Sunday, March 19, 2006

And Now For Family Fun: The Patriot Act Game!

Are you a monopoly fan? I am, love the game. I have the standard game, and my beloved Philadelphia Eagles version, with squares for Jaws and McNabb, Andy Reid and Dick Vermeil, Wlbert, Charmichael, Bergey and Bednarkik all make the game a trip down memory lane for an Eagles diehard like me.

Well, there’s a new version out, this one called the Patriot Act Game, and I’m getting it. Instead of trying to attain wealth or property, you try to retain your civil liberties. It’s a whole new twist on monopoly, and I love it!

Two versions have even emerged of the game. The first version, it appears, comes from Michael Kabbash, a graphic artist and Arab civil liberties officer. He created the game to use as a teaching tool, as Kabbash teaches graphics at the College of New Jersey. "This is my way of putting my political ideas forward, hoping people will wake up. There's a lot of apathy, and we have to realize that we're in a democracy, that we're all allowed to say something."

In Kabbash’s version, players are not given civil liberties equally: US citizens get 5, non-citizens get 1, and members of the radical right get 6 civil liberties while Democrats get 3 or 4, and so on. Go has been renamed “Bring It On” for Bush’s pre-Iraq War statement. Color coded spaces correspond to terror alerts, while a red space automatically loses a civil liberty for the roller and anyone within 5 spaces. Chance cards are Homeland Security Cards, and include directions like “FBI Wants you for Questioning; Lose One Turn” and “You provide the local authorities with speculative information on the next door neighbor; Collect one civil liberty for each player.”

And for the finishing touch, Kabbash replaced the Monopoly Man player piece…with John Ashcroft. Ashcroft had no comment when asked about the game today, but he laughed when told that jail had been replaced with Guantanamo Bay. And Kabbash’s final comment may be the most telling: "I've had people complain to me that when they play, nobody wins. They say `We're all in Guantanamo and nobody has any civil liberties left,'" he said. "I'm like `Yeah, that's the point.'"

The second, newer version is a bit more polished but seems to lack some of the grass roots charm of Khabbash’s game. The game has been created by Lisa Freeland, a public defender, and Steffi Donike, a local artist, and is meant to be more factual than the Khabbash version.

The game currency is "freedom fries," the "homeland security threat level" rises during the course of the game, each level being indicated by the movement of a tiny representation of a roll of duct tape, and the players, whose game tokens are black, brown or yellow, are faced with playing disadvantages in comparison to those who have the red, white, or blue tokens. The goal of the game is to get every player to Freedom Corner before the homeland security threat level reaches “Severe” AND the player who is secretly holding the “Snitch” card turns everyone in to Attorney General John Ashcroft. Along the way there are four sets of cards players may be instructed to pick from, including “Protest,” “Surveillance,” History,” and “Justice.

There are cards that predominantly focus on the history of civil liberties, and times in the past when they have been revoked. The board tells of numerous actual cases and focuses on the minutia of the Patriot Act, analyzing the act itself and the history of civil liberties. It definitely appears to be more informative than the Khabbash version, though perhaps it’s a yawn. I haven’t played it yet, so I don’t know.

It should also be noted that the Khabbash version is distributed free over the net, though supposedly you can buy a copy with all the niceties, including the John Ashcroft token, for $20 (it’s not included in the store, they only have T-shirts and a mug there), while the second version sells for $30 and is being actively marketed.

Well, I must say, I like it, I like it a lot. I’ll definitely try the Khabbash version, not sure I would pay for the Pittsburgh version. But it’s nice to see people standing up and being heard. In a time when I focus too much on the dangers in the world, this is the upside that gets dwelled on too little. That individual people can be heard, and can make a difference, with advances in communication that’s truer today than at any time in history, I believe. And that is something to be optimistic about!

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Posted by Scottage at 1:20 AM / | |