who wants to get together for a little game of biblical Risk?
After a day-long meeting on college-wide budgets and measuring academic unit performance, this is exactly what I needed:
Watching Mike Tyson play Punch-Out for the first time is pretty much the greatest thing you’ll see today.
The Politics of Super Mario Bros
Via Jason Kottke:
Quora is full of questions college students ask each other while high, except that sometimes they get answered seriously. Case in point: What is the political situation in the Mario universe? The top answer starts out:
Without going into too much detail, Mario generally lives and works in the Mushroom Kingdom, one of the largest geo-political structures on Mushroom World, in the Grand Finale Galaxy in, yes, the Mushroom Universe.
For the purposes of this answer I will deliberately restrict the terms to discussing Mushroom World, as a comprehensive answer on the entire Mushroom Universe would require covering 20-22 (depending on how you count) Galaxies and frankly, I doubt it would be any more fun to read than it would be to write.
Mushroom World contains at least 202 separate zones or jurisdictions. These include (but are not limited to) examples of:
- Imperia, e.g.The Linguine Empire
- Oligarchies, e.g.Mekanos
- City-States,e.g.Syrup Castle
- Proletariat Collectivism, e.g.Robo Land
- Theocracies e.g.Yoshi’s Island. Although NB: you could also argue that Yoshi’s Island is a:
- Necroarchy, or “rule by the dead”, e.g.Boo Woods, which itself is a sub-type of an:
- Absolute Monarchy, e.g. theMushroom Kingdom,Banana Fairy Island and the Beanbean Kingdom. Monarchies are the most common form of political organisation on Mushroom World, with the Mushroom Kingdom representing the main superpower currently, in much the same way that the US fulfills this role on Earth, and with the same precarious dominant status.
- Areas with no political organisationat all, and contested by various warlords, e.g. Big Island.
A variegated planet therefore, analogous to Earth in medieval times with an equivalent variety of types of rule and organisation: think of the kingdoms of feudal Europe with contemporaneous empires in China, Japan, Mezoamerica and theocracies, city states (e.g. Venice) etc.
Of all these jurisdictions, the Mushroom Kingdom is by far the most significant, although it’s prime position is under constant threat.
The answer goes on like this for a long time. It is amazing throughout.
[Note: I left out the footnotes; yes, there are footnotes. A bunch of them.]
Back in the good old days of less than a month ago, the NRA blamed school shootings on violent video games. And today it released a new app for iPhone and iPad that isn’t violent at all.
Of course, in addition to the NRA’s claims that the app “[i]nstills safe and responsible ownership through fun challenges and realistic simulations,” it also “allows players practice shooting at targets — coffin-shaped targets, with red bullseyes at head- and heart-level.”
"For 99 cents more, users can upgrade to a MK11 sniper rifle" … for recreation, of course.
But don’t get all in a tizzy: The app is rated for anyone who is four years old or older so you can rest assured that this shooting app is only for responsible people. After all, isn’t it about time to teach responsible gun-owning four-year-olds how to be even more responsible.
HT: Marcus Sanborn.
Sadly for owners of Jarts back in the 1980s, and prospective Jarts owners today, the popular but deadly lawn game is not protected under anyone reading of the 2nd Amendment.
Thus, we were able to have a serious national conversation about Jarts control.
My family had a set of Jarts back in the 1980s. If memory serves me, the central conceit of the game was to take turns hurling these metal-tipped objects at targets placed on the ground at some distance away from oneself. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that my parents purchased these and then gave them to my sister and me, but I can’t help hoping that’s how we’ll feel in the future about so many of the weapons people own today.
From Mother Jones:
It obviously isn’t this video game that makes people shoot other people; it’s all the other ones except this one. This video game is surely wholesome.
But even if reasonable people want to disagree about the wholesome nature of this game, one thing we know for sure is that guns are not the problem.
All the shooting that people do of one another doesn’t have anything whatsoever to do with the guns. It has to do with absolutely anything else you can think of.
Feminist video game hacking
Via Jason Kottke:
There are very few video games with female heros because video game publishers don’t support them. So what’s a father like Mike Hoye to do when he wants his three year old daughter to be able to see herself as the hero in The Legend of Zelda? Rewrite the game.
It’s annoying and awkward, to put it mildly, having to do gender-translation on the fly when Maya asks me to read what it says on the screen. You can pick your character’s name, of course - I always stick with Link, being a traditionalist - but all of the dialog insists that Link is a boy, and there’s apparently nothing to be done about it.
Well, there wasn’t anything to be done about it, certainly not anything easy, but as you might imagine I’m not having my daughter growing up thinking girls don’t get to be the hero and rescue their little brothers.
(via Ars Technica)
Matt Langdon and I discussed the issue of gender stereotyping and female action heroes on the Hero Report podcast back in September; you can watch or listen to it here.
At the heart of a tour de force about the manifold problems in Legend of Zelda video games since the 1987 original, and how to make new iterations stronger, Tevis Thompson has the following insight about the idea of heroism upon which all of the Zelda games are based:
The point of a hero’s adventure… is not to make you feel better about yourself. The point is to grow, to overcome, to in some way actually become better. If a legendary quest has no substantial challenge, if it asks nothing of you except that you jump through the hoops it so carefully lays out for you, then the very legend is unworthy of being told, and retold.
This is precisely why I — like Thompson and like so many others — were captivated by the original game: There was so much space to explore, so much to do, and something of an uncertainty at times about how to proceed. And it’s why the whole concept of a heroic journey or adventure continues to resonate with so many people, within the world of video games (where the risks are obviously mitigated) and in life (where the risks remain but where the adventures are one’s own).