DIY federal budget


RSVP — the game

Check out this game — it’s called RSVP. It’s a neat idea: An old-fashioned card game created using Flash. Like most good games, it starts with an incredibly simple goal and incredibly simple rules, yet quickly develops emergent complexity that rips your head off. The idea is to “seat” each card around a table, so that the colors on each side of the card match those of the adjacent cards. If the card is suitably matched, the face on the card becomes “happy” and you get points; the “unhappy” umatched cards lose you points.

I think this game is an incredible breakthrough, both aesthetically and ludologically. (Yes, I just used the word “ludologically”. Yeah, yeah, shut up.) Aesthetically, I love the way the designer — a guy named Howard at Bulletproof Baby — has captured the graphic-art style of early-20th-century card games. He’s even made the cards sepia-toned, as if they’d slightly yellowed with age.

Game-wise, I love the idea of using Flash to create a genuinely new card game. For a while, I’ve been amazed at how rarely game designers use the wonderful freedom of video games to reinvent classic play. Sure, it’s fun to create virtual versions of football, cribbage, or bowling. By why stop there? Why not create entirely new sports — or entirely new card games? The nice thing about a virtual environment is that you’re not bound by normal laws of physics. In a new, virtual-only sport, you can mess around with gravity to create new forms of play. And with a virtual card game, you could have cards that morph and change depending on how you use them — almost like the way magic books in fairy tales develop faces and start talking.

Even more interesting are the people who commissioned this new card game: Lifetime Television. This is another thing I love about the impact of Flash on games. Flash makes it so cheap and quick to produce a good game that game-design is no longer limited to the entertainment giants like Electronic Arts or Eidos. Virtually any company with about $20,000 kicking around could find a game designer to produce them a fun game, which they can then give away for free as advertising. And since the games are being made by nontraditional sources, they tend to step outside the kick-punch-shoot genres that dominate mainstream gaming (and bore the crap out of many adults).

I love this stuff.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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