Two new games from Ian Bogost

Ian Bogost, one of my favorite game designers, has hit a double this week — he has two nifty titles launching.

The first one, co-designed along with Jane McGonigal, is Cruel 2 B Kind. It’s a real-world game that is a dementedly smart reskinning of Assassin. Like Assassin, you’re tasked with hunting down someone and “killing” them in public. Except in this case, a) you don’t know precisely who your target is, and b) the “weapon” you’re issued is an act of kindness — such as offering someone a compliment.

The players are turned loose in a public area that is filled with tons of random strangers who, of course, aren’t playing the game and are unaware any game is going on. You have to just go up to strangers, perform your act of kindness, and see whether it kills them. The only way to figure out who the other combatants are is to be on the lookout for other people performing similarly random acts of kindness. As the rules note:

Your secret weapon is the act of kindness you perform on suspected targets. Example: Praise your targets’ shoes. If you perform this weapon on the correct target, they will surrender. If you perform this weapon on other players who are not your target, they will say “You are too kind.” If you perform this weapon on non-targets … well, we have no idea what might happen!

Thus, tomorrow we’ll witness the delicious spectacle of befuddled New Yorkers wondering why in god’s name they’re being accosted by so many friendly strangers. I love it. However, the game is part of the Come Out And Play festival, which tragically was scheduled to coincide with Rosh Hashanah, so I’m going to be out of town and miss it. Waah! Somebody attend and tell me what it was like!

Ian’s other game is Airport Security, an online Flash game that parodies the recent ban on in-flight liquids. You play as an airport screener, and your job is to divest people of sundry and hilarious personal items — cell phones, snakes, their pants, goldfish bowls — while ensuring the line moves along swiftly. Basically, it’s a serious-game iteration of the Bruce Schneider critique of airport security, which is that “airport security is the last line of defense, and not a very good one at that”. Even those who disagree with the thesis of the game would probably still find it a hoot to play, though — it’s that witty.

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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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