Linux Card Game

Fake News written by James Baughn on Saturday, March 13, 1999

from the my-slashdot-effect-trumps-your-vaporware-card dept.

SHERIDAN, WY -- Earlier today, a start-up company called Gurus of the Valley, Inc. unveiled its first product: a card game called "Linux: The Awakening". Like other products in the lucrative role-playing, collectible card game market, "Linux: The Awakening" features several hundred different cards and a complicated set of rules that allow players to fight for the future of the software industry.

The game consists of two main decks and various "expansion packs" available separately at many stores. (Players will also have to purchase a 500 page rule book to learn how to play.) The two decks represent opposing sides in the free software revolution -- the "black" side (proprietary software, i.e. Microsoft) and the "white" side (free software, i.e. Linux and the GNU Project) Each deck and expansion pack contains cards that can affect the rules of the game. (Players might want to purchase another 500 page book that describes in detail the statistics and power of each card).

A game is played between two teams of 1-3 members. Scoring in the game is determined by several different measures of strength: marketshare, zealousness, publicity, quality, and manpower. In the beginning of each game, the black side starts with the most marketshare and publicity, but the white side has more zealousness, manpower, and quality. The ultimate goal of the game is to achieve World Domination by knocking the opposing side down to zero strength in each of the five categories.

Gurus of the Valley is founded my Aaron McAdams, a nerd who was fired last year for his unsolicited Linux advocacy at work (as reported here at Humorix). "A job is worthless if you can't zealously advocate your favorite, I mean operating system," McAdams told this Humorix reporter during a tour of the Gurus of the Valley corporate offices (currently McAdams' apartment).

I asked McAdams about the complexity of his product. "Yes, the game is quite complicated. Since each card affects the underlying rules, plus there are five different scores to keep track of, the game can be quite challenging to learn and play. However, the same could be said about any other role-playing, collectible card game. Many of my friends are addicted to -- or, rather, severely obsessed with -- another game that shall remain nameless. If they can play that game for hours on end, and memorize a bunch of pointless rules and stories pertaining to a fictional universe, then they should have no problem with a game based on actual events and people."

McAdams handed me a sample list of some of the cards and the powers they have in the game. This list comprises of only about 5% of the total number of available cards. McAdams noted, "You'll notice that most of these cards are based in fact. No imaginary flying creatures or magic spells here, that's for sure."

Black side

  • Bill Gates [Person] - Founder of Microsoft and person chiefly responsible for the prevalence of proprietary software; the power of all other Blacks cards is reduced by 50% until BG is activated
  • Jesse Berst [Person?] - Ziff-Davis pundit; increases zealousness and publicity; effects increased by Press Kickbacks card
  • Fred Moody [Person] - Pro-Microsoft pundit and book author; increases zealousness and publicity
  • Steve Ballmer - Microsoft second-in-command, life's duty is to execute the "Windows Everywhere" philosophy of Microsoft; increases manpower and zealousness
  • FUD Machine [Object] - Windows 98 program that automatically generates FUD-filled press releases; decreases White's quality and publicity; doubles in power when played in conjunction with the Jesse Berst or Geeks With Guns card
  • Vaporware [Action] - Pre-announce a new product release that couldn't possible be released for several more years; decreases White marketshare and harms effectiveness of White products
  • Headhunting Spree [Action] - Actively recruit and assimilate nerds from other companies and free software projects; increases Black manpower and decreases White manpower and zealousness
  • Lawsuit [Action] - File a bogus patent or copyright infringement against a free software product; weakens or destroys one White product
  • Microsoft Acquires [Action] - Allows Black to acquire and gain the benefits of one White object.
  • Press Kickbacks [Action] - Give "advertising contributions" to publications that mention Microsoft favorably; increases the effectiveness of Jesse Berst, Fred Moody, and Media Blitz cards
  • Media Blitz [Action] - Spend millions of dollars on TV and print advertising for the latest Microsoft product; significantly boosts publicity and marketshare when played in conjunction with another Black product card
  • Windows Upgrade [Product] - Unveil the latest upgrade that fixes old bugs and adds many new ones; increases Black zealousness, marketshare but slightly decreases Black quality
  • Office Upgrade [Product] - Unveil the latest non-backwards-compatible upgrade to the lucrative office suite monopoly; increases marketshare and publicity
  • Rigged poll [Action] - Conduct an unscientific, rigged poll that concludes that Microsoft is one of the most respected companies in the world; increases Black publicity and decreases White zealousness
  • Intellectual Property [Concept] - The core Cathedral model of proprietary software development; must be activated before many other cards can be played.
  • Geeks With Guns [Concept] - Attack the free software community as a bunch of radical, gun-toting teenagers bent on World Domination, social upheaval, and finding a girlfriend; decreases White publicity and zealousness; White side must have ESR and RMS in play first
  • "Windows Everywhere" [Concept] - Microsoft philosophy that Windows is scalable and can be used for all computing applications; increases marketshare and doubles the strength of the Media Blitz and Vaporware cards

White side

  • Linus Torvalds [Person] - Founder of Linux, modest leader who has a canny way of generating positive publicity; increases publicity, must be activated before several other cards can be played
  • Richard M. Stallman [Person] - Creator of the free software movement; the power of all other White cards is reduced by 50% until RMS is activated
  • Eric S. Raymond [Person] - Self-proclaimed liason between free software and the commercial world; increases publicity and zealousness
  • Rob Malda [Person] - Webmaster of Slashdot, responsible for organizing a loose nerd community focusing on Linux; increases zealousness, manpower, and publicity
  • Jesse Berst [Person?] - Ziff-Davis pundit that wobbles on the issue of free software and writes pro- and anti-Microsoft columns depending on which way the wind is blowing (notice there's a Black and White Jesse Berst); counters the effects of the Black Jesse Berst while increasing White publicity
  • Positive Press [Action] - A major publications features yet another positive story about the benefits of free software and the quality of Linux; increases publicity, zealousness and marketshare
  • Security Patch [Action] - A flaw is discovered in Linux and a patch is issued within hours, the press is impressed with the "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow" philosophy of the Bazaar; increases quality and publicity
  • Security Breach [Action] - A security breach is discovered in Windows, Microsoft scrambles to release a "Service Pack" but is unable to do so for months; decreases Black quality and effectiveness of Black products
  • Born Again Hacker [Action] - A prominent proprietary software designer defects and releases his software under the GNU GPL; increases all four strengths
  • Slashdot Effect [Action] - A mysterious force that originates from the "News for Nerds" site; increases the effectiveness of all other cards in play
  • Leaked Memo [Object] - ESR obtains an internal Microsoft memo describing possible strategies against free software, the public is appalled by its recommendations; decreases Black publicity and zealousness and increases White publicity; ESR card must in play
  • Linux Expo [Action] - A major Linux convention is held, grabbing the attention of the media; increases publicity and manpower
  • "Cathedral and the Bazaar" [Object] - Holy grail for free software development by ESR; significantly increases all four strengths, ESR (obviously) must be activated first
  • Windows Source Code Disaster [Action] - Someone, somewhere, somehow gains access to the Windows code base and uploads it to various locations before the Microsoft Intellectual Property Police can stop him; destroys Black's Intellectual Property and "Windows Everywhere" cards (among others), cuts Black zealousness in half, but Black quality is vastly improved as hackers begin to fix bugs in the Windows source code

Gurus of the Valley has plans for other related card games. "We're thinking of creating a 'Linux: The Flame War' game which will pit Free Software (RMS) against Open Source Software (ESR). In some ways, that conflict is actually deeper than the Linux vs. Microsoft war. We might, if demand is strong enough, create a small 'Linux: The GUI War' game which will pit KDE against GNOME."

"It sucks," one reviewer told Humorix. "It's a proprietary card game about free software. Once you start buying cards and books, they'll undoubtedly release an 'upgrade' with more powerful cards. You'll be stuck in an endless upgrade and purchasing cycle. McAdams has obviously studied the Microsoft business model very thoroughly. The winner of a card game like this is always the person who has wasted invested the most money in it."

"Linux: The Awakening" decks, expansions packs, and thick reference books should be on store shelves soon.

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