|System: Pen & Paper, Flash|
|Dev: Ancient Egypt?|
|Pub: The Roman Empire|
|Screen Resolution: 3x3|
by Shelby Reiches
Every so often, a game comes across my desk so simple, so broken, that there's little I can do other than shake my head and shed a single, silent tear. This was one such time. The game? Tic-Tac-Toe. The objective? Simple and straightforward: Playing as either "X"s or "O"s, alternate turns with an opponent until either the three-by-three grid had been completely filled or one of us had managed to place three of our symbol in a row.
Problems became immediately apparent, as "X" would always go first. This led to a tremendous argument over who would get to play from such an advantageous position. Twelve hours later, my opponent adjusting his sling and holding a slab of cold meat to his swollen eye, it was agreed that I would go first.
Initially, gameplay was fast-paced and enjoyable. It seemed a fairly even endeavor, with a surprising amount of depth in how one placed one's marks. We developed an in-depth, heavily psychological meta-game. Over time, however, a few successful patterns emerged, and we caught ourselves attempting to maneuver one another into them so that we could claim victory.
Then we had our first tie. A "Cat's Game," as the rules called it. This draw opened the floodgates: it was so simple, so easy to accomplish defensively, that the game became wholly impossible to win, as long as one's opponent was paying attention. We continued for hours, days, attempting to find a new tack, anything that would grant us victory, but the small board and two-dimensional gameplay had proven unsuited to the task.
In frustration (and disgust; my opponent's steak had gone rancid and become home to a burgeoning family a maggots), I issued a mandate from on high that, never again, shall Tic-Tac-Toe be played in my house.
I wanted to love Tic-Tac-Toe—its elegant simplicity, the hints within it of a greater strategic meta-game—but these promises of greater depth were left unfulfilled, my desire un-sated. Tic-Tac-Toe is not a bad game, in the most literal sense, but it is a journey, a path, down which lies only deceit and the madness that begets. Tic-Tac-Toe is that crawling, creeping horror, a destroyer of friendships and purveyor of decay.
Speaking of decay, might I borrow a shovel? It turns out holding a rotten steak to one's wound for hours on end is not conducive to one's health, and I may need to dig a shallow grave.
Date: April 1, 2012