War, violence, and board games. . . (a forward for the game of Bul)

His words slam hot against me. ‘Yah, Dad, I’ll bet the games you do are connected somehow to war and violence too! Deep down, they’re probably as bad as the games I like to play!"

At question is Quake-II – a fast and furious first person, shoot’em up, action game which pits you, a scrappy space marine, against an alien aggressor force. Lock and Load! Pat seems to have become obsessed with this game (and I can understand why), especially the ‘Capture the Flag’ version in which you battle against real players throughout the ‘net’ and train with specially programmed killer ‘bots’. It’s addictive and requires real cunning, strategy, and quick reflexes, but it is all so ultimately violent. His Mom doesn’t like that at all, and nor do I to a somewhat lesser extent.

But, grudgingly, Pat has a point about ‘my games’.

A few months back I would have just laughed. There is nothing about Senet, 20-Squares, Hounds & Jackals, Halatafl, or Patolli, etc. that is obviously violent or war-like. Granted, Patolli and Tasholiiwe are about gambling, and although I’ve tried hard to avoid this aspect as much as possible in my other games, in these two games it is an integral part of what makes them historical games. Patolli is not Patolli without gambling; Tasholiiwe is not Tasholiiwe without it either. But I can discern no violence in them.

Mayan Bul is another story, however, and right on queue, as usual, Pat’s failings have hit a sore spot, right at my most vulnerable moment. Yes, Bul is almost certainly a thinly veiled reflection of Mayan warfare, violence and bloodshed. Pat is right on here. It is war and violence and mayhem. It conjures up visions of great armies, brightly colored banners and feathered headdresses, wooden shields, the flash of obsidian weapons as terrible as the claws of the jaguar. It invokes images of night raids, burning cities, weeping women and children, slavery, political serfdom, economic chaos. It stirs up memories of vast city rivalries, hatred, power, might, suffering, oppression . . . and yes, most abhorrent to modern sensibilities: prisoner sacrifice and perhaps even ritualistic cannibalism.

"Nice game ya got here Dad!" I can hear Pat spouting with caustic sarcasm, "Does Mom know about this??? . . .".

NO! And she’s not gonna either. ;-)

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