Dead Cats, Dead People

10 Nov

Today’s post is about two things. The first is Peter Molyneaux’s Curiosity, the second – entirely unrelated it would seem – is Tombstone Hold’Em. Both are cooperative. One is played on a cell phone. The other is played in a graveyard. Both do something interesting with gaming – namely, asking people to work together on something that is not at all an obvious game.

Curiosity (besides proverbially killing the neighborhood feline) is a game about tapping squares. Each square one taps disappears (shatters) and can earn you virtual gold. Each removal of a square reveals the next layer of a cube. The collective – for everyone playing the game is playing together in a giant collective – has thus far removed a green layer with bubbles and is in the process of removing a maroonish-orange layer to reveal some sort of picture (I’m voting for either cherries or tomatoes) underneath. Now what’s interesting about Curiosity is that despite the collective working together, only one person can win. What they win is an interesting question, but Molyneaux has said that this is both a game and a social experiment, so for me the best part is going to be finding out what he was trying to determine at the end of it all.

Tombstone Hold’Em, on the other hand, is a team game, but one that’s played among a collective that is cross-generational. In short, you need dead people to play along with you. This game has been on my mind recently because the Unorthodox Arts Foundation is hosing a game in Boston at Copps’ Hill Burying Ground (so if you happen to live or be in the area on November 17th, head up there… it’s free!). I find it fascinating that it takes not only the facilitators and players, but the dead to successfully play the game. Dead people become your literal ace in the hole.

So why do I think it’s worth posting about these two games together? It’s the collective element. People are playing without actively cooperating (Curiosity) and even without being alive (Tombstone), but they are nevertheless a part of the game’s collective. That, I think, is what strikes me about both games: they’re encouraging cooperative, collective play, but they do so in a way that creates an unwitting community simply by being played.