April 3, 2013 10:02 am
Game designer Jason Rohrer just released a new board game, but it’s not meant for me or you to play. It’s meant for our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren to play.
Polygon explains Rohrer’s thinking behind the game, which is not meant to be played for nearly 3,000 years:
It’s called A Game for Someone. The game was inspired by ancient board games like Mancala, as well as the architects and builders who, over hundreds of years, constructed religious cathedrals that they themselves would never set foot in, never see completed in their lifetimes.
“I wanted to make a game that is not for right now, that I will never play,” Rohrer said, “and nobody now living would ever play.”
But how do you build a game without ever playing or testing it first?
Rohrer first built the game in computer form, designing a set of rules that would be playtested not by a human, but by an artificial intelligence. He said he plugged the game’s rules into a “black box,” letting the AI find imbalances, iterating new rules and repeating.
To make sure the actual board and playing pieces would last at least two millennia, he forged them out of 30 pounds of titanium. He detailed the rules with diagrams rather than words on three pages of acid-free archival paper, which he then sealed inside a Pyrex glass tube which in turn was encapsulated in a titanium cylinder.
Then, he took A Game for Someone out into the Nevada desert, far from roads or settlements. He dug a hole and buried it.
Rohrer does have the GPS coordinates, however, as does someone else who attended the Game Design Challenge where he unveiled his project:
Prior to Rohrer’s talk, a few hundred envelopes were placed on the seats in the room. Printed on the envelope: “Please do not open yet.” After Rohrer described his game, he asked attendees to open their envelopes. Inside each one is a piece of paper with 900 sets of GPS coordinates. In total, Rohrer gave the audience more than 1 million unique GPS coordinates. He estimates that if one person visits a GPS location each day with a metal detector, the game will be unearthed sometime within the next million days — a little over 2,700 years.
That is assuming, of course, that humans manage to stick around in time for the big unveiling.
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