Monthly Archives: December 2015

Secret Sartre

Games about human life are often interesting, and for those in academia or who have spent time in there, games about university life specifically can hold a special fascination. From Scandinavia, here’s the introduction to a card-based game (complete with the card designs). Secret Sartre:

In Secret Sartre, the faculty members of an unnamed university department battle for ideological supremacy. A fragile alliance of upstanding rationalists, logical positivists, empiricists, liberal humanists, scientists and other fetishizers of the Enlightenment must work together to stem the rising tide of postmodernism. Watch out, though – there are closet postmodernists among you, and someone is Secret Sartre.

At the beginning of the game, each player is secretly assigned to one of three roles: Science, Postmodernism, or Sartre. Sartre plays for the postmodern team, and the postmodernists know who Sartre is, but most of the time Sartre does not know who his fellow postmodernists are. The Scientists are far out on the autism spectrum and don’t know who anyone is.

The scientists win by enacting five rational policies or having Sartre fired. The postmodernists win by enacting six postmodernist policies, or if Sartre is elected Head of Studies late in the game. As postmodernist policies are enacted, the Department Chair gains new powers. Even scientists may find themselves tempted to enact postmodernist policies that help them control the table and assassinate their enemies.

From the rules, how the cards appear:

Secret Sartre cards

This isn’t a quick game to pick up; the rules need a bit of figuring out, and a familiarity with card games, and academic research philosophy, helps. You also need several players to get the full benefit of Secret Sartre. But even if you don’t play, the description of the rules is amusing, and it’s an interesting way of comparing and contrasting academic and research positions.

> Examine Infocom archive

Infocom, founded in the late 1970s, was a software company in Cambridge (the USA one) which specialised in interactive fiction (IR) – more commonly known, then and now, as text adventure games. You may have heard of Zork, or the video game version of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Both were produced by Infocom.

Skip to but a few days ago. And lo, this appears online, the first of several batches of digitised content.

Yes, an archive of Infocom materials, the originals meticulously stored by Steve Meretzky of Infocom fame and scanned in, page by page, by Jason Scott of textfiles.com fame (and that in itself is a huge internet rabbit hole to fall down). He describes the process, with lots of lovely screenshots, in fascinating detail.

There’s a lot scanned in; enough, I hope, for several future research projects by games scholars. Related to this is GET LAMP, an Interactive fiction documentary by Jason from 2010. If you’re into adventure or text adventure game design and philosophy, and are okay with watching 90 minutes of interview clips then it’s an interesting video: