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Game designer tells John Boehner: ‘It’s not a game’

It’s actually a puzzle, according to game designer Mike Selinker in an open letter to U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (this has been a great couple of weeks for those, hasn’t it?). In his post, Selinker elaborates on how the current government shutdown has more in common with the asymmetrical relationship between the puzzle maker and the user, a case where “the field of play is horribly imbalanced” according to Selinker.

For those of you who’ve possibly stopped paying attention to the news because the new TV season is in full swing, the current crisis of confidence in United States’ elected officials came about when House Republicans, seeking to defund the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), blocked the latest round of funding for the United States government, in the hopes that Democrats and the President would capitulate and kill the recently-enacted bill.

Or, according to Selinker:

“So to put this in context, the GOP has placed this puzzle in front of the Democrats: We have all agreed to fund the Affordable Care Act. However, the House has hidden the funding. What is the set of actions that will get the ACA funded? Is it to capitulate? To threaten? To do nothing?

It’s a tough puzzle. But this gets me to the final piece of my definition, which is that, if the puzzle is properly constructed, the puzzle’s disadvantaged side is expected to win.”

For Selinker, none of this constitutes what could rightly be considered a game, which Boehner pointed out at a recent press conference. For Selinker, the Democratic side has already figured this part out, while the Republicans continue to engage in brinksmanship and, well, games, to kill a law that was passed and defended across all three branches of government.

“One critical aspect of creating a fair game is acceptance of a set of rules. We can’t be expected to play hockey if my team brings hockey sticks and your team brings machine guns. Thankfully, the rules of hockey are rather strict on what equipment we can use. If someone breaks those rules, they’re not ‘negotiating,’ they’re cheating.

If the shutdown were a game, your side would have broken the rules. The rules of the American government are that if the Congress passes a law, and the President signs a law, and the Supreme Court upholds a law, the law should be enacted. As of last count, your side had decided 40+ times to stop playing by the rules. Which, if this were a game, would be cheating.”

Selinker is the president of Lone Shark Games, and he’s also worked on games based on Dungeons and Dragons and Harry Potter.

[Header image: “Puzzlefish” by Brother Adam]

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