The Game Before The Game
You are at a social gathering and the sit-down small talk has ebbed to its conclusion. An awkward silence fills the room: the silence of opportunity. “Let’s play a game,” someone suggests.
“Games are a social lubricant,” you say. Bad phrasing. Everyone stares at you like you’ve just proposed a mudslide orgy. Cassandra rummages in her purse; looking for five hundred Bermuda wedding photos to share, no doubt. The evening is balanced on a knife’s edge.
Your brain churns and your eyes dart around the foreign apartment, searching for implements of gaming. If Cassandra finds those pictures, you’ll need to chain-smoke on the balcony for the next two hours to survive the night.
You see an Xbox 360.
Obvious exits are to the BALCONY and out the front DOOR.
“Halo tournament!” you blurt, out of desperation.
“Anti-social,” mutters Cassandra.
“I only have two controllers,” says John, your host.
“What’s Halo?” asks Sara.
You have lost two cool points and gained five pity points for suggesting an audience-inappropriate video game.
You see a deck of cards and propose a game of Euchre.
“I love Euchre!” says Sara. “But ...,” She looks around pointedly. There are five people in the room. Euchre is a four-player game.
“I hate Euchre,” says Cassandra.
“That deck is missing all the jacks anyway,” says Linda. She lives here too. “John threw them off the balcony last New Year’s.”
“I was monster drunk,” says John.
“I remember,” says Linda, monstrously irate.
You have lost two cool points for inadvertently dividing the room. You are Silenced.
“Games are a waste of time,” says Cassandra loftily.
You are Silenced.
You glower at her, having identified your mortal enemy: the Game Hater, that rare breed of human being which experiences no joy in diversion, usually because it steals attention away from themselves.
“Well, we could always just talk,” says Linda, evoking expectant silence. It is well understood that proposing talk is the best way to kill a conversation, even one already underway.
“If I could just find my camera ...,” says Cassandra.
John leaps in. “Settlers of Catan,” he says.
“Yes!” agrees Linda. “We got it for Christmas. It’s really fun.”
You have found allies! You regain two cool points. Your Silence is cured.
Linda turns to her friends. She has taken on the role of the Enabler. “It’s a really fun game,” she says again. “You wouldn’t think so, but it is. There’s all this trading and intrigue and stuff.”
Sara looks at the game box, dubious. “How long does it take?”
“Only an hour,” you say, quickly sliding the Cities & Knights expansion out of sight with your foot.
John opens the box and begins pulling out hexagonal tiles and little, wooden houses.
The game box is open! You now hit for double damage.
“This actually looks pretty decent,” says Sara.
Cassandra the Game Hater is plugging away furiously on her phone. She looks up with a frown. “Are those ... does this game have a ton of dice? Is this like a Dungeons & Dragons thing where we all wear capes and tinfoil armor?”
“No,” says John.
“No,” says Linda.
“You can still wear tinfoil armor if you want,” you say cheerfully.
You have transferred all pity points to the Game Hater.
“So how do you play?” asks Sara.
“Who cares?” says Cassandra bitingly. She is ignored.
“Well --” you begin.
You do not have enough cool points to explain the game.
John the Game Explainer does his best, with you and Linda falling all over yourselves to insert little caveats and anecdotes and explanations along the way. Sara looks confused. Cassandra looks smug.
“See,” says Cassandra. “It’s too complicated.”
Sara wavers. “It’s ... I just don’t think I understand the whole Victory Point thing.”
“Because it’s lame,” says Cassandra. And out of her fancy bag she pulls her final, frenzied gambit: a digital camera ram-packed with predictable wedding photos of peripheral people.
“Isn’t this dress just so gorgeous?” she says, and thrusts the camera at Sara.
Linda leans over to see the picture, too. John looks at the game board, resigned. Everything is faltering, coming undone.
Make your choice:
- >> THROW CAMERA. You grab the interloping camera and rush to the balcony. You hurl the camera over the railing to its certain demise.
- >> ROLL DICE. “Let’s just play one round,” you say, and roll the dice, even though nobody is paying attention to you.
- >> STUDY RULES. You grab the game rules and read them silently and furiously, despite knowing Settlers of Catan inside and out.
- “Those were my only copies!” shrieks Cassandra. She shoves you, hard, and all of a sudden you’re following her camera over the railing and plummeting to the ground seventeen stories below. Your only consolation before you hit the concrete is the nature of your sacrifice: Your life for the Game Hater’s, a relatively even trade.
+9 cool points (TOTAL: +7). You are at maximum cool, but unfortunately you are dead. Stalemate ending.
- The clattering of the dice pulls eyes away from the camera. You roll a 3. Luck is your dump stat. “You suck,” says Sara, and grabs the dice. The game is on, although only Cassandra realizes this in the moment. She leaves in a huff; has “other plans” with “better people”. Linda has a few drinks and reveals that Cassandra is the devil. Sara ends up winning the game -- newbie’s advantage. As you leave the apartment hours later, you can’t help but taste victory regardless.
+4 cool points. (TOTAL: +2). You lost at Settlers, but at least you found your way there. Best ending.
- With little alternative, John is reluctantly drawn into the photo viewing. It goes on forever, and you read through the game rules nineteen times in a row while the board sits idle before you. Cassandra spends the rest of the night triumphantly jibing you for being anti-social and unpopular, until you are forced to feign interest in her friend-of-a-friend’s stupid wedding. Everyone makes excuses and goes home early.
-6 cool points (TOTAL: -8). You are about as passive and uncool as can be. You lose!