Sunday, November 21
resistance & futility
Google has what appears to be a scholarly article / citation engine up.
I fed it "bearnes" and got a citation for my dad's master's
thesis: "Factors in and feasibility of interest rate hedging by
farmers" (TG Bearnes, Kansas State University, 1984).
This morning I was messing around in my room and found a stack of index
cards from a history class I had a while back. They came from a brief
flirtation with actually re-reading my notes. I remember clearing all the junk
off my bed and laying out dozens of cards with labels like "Theodore
Roosevelt" in an effort to map what I knew about the Progressive Era.
It didn't really work very well, because most kinds of hypertext don't map
to a physical space very gracefully, and those were pretty much the terms I was
thinking in: All these sort of discrete ideas/objects at different levels of
organization (World War I, Teapot Dome, Muckraking), linked to all the
other appropriate objects. Doing this on paper, it's easy to build
chains of ideas by laying cards next to one another, but much harder
to make a map of all the relationships you want to show.
So I was thinking about this, and I came up with a game. Let's call it
Brennen's Card Game of History, or something like that. The basic idea is that
you have a big, fat stack of index cards, each containing the name of an idea.
For the purposes of this game, "idea" is fairly inclusive. People,
places, historical periods, dates, ideologies, formulas, and physical objects
are all acceptable. Ideally, each player will contribute cards to the
The cards are shuffled, and all players are dealt a fixed number of cards.
Two cards from the remainder of the deck are then turned face up on the table,
and the players attempt to build a coherent chain of ideas between them.
Branching might be allowed in some circumstances, but in general every card
played has to connect to the end of one of the two existing sequences -
blocking is thus possible. The winner of the game is the player holding the
fewest cards when the chain is completed. Any given connection between two
ideas can be challenged, with the burden of proof on the player laying the card
(encyclopedias and Google come in here), but the challenging player is
penalized if the connection holds up.
I'm not really sure about the game mechanics; a lot of stuff would
definitely need to be roughed out in-play. One thought I have is that probably
you should be able (or required) to introduce new cards as the game progresses.
For example, if player one lays "1950s American Popular Culture" and
player two lays "Jazz", a third card might be created reading
"Jazz in 1950s American Popular Culture".
I wonder if it would be possible to come up with a set of constraints that
would make competitive gameplay possible, or if some kind of third party Game
Master figure would be needed to referee. Maybe the game would begin with a die
roll determining the kinds of allowable relationships between ideas - for
example, Causation, Sequence, or Classification. Alternatively, maybe this
could be redesigned as a cooperative game of sorts - but then, where's the fun
in non-zero-sum games, really?