Chrononauts Playtesting Results
Report #1

By Andrew Looney

Part 1: Intro (i.e. WWN July 31, 2000)
Part 2: Things I'm Changing (and why)
Part 3: Things I'm Not Changing (and why not)
Part 4: TimeLine Topics
Part 5: The Color Re-Design
Chrononauts Home

Part 4: TimeLine Topics

I'm particularly pleased with how well the TimeLine itself has been testing. Sure, I've heard a few complaints, but on the whole I'm actually quite surprised by how little I've heard in terms of historical beefs. I guess I did my homework pretty well. Most of the comments about the history and the events I chose for the TimeLine have been concern about the controversial items, most notably 1986' (Marijuana Legalized) and 1999 (Columbine Massacre), and to a lesser extent Waco and the Oklahoma City Bombing. Although we currently aren't planning to change any of these, I do have plenty to say in reply to the comments.

1986' (Marijuana Legalized): Harlan wrote, "The 1986' patch 'Marijuana Legalized' will get this game thrown out of every school, will get teens in trouble for playing, and will cause business problems because parents will seek to return the game to the stores. This is a lightning rod phrase that is not necessary for the game."

While these are certainly valid concerns, and I'm sure we will take some heat for this, we're not changing this card. If you've read much of my website, you know that I am vigorously opposed to marijuana prohibition. I think Libertarian presidential nominee Harry Browne was spot-on when he said "The War on Drugs is probably the greatest domestic catastrophe that has ever struck the American republic." As one who considers himself an activist, a freedom fighter, and a member of the Rebel Alliance (to use Miriam White's excellent Star Wars analogy) there's just no way I'm willing to sacrifice my artistic and political principals on this issue. I think a lot of why we still have these stupid and cruel anti-cannabis laws is the fact that so few people have the guts to stand up and say "this is wrong." I refuse to be silent on this, even if it does mean we lose a few sales and may get banned from some schools.

Secondly, I'm not even convinced that the card will be the kiss of death that Harlan is predicting. The times are definitely changing, and signs of this are everywhere. "That 70's Show" was initially criticized for scenes where the main characters smoke pot in the basement, but at the end of its second season, this show is a bona-fide hit and the controversial scenes are without question part of the reason for its success. Closer to the topic, Steve Jackson Games recently released a game about college roommate life called Chez Geek, which has half a dozen unabashedly pro-drug cards, including Hash Brownies, Bong, Shrooms, and "What we were just talking about?" As far as I know, this hasn't hurt the game's success; in fact, it just won an Origins Award.

Thirdly, I happen to believe the logic on this one is pretty sound. Oh, sure, the Challenger connection is a bit strained, but if Reagan had died prior to October 2, 1982, when he launched his War on Drugs, the trend towards tolerance and decriminalization that was at its peak just before he took office might well have continued. Had Bush gotten his single term over with in '84 instead of '92, we might have had a Democratic president who followed Jimmy Carter's lead on this issue, instead of just continuing to do what his Republican predecessors had done. Had Lennon also survived, he might well have been instrumental in bringing about legalization by 1986, since he was an outspoken activist and a charismatic leader who just happened to enjoy smoking pot himself. So I personally think it's one of my better alternate realities - shockingly different, yet plausible, and even of topical interest. I hope it promotes open discussions of this important issue.

Finally, the viewpoint that this card will serve only to hurt our business is hopelessly one-sided. Those who've read the most recent version of our mission statement may have noticed the assertion that "we regard cannabis-consuming adults as potential customers, not criminals." We are grown-up enough to accept the fact that at least 25 million Americans regularly smoke pot, despite everything the government has done to try and stop them. We're also savvy enough to realize that one thing people like to do when they smoke pot is play games. While we don't officially condone pot-smoking, we certainly encourage game-playing, and if people are going to play games when they get stoned, well, then they might as well be playing Looney Labs games. Fluxx and Aquarius have already demonstrated strong appeal among those in the counter-culture, and if you'll stop to think about it, you'll realize that inclusion of the 1986' Patch makes this game *very* appealing to the game-playing pot-smoker. What stoner wouldn't love a game where you can go back in time and change history so that pot gets legalized in 1986? No, far from removing this card to placate the concerns of conservatives, we plan to promote it in advertisements targeted at the counter-culture community.

Anyway, we recognize that there's cause for concern here, but as you can see we've thought a lot about this issue and we have many reasons for including the "Marijuana Legalized" card. Please join us in hoping that you don't get the chance to say "I told you so."

1999 (Columbine High School Massacre): My feelings about this event, on the other hand, are far less strident. It was the last thing I added to the TimeLine, and I only used it because I wanted something as recent as possible and it seemed like Columbine was emerging as a watershed event of the present day. I do have reservations about it, though, and I have considered changing it... but I haven't been able to think of anything better to use. Also, I put a lot of stake in Jacob Davenport's opinions, and he had this to say:

"I agree that you could become a target of criticism if you include Columbine. *But* I think that it fits very well with your time line, full of assassinations, disasters, and unfortunate events, seeing as it was all three. I believe that Columbine is not only representative of current times (the two killers made many videos before they shot their classmates, discussing who would play them in the TV miniseries), but also will be of historical importance. I think in ten years you could ask any American what 'Columbine' was all about and they would be able to tell you. The obvious patch for Columbine is for Lennon's political followers to succeed in repealing the second amendment, which is why Columbine never happened in the universe where Lennon survived."

Actually, I have to say that I also have mixed feelings about 1999' (Guns Banned), but again, it's the best idea I've heard so far.

1995' (David Koresh's Ministry Opens New Hospital): This is the patch I would most like to change. Although the 1993 and 1995 events are also touchy, they fit so well with the game, in terms of cause, effect, and significance, that I wouldn't want to change them; however, I consider this flip side event pretty weak, and would welcome something better. Anybody got any ideas?

Sub-Headlines: Most TimeLine cards feature a major headline and a sentence of detail underneath it; but many do not. I'd like for every TimeLine card in the final version to have a sub-title, but I ran out of steam where they currently stand, and just haven't gotten back to it. Suggestions for places where gaps currently exist are welcomed.

1944' (Warsaw Hosts Olympic Games): Speaking of sub-headlines, I'm not happy with the one I have for this card. It's "Jesse Owens wins 4 more gold medals (plus a bronze)" but what I really want is the name of some famous WWII war hero who might instead have been an Olympian if there hadn't been a war going on. Are there any WWII experts reading this? Any suggestions?



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