New Year, Old Year: 2019 Revisited
Day Four! The Conceptualists!
What I Got Wrong!
Almost everything. Note the flip. I got almost everything wrong.
Some of that, though, is because 2020 was a real bummer of a year. Party games like Wavelength were out, and that’s to say nothing of a six-player-only title like Westphalia, which I’m actually playing digitally this weekend — although it’s taken a month to put together, with players on both sides of the Atlantic, and we’ll see if it actually happens. The more tangible missteps were Undaunted: Normandy, which required an expansion like North Africa to really grow into its own, and Sabotage, which is every bit as fussy and charming as a baby of eighteen months, and trust me when I say I know what I’m talking about there. Even Jaws, which is a very solid game, started to feel oddly tempting. When venturing out to the grocery store becomes potentially dangerous, risking my legs for a swim on the beach doesn’t seem quite so foolhardy. How many people got eaten in that movie, anyway? Three? That’s, what, a ninety-nine percent chance of survival! Now where else have I heard those odds?
It was a hard year. For you. For me. For the entire hobby industry. And odd, concept-heavy games fared poorly.
What I Got Right!
There’s this guy on Twitter who keeps asking me if my views of Pax Transhumanity have changed. I’m not sure what the question means. Come to think of it, I’m not sure of the why behind the question, either. Are we talking about the game as it presents itself, a world in which humanity stands on the cusp of many potential destinies both tremendous and terrifying? Or are we talking about Phil Eklund, designer Matt Eklund’s father and perennial wackadoodle, whose footnotes repainted the game as some fantasy football version of libertarianism?
Never mind. Fact is, my views of Pax Transhumanity have changed — for the better.
No, I haven’t become a shadow libertarian. The footnotes weren’t the interesting thing about Pax Transhumanity in the first place. Like some of the other games I highlighted in 2019, it was the optimism that convinced me. “Technology can make the world better,” it argued. This didn’t discount the possibility of some seriously horrific outcomes, including humanity getting left behind by any number of singularities. But it was the sort of argument that’s only easy to dismiss when we don’t pay attention to history. Here we are in the midst of a global pandemic, surrounded by countless dinguses who wail about how wearing a mask for an hour at the grocery store will erase your core identity. Yet in spite of the situation and the exacerbating morons, we’re also enriched by the tools we’ve created. We can speak with friends and family. Teach and take classes. Try to finish Netflix. Argue about a baby puppet on the internet. Refrigerate our food so we don’t need to go out as often. Sleep in comfort. Consume medicines that help regulate our anxieties. Understand germ theory. Watch that squiggly line turn downward thanks to a vaccine that took less than a year to engineer.
Look, I don’t agree with the footnotes, either. If I were the Grand Emperor of Humankind, I’d handle a few things differently. But, man, there are so many things I’m grateful for right now. And Pax Transhumanity’s unabashed celebration of what we can accomplish with technology is what I needed this year.
Also, we played so much of it on Tabletop Simulator. So much. Any game that’s still interesting after that many plays is worth something.
Next, we’re back to normal. Mostly.