Thu, 02 Jan 2003 21:05:29 GMT
Apparently there's this multiplayer game called Mafia that has long been popular in SF fandom and that is now crossing over into New York literary circles, thanks at least in part to Jonathan Lethem. (The New York Observer's much-blogged report is here.) When I read about this game — which involves no paper or board but chiefly is a matter of players choosing whether to cooperate with or deceive one another — all I get is flashbacks to Diplomacy.
Diplomacy was (is?) a seven-player board game set on the eve of the First World War; in theory it was a historical strategy game but in practice it was mostly about negotiation, psychology, and stabbing fellow players in the back. Many of us geeky teenagers spent inordinate amounts of time in the 1970s playing this game both FTF and in a by-mail format, which developed its own 'zine-based subculture. Mafia does away with the board and the pieces and pretty much zeroes in on the psychology, which makes a lot of sense and no doubt accounts for its popularity. [Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comment]
I think it is important to realize that games like this are actually social training of a sort that can be very hard to find elsewhere. I think more people should play games