Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Speaking of Science: Game on

Speaking of Science
Talk nerdy to us

(Hearthstone/Blizzard Entertainment)

I play a lot of card and board games, both physical ones (it's lovely to unplug) and their digital equivalents. It's cliche but true to note that we're in a golden age of board games. Modern games resemble Candy Land or Monopoly the way a Tesla Roadster resembles the Ford Model T. I'm tickled whenever games veer into science themes, however loosely, to see how designers attempt to translate biology or space exploration into cardboard chits and rule books.

There have been some clever approaches. In Pandemic, players are a CDC team that cooperates to stanch disease outbreaks, represented by spreading little cubes. (I once played Pandemic with an epidemiologist who applauded the game's emphasis on teamwork, though she found the movement of player tokens, who globe-trot without first seeking consent of foreign nations, a little unrealistic.)

In the game Photosynthesis, players are trees, and their cardboard plants endeavor to suck up more sun than their opponents. In Terraforming Mars, as name suggests, you race to make your slice of the Red Planet the most hospitable.

Others take the view of science as practiced by Victor Frankenstein or Henry Wu. When the digital card game Hearthstone (in which your cards are fantasy minions trying to bash the other player into cartoon oblivion) announced that its latest expansion, released this week, would be "science-themed," I wasn't holding my breath.

But amid the killer robots and shrink rays was a part of science infrequently represented in competitive games: scientific collaboration. A set of new Hearthstone cards, with names like Research Project and Biology Project, gives both players equal benefits.

Those cards "were cool to us because when we think of science, we think of being cooperative, and doing projects together, so doing things for yourself and your opponent was kind of the flavor for that," Dean Ayala, a Hearthstone designer, told the gaming site Kotaku on Monday. They'll be glimmers of sweetness, a push against the myth of the lone mad scientist, that last until someone slams a giant death cyborg into play.


A red tide ravaging Florida may have killed a whale shark for the first known time
Scientists cannot be certain about the exact cause of the whale shark's death, but the deadly toxin was present in its tissue. The timing and location also implicate the harmful algal bloom, or "red tide," as the most likely cause.
An ancient lake holds secrets to the Mayan civilization's mysterious collapse, study finds
Sediment under a lake in Mexico quantifies for the first time the intensity of the drought that contributed to the Mayan civilization's collapse.
People buried at Stonehenge 5,000 years ago came from far away, study finds
For years, some researchers assumed cremated remains held little archaeological value. This study shows otherwise.
The Hope Diamond was spawned in the most hellish depths of Earth, study suggests
Diamonds are messengers from parts of the Earth we have no other way to study.
Trump desperately needs a science adviser, experts say. He just doubled the record for time without one.
"There are many things about the Trump presidency that are historic, and the disregard for science will be seen as high on the list," a member of the Obama administration's Office of Science and Technology Policy said.
Recommended for you
Get The Energy 202 newsletter
PowerPost's daily guide to energy and environment policy, by reporter Dino Grandoni.
Sign Up  »
©2018 The Washington Post  |  1301 K St NW, Washington DC 20071