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Alexi Sargeant

I read Brian Tinsman’s The Game Inventor's Guidebook, a how-to for aspiring game designers, including lots of insider stories from the board game industry. The author is a longtime game designer with Wizards of the Coast, the company that publishes Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons.

As you might guess, I came to the book with my own aspirations. I've been working on-and-off for a few years on a Shakespeare mashup fighting game called “No Holds Bard.” Players battle each other as characters like Hamlet, Macbeth, Beatrice, and Cleopatra—and even the Bear from The Winter's Tale. It's meant to be geeky, exciting, and educational. I want to get serious about preparing the game for pitching to publishers.

The book is a concise, helpful guide to the world of game publishing. It also offers some general principles of game design and development, but I've seen those topics explored more in-depth elsewhere (such as Magic Head Designer Mark Rosewater's article “Ten Things Every Game Needs” and his other game design advice).

Some of the best parts of the book are sanity checks. There's a quiz titled “Are You a Crackpot?” that helps you know if you're one of the people who most annoy game companies. It poses true-or-false statements like:

My game will make millions. Publishers should be grateful I'm giving them the chance to be part of it.

I don’t feel comfortable showing it to you for security reasons, but you have to trust me, my game is really, really good.

It’s the next Monopoly.

If you mark any of these statements as true, then you are a crackpot.

But for all the non-crackpots out there, take a look at Tinsman’s book if you feel the itch to do some game inventing of your own. (And if you happen to have your own contacts in the game publishing industry, let me know!)

Connor Grubaugh

Given that liberalism doesn't existi.e., that public neutrality on moral and religious matters is impossible, that every society operates according to some set of positive norms and seeks some sort of common good, however misinformed—what, we might ask, is the law of the land in America? For more than half a century, as a gonzo journalist and itinerant novelist, cultural provocateur and literary man-about-town, Tom Wolfe has answered that question in one word: status.

The Bonfire of the Vanities—the 1987 novel that is widely considered Wolfe's magnum opus—lays out his social theory in the boldest and most grandiose of terms. The plot follows a passel of characters, including WASPy hot-shot bond trader (and self-styled “Master of the Universe”) Sherman McCoy; the sexually insecure Bronx County assistant D.A. Larry Kramer, a secular Jew; and the alcoholic tabloid journalist Peter Fallow, a pompous British expatriate. Along the way, we meet McCoy's family and his mistress, Maria Ruskin; a swaggering Bronx crack dealer by the name of Roland Auburn; the nameless city mayor; Yale-educated, ever-cordial Edward Fiske III, Community Outreach Director for the Episcopal Diocese; and a media-savvy Harlem minister and “community organizer,” the Rev. Reginald Bacon. There's plenty of Shakespearean folly to go around here, all fueled by vanity, carnal desire, image-sensitivity, and the ceaseless charade of status-seeking.

But the novel's main character is New York City. In “Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast,” his 1989 literary manifesto for Harper's Magazine, Wolfe said that his aim in Bonfire was to “[cram] as much of New York City between the covers as [I] could. ... [To write] a novel of the city, in the sense that Balzac and Zola had written novels of Paris and Dickens and Thackeray had written novels of London, with the city in the foreground, exerting relentless pressure on the souls of its inhabitants.” The literary merits of this approach can be debated, but there's no disputing Wolfe's success as a cultural and political commentator: The Bonfire of the Vanities is the 1980s in a nutshell.

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