Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Jape the Television

There is a lot of talk about theme lately. I got a chance to think about theme while deer hunting a couple weekends ago. While I seldom encounter deer, I did hunt down a great novel, Philip K. Dick's The Man who Japed.

I've said it before...I love Avalon Hill's classic TV Wars.

But something I have always wondered…what would TV Wars look like nowadays? And I don't just mean the mechanics of the game, what about the theme?

Because people don't watch TV is the same way they watched it during the "Rating Wars" and "Sweeps Week" programming eras. There are certainly more than 4 major networks, and most people don't have to wait for specific time slots to watch the particular shows they want to watch. You can usually even catch up with entire seasons of shows without any consideration to what the other channels are running at the same time.

Unless you do a historical theme set in the 70's-80's, but to tell you the truth its kinda been done…TV Wars LIVED IT.

I know of 2 different games currently in production to try to revive the "ratings war" style of TV Wars. One is Gil Hova's Prime Time, the other is by Elad Goldstein, also called Prime Time.

The Man who Japed isn't really a dystopia. People seem to have rights, even though Morec (which stands for The Moral Reclaimation) is kind of a dump.

The protagonist in this book writes "packets" which as the story goes along you realize are television scripts. Multiple semi-indenpendent agencies write these packets for sale to the government-run TeleMedia arm of the government. Who then produces them and thus educates (because television is for education!) the masses.

So in Morec-style TV Wars, each player would produce scripts.

Then there would probably be a judging phase where TeleMedia purchases whatever shows it thinks it needs.

But then, the fun thing about The Man who Japed, there is a phase after that where all the players get to annoyomously accuse each other of moral impropriety.

Because one of things Morec does to keep its values in power is allow each citizen to tattletale on other citizens in a weekly block meeting. Transgressions might involve swearing, or fornicating (outside of marriage), or excessive leisure.

In our game, the morals planted in the scripts themselves could be subverted and reinterpreted to make any of the other players look like they are trying to corrupt the system (which they probably are).

The world of Morec also seems pretty fair, in a twisted sort of way. 8-legged robot recorders called "juveniles" are always on the prowl to record people's transgressions. People can make all sorts of accusations about your conduct, but the only accusations to hold up in these block meetings involve evidence gathered from these spider droids.

Thus the morals of the packets can be debated, since there is little evidence of intent when it comes to an idea. In the story there is much discussion over a packet the protagonist writes about a colonist who plants a tree and it dies. The dead tree might mean the futility of human existence, or it could be a lesson to keep your treasure close to the moral center of the universe...Morec.

There are facist brown-shirted thugs called "Cohorts," however these guys are played for almost comic relief, and they certainly don't seem to be very good shots when it comes down to avenging slights on the founding father of the movement. I'm sure we can find a way to fit them in as well.

Anyway, there are very few sci-fi-ish board games out there that don't involve space ships. I like the idea of the Man who Japed, and I'm going to pin it to the wall in the back of my head for future reference.

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