Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hypertheticals: 50 Questions for Insane Conversations

by DionysusPsyche

Let's do something different. Normally on IL, there are book, film, television, and video game reviews. They're enjoyable, and some of them may pique your interest more than others, some not at all. Perhaps this is your first time to the 'Loon, and you have no frame of reference (but I'm sure you've read a review or at least been given a recommendation).

No one has reviewed a game that isn't a video game on here before, and I'm pretty much quoting word for word what the creator of the blog told me when I mentioned I wanted to review this. There is good reason for it. You can explain Apples to Apples or Risk or (please no one do this) Monopoly, but it's difficult (especially when explaining Apples to Apples) with a game to persuade someone why they would or wouldn't enjoy it. With most games you only have some idea of how it's played, what with it being an interactive experience. It's highly subjective, and although one could argue that for one of the other mediums as well, one can more easily assess if they like the other entities reviewed here. You can say, "Well, since I generally dislike movies, chances are I won't watch this" or narrow it down based on genre, actors, script, and finally the blogger's own individual take on it. A game doesn't capture that type of assimilation as easily.

It's not your typical card game. It's not a drinking game, it doesn't involve dice, and there are no winners or losers technically speaking (I'll elaborate on this later). You don't bump anyone off a board, in fact, there is no board. You're not bartering for resources, and you don't have to have a dealer if you don't want to (although it's most fun if everyone gets to choose a question). There's no set time, so you can play while waiting for a friend to arrive, a whole afternoon, or over Skype with your pen pal.

The creator of the game is author and pop culture essayist, Chuck Klosterman. The birth of this game was described in Klosterman's second work of non-fiction entitled Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. In it, Klosterman introduces only some of the questions by labelling them, "the 23 questions I ask everybody I meet in order to decide if I can really love them."

Because I have read all of Chuck Klosterman's books except for one, I naturally squealed when I saw that he'd extended the questions into a card game online, because I'd been debating how to get people to play this with me while awkwardly reading out of two books. I knew most of what was coming, but I was excited nonetheless. I had no idea what he would say about them. Below is an excerpt according to Klosterman defining the game:

"I refuse to make small talk...I don't care what the situation is or what the protocol is supposed to be: I see no value in asking someone a friendly, non-adversarial question if neither party cares what the answer is. Instead, I prefer to ask questions where the solution is irrelevant--I pose hypothetical questions where how one answers the query matters far more than the literal conclusion. There is no "right" answer..."

Sometimes the details leading up to the question take the whole card, sometimes they're shorter. Occasionally you get options, sometimes you get a "yes/no, but WHY" question. In order for you to better understand what types of questions are included, I will provide one card.

The Honesty Room
Someone builds a paranormal "Honesty Room." Within the walls of this room, it is impossible for anyone to tell lies (or to avoid answering whatever questions they are asked). This same inventor also creates a memory loss drug that is released into the air inside the Honesty Room as an airborne mist; what this means is that people who enter the Honesty Room will not remember what they said, what questions they were asked, or even that they were ever there.  The only antidote to the memory loss drug is a pill, and you have this pill. So--in essence--you have access to a room where every guest who enters will tell you the absolute truth (about anything) and then immediately forget what they were asked and what they said. But you will retain everything you learn. You are inside the Honesty Room with your parents. What do you ask them?
For a completely different question...or a physical representation for the variables you get

Since we're not in the Honesty Room right now (and I did NOT have a memory loss/retaining pill for these questions), I won't breech confidentiality to what was said between friends, especially as pertains to the above question (plus, you don't know them, so it'd be far more interesting to ask your own friends). What I will say is that people's answers vary greatly from question to question. No one answers the question the same way for necessarily the same reason--although sometimes it's extremely close. Like Klosterman says, "why" is a huge factor. The individual players can be as different as night and day so the responses may come quickly and easily or can take more time (granted, it probably depends on who you're playing with, how comfortable they are with each other, and whether or not anyone has been imbibing). Some people have very straight forward answers, and some are like me and answer a question with a question. Usually the interrogations are so well detailed that they don't require further questions in order to answer them (but sometimes they do, and those can add even more dendrites onto any given feedback. Sort of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" branch).

You may be completely shocked by some of the answers you received--hopefully, in a good way. Additionally, it was fun to leaf through the cards (each has a title like Honesty Room), and imagine what solution those around you would come back with. I had one of my party pegged pretty well, but for the other two, I got contrasting answers that I didn't expect.

I found myself going back to these questions over the next few days and turning them over in my mind. For some questions, I found that the more I thought about it, the more I changed my mind on what I said. It didn't help that some of the questions bring up matters of justice (although not in any particular political sort of way that I saw) where one may feel guilty and justify. There was an in depth discussion that ensued between me and one member of my party where I felt the need to defend my answer by providing my facts and fears based around said response.

I didn't read all of the questions, because I plan on playing this game again in the future, hopefully with an even larger group of friends. These questions are not for everyone, but over all I and my group (at different levels) enjoyed the game and would play it in the future. If not, I really need to find that honesty pill...

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