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Apr 17 2013

Rewriting “Mystery Date”

Mystery Date box coverIn the conversation here in this blog about the “Mystery Date” game and how it served to enforce rigid gender roles and female passivity, one commenter, cubist, has proposed that we create a feminist version of the game.

I’m intrigued by the idea of re-writing the game. I have now wasted waaaaay too much time thinking about how to create game mechanics for a dating-themed board game that reflect the dating world in a way that I like, a way that reflects my values but that also reflects reality, and that would also be silly and fun to play. So I’m jumping off cubist’s ideas and am going to take a stab.

cubist proposes “mutually satisfying relationship” as the goal of the game, but I think that might be too large. Maybe just “enjoyable date”?

First — you get to pick your date. Maybe you have to pick them out of a limited set — that’s how it works in life, you don’t get to date absolutely anyone you want, and after all your dates get to have preferences too. But you could draw, say, five cards from a large deck, and pick the one of the five that you like best.

Dates are of all genders. I agree with cubist that it might be difficult to depict trans people in a simple graphic designy way without being exploitative or exoticizing. Maybe have some dates who are of indeterminate gender? Or with a gender presentation that doesn’t match the gender of their name? And for the poly crowd, maybe some of the “dates” could be couples.

Dates have multiple interests printed on their cards, from a pool of overlapping interests. Say there are twenty total interests in the game, and each date has three. Some of the dates’ interests should be unexpected and break out of stereotypes: a punk rocker with an interest in folk dancing, a business executive with an interest in Burning Man. And of course, some dates can have the same interest as each other: the punk rocker and the business executive can both be interested in Burning Man.

Each interest has three items you need to collect to engage in it. (Or maybe each interest has four or five items connected with it, but you only need to collect three to win.) They don’t have to be clothing items, although some of them can be. Some of them don’t even have to be physical items. For “atheist conference,” for instance, you could need to collect a Surly Amy necklace, a nerdy T-shirt, and a loss of religious faith. Some of the interests could share items: you could need a nerdy T-shirt for both “atheist conference” and “science museum.”

And maybe there should be some sort of wild cards. If you have the “irrational sexual chemistry” card, for instance, it can stand in for any item… since if you have that, it’s going to make pretty much any activity you do more fun. And maybe there should be an opposite: if you land on the “You two are perfect on paper but you just can’t stand each other” space on the board, you have to ditch your date and replace them.

The first player to collect three items connected to one of their date’s interests is the winner.

Thoughts?

11 comments

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  1. 1
    busterggi

    As a cheap straight guy I’m requesting that potential dates, cis or trans, be rated as to whether they are allergic to lobster.

  2. 2
    Greta Christina

    busterggi @ #1: How about just having some of the activities be free or cheap, with the items required for them being free or cheap?

  3. 3
    axemaiden

    How about making it even more inclusive by having the option not to go on a date at all? If you’re challenging gender roles and expectations, how about challenging the all-pervasive meme that everyone – especially women – needs to either be in a relationship, or be looking for one, and if you’re not there’s something wrong with you. You could have a ‘happily single’ option, in which the player collects 3 items for an activity they can enjoy alone. (Mine would be a book, a bath and a bar of chocolate.)

  4. 4
    Gregory in Seattle

    Why not have two sets of cards, one of dates and one of interests?

    First, the date cards. On the bottom, there is a gender attribute on one side (male, female or queer, which may or may not match up with visual representation) and an orientation attribute on the other side (gay, straight, bisexual, asexual.) Some cards may also be marked in the center of the bottom as POLY! and possibly other special attributes.

    Then the interest cards, marked with a different color back. There would be, say… two each of 20 or 25 different interests.

    Both decks are shuffled. With N players, each player draws N dates, then hands one to each other player face down until every player has only one card. Players pick up the cards in front of them and, with the one they kept, select a single date. The unused date cards are returned to the date card deck, which is put aside for the rest of the game. The exception is that if you have two or more dates flagged POLY! you may keep any or all of them as a single date. The date cards are placed face up in front of the player.

    Each player then draws three interest cards. For each date beyond one, the player may draw one extra interest card. These are kept hidden from the other players.

    Game proceeds with each player trying to collect six items related to their date(s) interests, or trying to prevent other players from getting items they are looking for. The first player to get the items reveals them and the interests, winning the game.

    The advantage to having a POLY! set up is that you have added interests to fulfill without needed any more items, making the game slightly easier to win. Say you had two POLY! dates; that gives you four interest cards. Any combination of six items across those four interests (as distinct from six items across three interests for a single date) will win.

  5. 5
    Greta Christina

    axemaiden @ #3: I think that’s a great idea. I mean, it’s a dating game, so I don’t mind it being focused on dating… but I think it’d be a great idea to have one of the “dates” be “you, yourself, happily single.” Although if I were designing the game, one of the needed activity items would be a vibrator…

  6. 6
    Gregory in Seattle

    Or perhaps easier, have single date cards with a couple or even trio. Players may keep only date card, but a duo allows them to draw four interests and a trio, five.

  7. 7
    busterggi

    I’ll stick with the lobster rating, Greta. As I’m allergic to seafood, even if iwasn’t cheap, I’d rather not go into anaphalaxis after just one kiss.

  8. 8
    Didaktylos

    There could also be “chance event” cards that, depending on what combination of characters and the type of occasion, could have either a positive or negative effect on the date.

  9. 9
    cubist

    Dang… didn’t expect my comment to tickle Greta’s fancy that much…
     
    sez greta:

    cubist proposes “mutually satisfying relationship” as the goal of the game, but I think that might be too large. Maybe just “enjoyable date”?

    Sounds reasonable to me. IMAO, the difference between “mutually satisfying relationship” and “enjoyable date” is the duration; an Enjoyable Date is a Mutually-Satisfying Relationship that extends over the course of an evening, more or less. Hmmm… let each date be one round of the game, with ED being the goal for each round, and M-SR being the collective goal for a series of game-rounds?

    …you get to pick your date. Maybe you have to pick them out of a limited set…

    [nods] Right… Try this on for size: The MD2 board is a schematic representation of a decently diverse city, and it has however-many spaces on it, Bookstore and Supermarket and Gym and Coffeeshop and yada yada yada. Each board-space has a ‘date potential’ number; when a player moves their pawn to that space, you deal out [date potential] number of candidates on the spot, and the player can decide if any of them is worth bothering with. If you don’t want to deal with a date in that particular space, that’s fine, too; a player can just declare “thanks, no date for me” and not bother to generate any candidates.

    Dates have multiple interests printed on their cards, from a pool of overlapping interests. Say there are twenty total interests in the game, and each date has three.

    The “printed on their cards” bit could be problematic. If each date has 3 interests picked out out a group of 20, there’s (20 * 19 * 18 =) 6,840 possible interest-combinations a date could have. And with 6,840 interest-combinations, times two genders (male/female), times three gender-preferences (gay/straight/bi), the deck of date-cards balloons up to 41,040 cards! Either we leave the vast majority of possible dates out of MD2, or else the number of date-cards is impractically large.
    Thus, my suggestion that each date be defined by a “hand” of different types of cards, one gender + one gender-pref plus N interests. Having different types of cards can be a bit awkward, but surely it’ll be less awkward than trying to shuffle a deck with a five-digit number of cards!

    Each interest has three items you need to collect to engage in it. (Or maybe each interest has four or five items connected with it, but you only need to collect three to win.) They don’t have to be clothing items, although some of them can be. Some of them don’t even have to be physical items…

    Hadn’t pondered this aspect of things, but you’re right, MD2 really should include items. Basically taking the “buy clothes” concept from MD1 and way the hell extending it. Each date should come with a set of items (maybe 3?), which may or may not be suitable for any of the date’s particular set of interests—Life Happens, to coin a phrase. And if we run with the idea of the player roleplaying a character who’s defined by gender/genderpref/interest cards, the player should start the game with some items, too. Maybe allow the player to choose their initial set of items, just to be nice?

    And maybe there should be some sort of wild cards. If you have the “irrational sexual chemistry” card, for instance, it can stand in for any item…

    Yes. A whole deck of cards representing stuff which can happen, something like the Chance deck in Monopoly. Call it, I dunno, the Instant Karma deck or something? Whenever the player visits a board-space, they draw one card from the IK deck, and this card affects how it all plays out.
    Sexual Chemistry: As per Greta, this IK card is a wildcard. Only applies when the player is looking for a date, ignored otherwise.
    Perfect On Paper: As per Greta, this card represents a person that you just can’t get along with.
    They’re Asking: When you draw this IK card, immediately generate a date who would like to go out with the player. The player can choose to accept or refuse the date.
    Just Missed It: Something minor happened which prevented the player from visiting the board-space they intended to visit.
    Club Meeting: This card represents a gathering of like-minded people. When you draw Club Meeting from the IK deck, every date you encounter in that board-space will have whatever specific interest the Club is devoted to.
    It’s Cool, Jules: Nothing unusual happens. I’m thinking the IK deck should have a lot of It’s Cool Jules cards in it, because there are lots of times when nothing unusual does happen.

    The first player to collect three items connected to one of their date’s interests is the winner.

    This makes sense. I’d like it if the winning conditions also included the date collecting items related to the player’s interests, but implementing that would be problematic. Hmm… save that for a version of the game in which a player’s date can be another player?

  10. 10
    Greta Christina

    cubist @ #9: I don’t think it would be necessary for every possible combination of interests to be represented in the “date” cards. I think it’d be fine for only a few of those iterations to be represented. After all, we have have something left for the expansion pack, right? :-)

  11. 11
    cubist

    sez greta:

    I don’t think it would be necessary for every possible combination of interests to be represented in the “date” cards. I think it’d be fine for only a few of those iterations to be represented. After all, we have have something left for the expansion pack, right?

    That’s just it: If our game’s date-cards follow the MD1 model of letting the date be wholly and entirely defined by one ‘card’ (okay, ‘one image that’s revealed from a set of five’, but you know what I mean), there will be only a very few of those potential combinations. Like, if we go with a 40-card deck of dates, that’s 0.1 percent of the 41,040 possibilities. Which, in turn, means that we’ll have to give a fair amount of thought to deciding which of the possibilities we’ll include in the fraction-of-a-percent that make it into the game’s date-deck. I suspect there’s a goodly opportunity for unconscious bias to creep into such a selection process, myself.
    Still, I can see that my preferred method (date defined by multiple types of cards) may have practical issues, as compared to the one-card-per-date method you’d prefer. And yeah, expan$ion $et$ are cool [innocent expression]… hmm… maybe we can both get what we want: A ‘standard edition’ of the game, in which there’s a date-deck that operates according to your “one card, one date” principle, and an ‘advanced edition’, whose not-a-date-deck implements my “many cards, one date” principle. We will of course start off by publishing the ‘standard edition’, and let the ‘advanced edition’ simmer on the back burner until we see how much interest MD2 generates in the game-buying public.
    Let’s see…

    How should MD2 handle religion? It seems wrong for the game to just ignore religion, but at the same time, religion is such a fucking minefield that it might be better to let that sleeping cockatrice lie? Eh, this is just brainstorming, so let’s work with it and see what we can come up with.
    I’m thinking that Religion—generic, non-specific Religion—should be one of the interests a date can have. Yes, I’m recommending that the game gloss over all the differences, great and small, which exist between Xtianity and Islam and the Hindu faith and yada yada yada. The gaze-board should include 1 (one) space, Believer’s Row, a space which is decorated with multiple different “holy symbols”, to indicate that this board-space represents all religions.

    In this OP, you mentioned that in addition to physical items (i.e., “geeky t-shirt” & etc), there could also be non-physical items (i.e., “lack of faith”). I like this idea, and want to flesh it out. Non-physical “items” is almost a contradiction in terms, so I’m going to propose that the game use the term “attitudes” for non-physical items. Items and attitudes, we’ll presumably want to have little game-tokens that represent each one of ‘em.
    You acquire an item by purchasing it, but how do you acquire an attitude? I’m thinking players collect attitudes by visiting appropriate board-spaces. For example, the lack-of-faith attitude could be acquired from the Science Museum space—but it could also be acquired from the Believer’s Row space (see also: seminary students turning out to be atheists, heh heh heh). Each attitude can be acquired from one or more board-spaces; each board-space which is a source of any attitudes, can be a source of one or more of the beasts.
    Some board-spaces can be sources of both items and attitudes; some board-spaces are only a source of items; some board-spaces are only a source of attitudes.

    The board: There’s a potentially-infinite range of possibilities for board-spaces. At this point, I think it’s premature to worry about the board design/graphics/layout; here’s my zeroeth draft of a list of possible board-spaces. Feel free to cross off any item on this list. Also feel free to add new items I didn’t think of.
    Airport
    Ballroom
    Bar & grill
    Believer’s Row (described above)
    Bookstore
    City hall
    Coffeeshop
    Comedy club
    Convention center
    Crystal store (i.e., newage paraphernalia)
    Fast-food joint
    Fire station
    Hospital
    Library
    Movie theatre / Multiplex (blockbusters), Drive-in (trashy flicks), Cinema palace (classic films)
    Museum / Science M., Art M.
    Nightclub
    Police station
    Pool hall
    Restaurant
    Sports stadium
    Theatre (live actors!)

    Professions: Again, a zeroeth draft of a list, which cries out for editing/expansion.
    Banker
    Cook
    House painter
    Lawyer
    Messenger
    Musician
    Panhandler
    Plumber
    Programmer
    Social worker
    Steelworker

    Interests: Yet another prototype list which I will be shocked if nobody wants to add or subtract from.
    Art
    Atheism
    Athleticism
    Aviation
    Boardgames
    Bodybuilding
    Chess
    Cinema
    Classical music
    Comedy
    Comicbooks
    Computers
    Cuisine
    Dancing
    Drinking
    Education
    Fashion
    Feminism
    Financial
    Graffiti
    Health
    Kink
    Literature
    Muscle cars
    Newage
    Philately
    Politics
    Punk rock
    Religion
    Science
    Shopping
    Skepticism
    Sports
    Surfing
    Theatre
    Trashy movies

    Expansion sets: Since each interest has certain items and/or attitudes associated with it, I’m thinking an expansion set could consist of X ‘new’ interests, plus the game-tokens which represent the items/attitudes associated with the interests in the expansion set.

    Will ponder this further. More later…

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