How Choose Your Own Adventure Books Became Beloved Among Generations of Readers

We’ve all read plen­ty of lit­er­a­ture writ­ten in the first per­son, and plen­ty of lit­er­a­ture writ­ten in the third per­son. The sec­ond per­son, with its main sub­ject of nei­ther “I” nor “he” or “she” but “you,” is con­sid­er­ably hard­er to come by, and the writ­ers who take it up tend to be exper­i­menters (like B. S. John­son or Georges Perec) or brazen in some oth­er sense (like the Jay McIn­er­ney of Bright Lights, Big City). But if you grew up in the Amer­i­ca of the nine­teen-eight­ies or nineties, there’s a decent chance you absorbed a mega-dose of sec­ond-per­son nar­ra­tive with­out even real­iz­ing it. It would have come in the form of Choose Your Own Adven­ture books, with that tan­ta­liz­ing promise on their cov­ers: “YOU’RE THE STAR OF THE STORY!”

You can hear the sto­ry of Choose Your Own Adven­ture books them­selves told in the Galaxy Media Video at the top of the post — or, with greater homage paid to the branch­ing-text form, in this recent New York­er piece by Leslie Jami­son. Read­ing a “Choose book,” she writes, “you got to imag­ine that you were get­ting into trou­ble in out­er space, or in the future, or under the sea. You got to make choic­es every few pages: Do you ask the ghost about her inten­tions, or run away? Do you rebel against the alien over­lords, or blind­ly obey them?”

The sec­ond-per­son voice gave these books a brac­ing imme­di­a­cy, but their real appeal lay, of course, in the choic­es they offered, and even more so in the con­se­quences: some­times glo­ry, some­times death, and more often a fate unset­tling­ly in between.

The con­cept from which Choose Your Own Adven­ture books evolved was first con­ceived in the sev­en­ties by Edward Packard, a lawyer with a habit of con­sult­ing his chil­dren about what should hap­pen next in their bed­time sto­ries. His name will sound famil­iar indeed to any­one who lived a Choose books-laden child­hood. He wrote the very first vol­ume, The Cave of Time from 1979, as well as many that fol­lowed, includ­ing such mem­o­rably fright­en­ing or bizarre ear­ly issues as The Mys­tery of Chim­ney Rock, with its per­ilous haunt­ed house, and Inside UFO 54–40, which offered a glimpse of par­adise only to read­ers who “cheat­ed” by ignor­ing its fixed deci­sion paths.

Back in the ear­ly nineties, when I was comb­ing sec­ond-hand shops for Choose Your Own Adven­ture books, I quick­ly came to pre­fer the vol­umes from the late sev­en­ties and ear­ly eight­ies, with their exot­i­cal­ly passé aes­thet­ics and their rel­a­tive­ly unsan­i­tized con­tent. In the video just above, writer-Youtu­ber Jason Arnopp looks at The Mys­tery of Chim­ney Rock and the lat­er The Hor­ror of High Ridge, whose illus­tra­tions of mur­der­ous Old West appari­tions (none of whom have any regard for the lives of the whole­some-look­ing, sweater-clad teens at the cen­ter of the sto­ry) have stuck with me to this day. Adult­hood has turned out to involve no con­fronta­tions with blood­thirsty ghosts wield­ing tom­a­hawks and hot pok­ers. Nev­er­the­less, Choose Your Own Adven­ture books taught gen­er­a­tions of us the impor­tant les­son that there’s no such thing as a clear-cut deci­sion; you’ve just got to turn the page and hope for the best.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The 100 Great­est Children’s Books of All Time, Accord­ing to 177 Books Experts from 56 Coun­tries

Dig­i­tal Archives Give You Free Access to Thou­sands of His­tor­i­cal Children’s Books

Enter an Archive of 7,000 His­tor­i­cal Children’s Books, All Dig­i­tized & Free to Read Online

Play The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Video Game Free Online, Designed by Dou­glas Adams in 1984

Star­ship Titan­ic: The Video Game Cre­at­ed by Dou­glas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), with Help from John Cleese & Ter­ry Jones

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Watch the Moment When a 13-Year-Old Becomes the First Person to Ever “Beat” Tetris

On Decem­ber 21, Willis Gib­son, a 13-year-old from Still­wa­ter, Okla­homa, became the first per­son to push Tetris to its absolute lim­it. Around the 38:20 mark of the video above, Gib­son advances to Lev­el 157 and soon encoun­ters Tetris’ “kill screen.” Real­iz­ing that he’s bro­ken Tetris for the first time (Alex­ey Pajit­nov designed the game in 1985), the young­ster near­ly hyper­ven­ti­lates. Even­tu­al­ly catch­ing his breath, he declares, “I can’t feel my fin­gers.”

On YouTube, Gib­son adds: “When I start­ed play­ing this game I nev­er expect­ed to ever crash the game, or beat it.” Accord­ing to The Okla­homan, Gib­son “ded­i­cat­ed his win to his dad, who died last month.”

via New York Times

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

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Behold LEGO Reenactments of Famous Psychology Experiments, as Imagined by Artificial Intelligence

Cog­ni­tive sci­en­tist Tomer Ull­man, head of Harvard’s Com­pu­ta­tion, Cog­ni­tion, and Devel­op­ment lab, may have inad­ver­tent­ly blun­dered into an untapped vein of LEGO Icon inspi­ra­tion when his inter­est in AI led him to stage recre­ations of famous psych exper­i­ments.

If you think Vin­cent Van Gogh’s Star­ry Night LEGO play­set is a chal­lenge, imag­ine putting togeth­er the AI-gen­er­at­ed play­set inspired by Yale psy­chol­o­gist Stan­ley Milgram’s 1961 obe­di­ence stud­ies, above.

Par­tic­i­pants in these stud­ies were assigned to play one of two parts — teacher or learn­er. Part­ner pairs were seat­ed in sep­a­rate rooms, acces­si­ble to each oth­er by micro­phones. The teacher read the learn­er a list of matched words they’d expect­ed to remem­ber short­ly there­after. If the learn­er flubbed up, the teacher was to admin­is­ter an elec­tric shock via a series of labelled switch­es, upping it by 15-volts for each suc­ces­sive error. The micro­phones ensured that the teacher was privy to the learner’s increas­ing­ly dis­tressed reac­tions — screams, des­per­ate protes­ta­tion, and — at the high­est volt­age — radio silence.

Should a teacher hes­i­tate, they’d be remind­ed that the para­me­ters of the exper­i­ment, for which they were earn­ing $4.50, required them to con­tin­ue. They also received reas­sur­ance that the painful shocks caused no per­ma­nent tis­sue dam­age.

Here’s the thing:

The teach­ers were inno­cent as to the experiment’s true nature. They thought the study’s focus was punishment’s effect on learn­ing abil­i­ty, but in fact, Mil­gram was study­ing the lim­its of obe­di­ence to author­i­ty.

The learn­ers were all in on the ruse. They received no shocks. Their respons­es were all feigned.

If our eyes don’t deceive us, the Mil­gram exper­i­ment that the AI imag­ines is even more extreme than the orig­i­nal. It appears all par­tic­i­pants, includ­ing those wait­ing for their turn, are in the same room.

As some­one com­ment­ed on Bluesky, the new social media plat­form on which Ull­man shared his hypo­thet­i­cal play­sets, “the sub­tle details the AI has got wrong here are the stuff of night­mares.”

AI’s take on the Stan­ford prison exper­i­ment seems more benign than the con­tro­ver­sial 1971 exper­i­ment that recruit­ed 24 stu­dent par­tic­i­pants for a filmed study of prison life to be staged in Stan­ford University’s psy­chol­o­gy depart­men­t’s base­ment, ran­dom­ly divid­ing them into pris­on­ers and guards.

AI’s faith­ful recre­ation of the LEGO fig­urines’ phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions can’t real­ly cap­ture the faux guards’ bru­tal­i­ty — mak­ing their pris­on­ers clean out toi­lets with their bare hands, strip­ping them naked, and depriv­ing them of food and beds. Their pow­er abus­es were so wan­ton, and the pris­on­ers’ dis­tress so extreme, that the planned dura­tion of two weeks was scrapped six days in.

It’s worth not­ing that all the stu­dent par­tic­i­pants came to the study with clean bills of phys­i­cal and men­tal health, and no his­to­ries of crim­i­nal arrest.

Far less upset­ting are the cog­ni­tive sci­ence exper­i­ment play­sets depict­ing the delayed grat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Stan­ford Marsh­mal­low Test and the selec­tive atten­tion of the Invis­i­ble Goril­la Test (both right above).

Ull­man also steered AI toward LEGO trib­utes to B.F. Skinner’s oper­ant con­di­tion­ing cham­ber and Mar­tin Seligman’s learned help­less­ness research (below).

No word on whether he has plans to con­tin­ue exper­i­ment­ing with AI-engi­neered LEGO play­set pro­pos­als fea­tur­ing his­toric exper­i­ments of psy­chol­o­gy and cog­ni­tive sci­ence.

Fol­low on Bluesky if you’re curi­ous. You’ll need to reg­is­ter for a free account and apply for an invite code, if you haven’t already… wait, are we set­ting our­selves up to be unwit­ting par­tic­i­pants in anoth­er psych exper­i­ment?


Via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Psy­chol­o­gy Exper­i­ment That Shocked the World: Milgram’s Obe­di­ence Study (1961)

The Lit­tle Albert Exper­i­ment: The Per­verse 1920 Study That Made a Baby Afraid of San­ta Claus & Bun­nies

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

What Happens When a Chess Player Mistakes a Grandmaster for a Beginner: It’s Pretty Delightful

Vaca­tion­ing in New York City last sum­mer, Anna Cram­ling, an Inter­na­tion­al Chess Fed­er­a­tion mas­ter swung by Wash­ing­ton Square Park, to see about scor­ing a pick­up game with one of the reg­u­lars.

Her oppo­nent, Jon­ny O’Leary, a native New York­er who learned the rules of the game from oth­er Wash­ing­ton Square habitués while work­ing main­te­nance jobs in the sur­round­ing build­ings in the mid-80s, is a gar­ru­lous sort, shar­ing his phi­los­o­phy of life as the game pro­ceeds.

Luck­i­ly he believes that the human inter­ac­tion and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn make even los­ing games a win­ning propo­si­tion because Cram­ling whoops him pret­ty hand­i­ly.

Flash for­ward a cou­ple of sea­sons.

Cram­ling, bun­dled up in a par­ka and warm stock­ing cap, heads back to Wash­ing­ton Square with her mom in tow.

O’Leary is more than will­ing to intro­duce the elder Ms. Cram­ling, now 60, to the Game of Kings. He loves teach­ing begin­ners, even if they have no mon­ey to put down. He is so eager to show her the ropes that he dic­tates four of her first five moves.

His extro­ver­sion may be his down­fall here.

In our expe­ri­ence, folks who call mid­dle-aged women they’ve just met “Mom” tend to under­es­ti­mate and talk over them.

Sur­prise! Pia Cram­ling is a Grand­mas­ter of Chess, who once held the title of best female play­er in the world.

“Mom” humbly fol­lows direc­tions, mov­ing her knights and bish­op as instruct­ed and pre­sum­ably clamp­ing down on her tongue as O’Leary schools her begin­ning strat­e­gy and the names of the pieces.

To his cred­it, he seems absolute­ly thrilled when the Cram­lings’ ruse is revealed, eager­ly call­ing for anoth­er game even as he vol­un­teers that he’s nowhere near as good of a play­er.

(“Get the old man,” his bud­dy Doc glee­ful­ly inter­jects.)

Their shared love of chess burns bright.

The Cram­lings com­pli­ment O’Leary on his gen­eros­i­ty as a teacher, no doubt mind­ful that his immer­sion in the game looks dif­fer­ent from theirs. (Anna’s father is Grand­mas­ter Juan Manuel Bel­lón Lopez and she has been accom­pa­ny­ing her moth­er to tour­na­ments since she was a baby.)

O’Leary may appear to draw a bit of a blank when Pia Cram­ling men­tions World Chess Cham­pi­on Ana­toly Kar­pov, but he’s rubbed shoul­ders with grand­mas­ters Max­im Dlu­gy and John Fedorow­icz at the Wash­ing­ton Square Park chess simul, and he was very inter­est­ed in her Elo rat­ing, the U.S. Chess Federation’s sys­tem for assess­ing play­ers’ skills.

“She has a brain that’s not from here!” he cries admir­ing­ly to any­one with­in earshot.

After wit­ness­ing some oth­er play­ers’ over­ly cocky, unsport­ing, and rude behav­ior in Anna’s oth­er filmed street match­es, we def­i­nite­ly agree that Jon­ny O’Leary is the “Grand­mas­ter at the social aspect.”

Watch more of Anna Cramling’s chess relat­ed videos, includ­ing her mom’s encoun­ters with oth­er Wash­ing­ton Square Park reg­u­lars here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

A Free 700-Page Chess Man­u­al Explains 1,000 Chess Tac­tics in Straight­for­ward Eng­lish

Man Ray Cre­ates a “Sur­re­al­ist Chess­board,” Fea­tur­ing Por­traits of Sur­re­al­ist Icons: Dalí, Bre­ton, Picas­so, Magritte, Miró & Oth­ers (1934)

Mar­cel Duchamp, Chess Enthu­si­ast, Cre­at­ed an Art Deco Chess Set That’s Now Avail­able via 3D Print­er

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.


Play “Artle,” an Art History Version of Wordle: A New Game from the National Gallery of Art

Are you one of the hun­dreds of thou­sands who’ve got­ten them­selves hooked on Wor­dle, the free online game that gives play­ers six chances to guess a five-let­ter word of the day?

Its pop­u­lar­i­ty has spawned a host of imi­ta­tors, includ­ing Quor­dle, Cross­wor­dle, Absur­dle and Lew­dle, which has carved itself a niche in the vul­gar and pro­fane.

Even the Nation­al Gallery of Art is get­ting in on the action with Artle, where­in play­ers get four attempts to cor­rect­ly iden­ti­fy an artist du jour by exam­in­ing four of their pieces, drawn from its vast col­lec­tion of paint­ings, pho­tographs, sculp­tures and oth­er works.

The Gallery pro­vides a bit of an assist a few let­ters into every guess, espe­cial­ly help­ful to those tak­ing wild shots in the dark.

Before you com­mit to Geor­gia O’Keeffe, you may want to con­sid­er some 80 oth­er George and Georges vari­ants who pop up as you type, includ­ing  Georges Braque, George Grosz, Georgine E. Mason, George Joji Miyasa­ki, George Segal, Georges Seu­rat, and Georg Andreas Wolf­gang the Elder.

Hats off if you can read­i­ly iden­ti­fy all of these artists’ work on sight. That’s an impres­sive com­mand of art his­to­ry you’ve got there!

As with Wor­dle, a but­ton pro­vides a stream­lined invi­ta­tion to boast about your prowess on social media after you’ve com­plet­ed your dai­ly Artle. Return vis­i­tors can keep track of their stats in the upper right hand cor­ner.

There’s no shame in fail­ing to iden­ti­fy an artist in four tries, just a free oppor­tu­ni­ty to fur­ther your edu­ca­tion a bit with titles and links to the four works you just spent time view­ing.

The exam­ples we’ve includ­ed from Thurs­day, June 2’s puz­zle are Free Space (Deluxe), pink, The Civet, Imper­a­tive, and Cobalt Night by….

Your guess?

Play Artle here — like Wor­dle and mul­ti­vi­t­a­mins, just one a day.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Google App Uses Machine Learn­ing to Dis­cov­er Your Pet’s Look Alike in 10,000 Clas­sic Works of Art

Google’s Free App Ana­lyzes Your Self­ie and Then Finds Your Dop­pel­ganger in Muse­um Por­traits

Con­struct Your Own Bayeux Tapes­try with This Free Online App

A Gallery of 1,800 Gigapix­el Images of Clas­sic Paint­ings: See Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Ear­ring, Van Gogh’s Star­ry Night & Oth­er Mas­ter­pieces in Close Detail

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Starship Titanic: The Video Game Created by Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), with Help from John Cleese & Terry Jones

“The star­ship Titan­ic was a mon­strous­ly pret­ty sight as it lay beached like a sil­ver Arc­turan Megavoid­whale among the laser­lit trac­ery of its con­struc­tion gantries”–writes Dou­glas Adams in The Life, The Uni­verse and Every­thing, the third nov­el in the Hitchhiker’s Guide tril­o­gy–“a bril­liant cloud of pins and nee­dles of light against the deep inter­stel­lar black­ness; but when launched, it did not even man­age to com­plete its very first radio mes­sage —an SOS—before under­go­ing a sud­den and gra­tu­itous total exis­tence fail­ure.”

This para­graph is a tiny humor­ous flour­ish in a series of nov­els filled with hun­dreds of them, but for some reason—possibly its rela­tion­ship to the orig­i­nal doomed lux­u­ry liner–the Star­ship Titan­ic would go on to have an amaz­ing­ly detailed sec­ond life as a video game. And while a paper­back copy of any of Adams’ work is read­i­ly avail­able, it can take some hunt­ing to find a work­able ver­sion of the game.

Dou­glas Adams designed the game him­self, start­ing in 1996. A decade ear­li­er, he had helped design the text-based adven­ture game adap­ta­tion of Hitchhiker’s Guide, and had expressed a desire to do more work in the video game field, after play­ing Myst and its sequel Riv­en. How­ev­er, he said, “noth­ing real­ly hap­pens, and nobody is there. I thought, let’s do some­thing sim­i­lar but pop­u­late the envi­ron­ment with char­ac­ters you can inter­act with.”

Co-found­ing the mul­ti-media com­pa­ny Dig­i­tal Vil­lage, Adams wrote the game’s script, set aboard the fail­ing Titan­ic. The big dif­fer­ence, com­pared to Myst, is that the char­ac­ter can inter­act with char­ac­ters on board, many of them but­ler-like robots. And instead of typ­ing in com­mands, play­ers could speak to the char­ac­ters in real time using a nat­ur­al lan­guage pars­ing engine called Spook­italk, uti­liz­ing over 10,000 lines/16 hours of dia­log. Like its puz­zle-game influ­ences, it was mad­den­ing to play.

But also fun, as Mon­ty Python’s Ter­ry Jones and John Cleese both turn up among the voice actors, the for­mer as a par­rot, the lat­ter as a dooms­day bomb.

An arti­cle in Kotaku from 2015 men­tions a tie-in nov­el that Adams was to write him­self, after first assign­ing co-writ­ers Neil Richards, Deb­bie Barham, and Michael Bywa­ter to the task. But then:

Liv­ing up to his rep­u­ta­tion for seem­ing­ly infi­nite tar­di­ness, Adams admit­ted just three weeks before the book’s dead­line that he hadn’t writ­ten a thing, and in the end the nov­el Dou­glas Adams’s Star­ship Titan­ic was writ­ten in a furi­ous cas­cade of words by none oth­er than Ter­ry Jones (who claimed that he wrote the whole thing in the nude).

Even more inter­est­ing, Yoz Gra­hame, Dig­i­tal Village’s web devel­op­er had been put in charge of cre­at­ing the game’s pro­mo­tion­al web pres­ence. Buried deep down in a page was a mock forum sup­pos­ed­ly being writ­ten by the low­er-lev­el crew of the Titan­ic. Gra­hame kept the forum open for fans of the upcom­ing game, only to find lat­er that Adams fans had tak­en this com­ic east­er egg to heart. Six months lat­er there were ten-thou­sand posts in the mock forum. Users had con­tin­ued on the sto­ry in the spir­it of Adams.

“It was like ignor­ing the veg­etable draw­er of your fridge for a year, then open­ing it to find a bunch of very grate­ful sen­tient toma­toes busi­ly work­ing on their third opera,” Gra­hame told Kotaku. This forum went on for six years, with lay­ers and lay­ers of run­ning jokes.

At the time of the Kotaku piece, the game, orig­i­nal­ly released on CD-ROM was func­tion­al­ly unplayable on mod­ern video game sys­tems.

Not so now. Six bucks will buy you a mod­ern­ized copy of the game on Steam or GOG. If you’re curi­ous like me, but have no time to devote the many, many hours to fin­ish­ing the game, you can watch a 13-part walk­thru video. (Note: Adams him­self turns up at the very end in an unin­ten­tion­al­ly poignant cameo.)

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Play The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Video Game Free Online, Designed by Dou­glas Adams in 1984

Hyper­land: The “Fan­ta­sy Doc­u­men­tary” in Which Dou­glas Adams and Doc­tor Who‘s Tom Bak­er Imag­ine the World Wide Web (1990)

Ital­ian Astro­naut Reads The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on the Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

The Fiendishly Complicated Board Game That Takes 1,500 Hours to Play: Discover The Campaign for North Africa

Monop­oly is noto­ri­ous­ly time-con­sum­ing. On the child­hood Christ­mas I received my first copy of that Park­er Broth­ers clas­sic, my dad and I start­ed a game that end­ed up spread­ing over two or three days. That may have had to do with my appre­ci­a­tion for Monopoly’s aes­thet­ic far exceed­ing my grasp of its aim, and I’ve since real­ized that it can be played in about an hour. That’s still a good deal longer than, say, a game of check­ers, but it falls some­what short of the league occu­pied by The Cam­paign for North Africa — which is, in fact, a league of its own. Since its pub­li­ca­tion in 1979, it’s been known as the longest board game in exis­tence, requir­ing 1,500 hours (or 62 days) to com­plete.

We are, of course, talk­ing about a war game, and that genre has its own stan­dards of com­plex­i­ty — stan­dards The Cam­paign for North Africa leaves in the dust. “The game itself cov­ers the famous WWII oper­a­tions in Libya and Egypt between 1940 and 1943,” writes Kotaku’s Luke Win­kle. “You’ll need to recruit 10 total play­ers, (five Allied, five Axis,) who will each lord over a spe­cial­ized divi­sion. The Front-line and Air Com­man­ders will issue orders to the troops in bat­tle, the Rear and Logis­tics Com­man­ders will fer­ry sup­plies to the com­bat areas, and last­ly, a Com­man­der-in-Chief will be respon­si­ble for all macro strate­gic deci­sions over the course of the con­flict. If you and your group meets for three hours at a time, twice a month, you’d wrap up the cam­paign in about 20 years.”

You can get an idea of what you’d be deal­ing with over those two decades in the video below from Youtu­ber Phas­ing Play­er, an overview that itself takes about an hour and a half. “Hon­est­ly, if I’m being straight-up here, this game does sound, broad­ly speak­ing, like a fun time,” he says, half an hour deep into the expla­na­tion. “Imag­ine set­ting up a giant map of Africa,” get­ting your friends togeth­er, “Sarah’s in charge of the air force and Jim is in charge of logis­tics. You have all these peo­ple in charge of dif­fer­ent things, and you’re com­mu­ni­cat­ing strate­gies, and the com­man­der-in-chief is for­mu­lat­ing plans and doing all this stuff. That sounds like a real hoot, right?” Alas, “the big aster­isk comes in when that good time has to last lit­er­al­ly a thou­sand hours,” involv­ing what anoth­er play­er quot­ed by Win­kle calls “doing tedious cal­cu­la­tions all the time.”

Those cal­cu­la­tions neces­si­tate pay­ing close atten­tion, on every sin­gle turn, to not just quan­ti­ties like fuel reserves but the his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate size of the bar­rels con­tain­ing those reserves. Note also that, as Win­kle adds, “the Ital­ian troops in World War II were out­fit­ted with noo­dle rations, and in the name of his­tor­i­cal dog­ma, the play­er respon­si­ble for the Ital­ians is required to dis­trib­ute an extra water ration to their forces, so that their pas­ta may be boiled.” The Cam­paign for North Africa’s design­er, the late Richard Berg, claimed that the so-called “pas­ta rule” was a joke, and that the game’s fiendish over­all com­plex­i­ty was in keep­ing with the style of the times, a “gold­en age” of war gam­ing with high sales and ever-esca­lat­ing ambi­tions. As with so many oth­er seem­ing­ly inex­plic­a­ble arti­facts of cul­tur­al his­to­ry, one falls back on a famil­iar expla­na­tion: hey, it was the 70s.

via Kotaku

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch a Playthrough of the Old­est Board Game in the World, the Sumer­ian Roy­al Game of Ur, Cir­ca 2500 BC

Learn to Play Senet, the 5,000-Year Old Ancient Egypt­ian Game Beloved by Queens & Pharaohs

The Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Board Game, Inspired by Hunter S. Thompson’s Rol­lick­ing Nov­el

Monop­oly: How the Orig­i­nal Game Was Made to Con­demn Monop­o­lies & the Abus­es of Cap­i­tal­ism

Down­load & Play the Shin­ing Board Game

Board Game Ide­ol­o­gy — Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast #108

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Philosophy of Games: C. Thi Nguyen on the Philosophy vs. Improv Podcast


Thi Nguyen (pro­nounced “TEE NWEEN”) teach­es at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Utah, and his first book, 2020’s Games: Agency as Art, makes a case for games being treat­ed as a seri­ous object of study for phi­los­o­phy. Thi sees game analy­sis as not just a sub-divi­sion in the phi­los­o­phy of art (aes­thet­ics), but in the phi­los­o­phy of action. How do games relate to oth­er human activ­i­ties with con­straints, like cus­toms, lan­guage, and more specif­i­cal­ly per­for­ma­tive acts with­in lan­guage (like say­ing “I do” dur­ing a mar­riage cer­e­mo­ny, where you’re not just describ­ing that you do some­thing, but actu­al­ly tak­ing action)?

On this record­ing (episode 24 of the pod­cast), Thi joins phi­los­o­phy pod­cast­er Mark Lin­sen­may­er of The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life and impro­vi­sa­tion­al com­e­dy coach Bill Arnett of the Chica­go Improv Stu­dio to talk about games and improv, and to engage in a cou­ple of improv scenes that explore the con­nec­tion between the two.

This is the third phi­los­o­phy guest for the Phi­los­o­phy vs. Improv pod­cast, which alter­nates between guests from the improv world, guests from the phi­los­o­phy world, and no guest at all. The over­all for­mat involves a les­son from each host, which they teach to each oth­er (and the guest) simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. This often results in unex­pect­ed syn­chronic­i­ty giv­en the con­nec­tions between two dis­ci­plines that stress the analy­sis of lan­guage, liv­ing delib­er­ate­ly, and quick think­ing.

For anoth­er philo­soph­i­cal­ly rich episode, see episode #20 in which St. Lawrence Uni­ver­si­ty’s Jen­nifer L. Hansen appeared to dis­cuss the many aspects of the con­cept of “The Oth­er” in phi­los­o­phy.

Phi­los­o­phy vs. Improv is a pod­cast host­ed by Mark Lin­sen­may­er, who also hosts The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast, Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast, and Naked­ly Exam­ined Music

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