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Board Game Social Studies:
Common games that illustrate
models of social organization

by Dan Kotler


Mousetrap: National Socialism

The society must be molded and shaped by a great leader (the player) into a perfect working whole in which every cog and piece functions perfectly in its place and role. In order to work, of course, this great machine must cleanse itself of everything that would corrupt it (i.e., the mouse). That cleansing in and of itself of course provides the great perpetuating purpose which serves to motivate and drive the impeccable engine.

Jenga: Bureaucracy

Though arguably not strictly a board game, Jenga seems to fall in the general associational purview (whatever the hell that means). At any rate, since Jenga illustrates bureaucracy, you should expect strange categorization and unintelligible verbage.

In a continuing, pointless, and ultimately doomed endeavor, your only real goal is to make sure someone else fucks things up before you do, so that they get the blame. Then you pick up the pieces and go on with the whole damn pointless thing.

Card Game Theology:

Asshole: Karma

In this life, you suffer not because of what you've done in this life, but because of what you did in the previous life (i.e., round). The further down the karmic ladder you fall because of your past lives, the harder it is to rise back up or even stay afloat, and the more likely you are to spiral even further down. Conversely, of course, the higher you climb on the ladder because of your past lives, the easier it is to stay afloat or even rise to the top. In Asshole, of course, there is no representation of Nirvana--of escape from the chain of karma and earthly suffering. Even the President must continue to play the game and run some, albeit increasingly minimal, risk. Unless we consider drunken oblivion to illustrate Nirvana. In which case, Asshole would seem to be telling us that the path to enlightenment is not necessarily to rise to the top of the karmic ladder, but to endure continuing suffering on the lower rungs. Unless of course the President is enlightened enough to voluntary drink him- or herself into a stupor and thus bring suffering upon him- or herself. Which is all very counterintuitive and very Zen.

See Also:
Board Game Theology, by Dan Kotler


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