Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The MBTA and Icehouse

Icehouse pieces are small colored plastic pyramids used in a variety of games.

(this image is in the public domain)

I recently had the pleasure of introducing one such game, Zendo, to the Boston University Hillel. Zendo is a game in which one player, the Master, makes a rule for which configurations of Icehouse pieces are valid and which are not. For example, a very simple rule might be "A valid configuration must contain a red piece." Other players then take turns presenting configurations of Icehouse pieces and find out if those configurations are valid or not. The goal of the game is to figure out the rule. When this game is generally played, the game terminology uses terms from Zen Buddhism. Thus, configurations are called "koans" which are described as having Buddha-nature or not. At the BU Hillel, this quickly mutated into whether or not configurations were kosher or treif.

Readers may be wondering what this has to do with the MBTA. A few days ago, I decided to purchase more Icehouse pieces since Zendo is hard to play with only a few pieces. After buying a new set of pieces I got onto the subway heading back to Kenmore Square. Icehouse pieces come in small, rectangular boxes of transparent plastic with pieces of different colors stacked up on top of each. The boxes are about 6 inches long with a 1 by 1 inch base (in metric that's around 15 cm long with a 2.5 by 2.5 cm base). One of the MBTA personnel stopped me and asked what I was carrying. I explained that they were plastic pieces for a game. The MBTA official said "Oh. Ok. You should put that in a bag. Someone might think that it's a weapon." I must confess that I was speechless. Considering the idiocy about such issues that Boston is known for, I should be happy I'm not in jail right now.


Ioan said...

A weapon of mass entertainment? Although I've never heard of that game, it sounds pretty fun to play.

On a completely unrelated note, my girlfriend works at the Broad Institute, right by Kendall. I'll be in Boston visiting her in about a week and a half, so maybe if you're free, we can meet up?

baraban said...

was this game too good for the slifka center??

holla at ya boi,

Joshua said...

No, I just never got around to it since it would have required buying pieces somewhere. Since New Haven has no game shops I never ended up doing so.