Is Nana Drunk And Running A Dice Game?

I’ve been gaming with the same group of friends for more than a decade, but the games are always changing. We discarded Settlers of Catan within a few years. Three of us still hold a candle for Wingspan, but we burned everyone else out. At one point, we used to spend entire weekends on Civilization IV, but Ben so clearly outmatched the rest of us that we always had to choose between teaming up against him or dying alone. We had a League of Legends phase (I know), an Agricola phase, a One Night Werewolf phase. Eli used to inflict a game he calls “hot car” upon us whenever he got the chance—best played in high summer, with one miserable sucker, usually Greg, sandwiched in the back seat—but we don’t pile into the same vehicle nearly as often these days. I don’t know whether to count Super Smash Bros. or Mario Kart, but my instinct is to rule them out—devoid of life, masturbatory and joyless at this point, the social-gaming equivalent of stale store-bought sourdough. So this means that the game we have been playing the longest—the only game of substance we played at 18 and have played in the same form and spirit in the last year—is an old Warcraft III mod, Run Kitty Run

RKR is collaborative. You are kitties, running through a maze filled with wolves. The goal is to reach the center of the maze so that you can advance to a more difficult maze. As far as I know, the game has no end. Maybe this means we are bad? A high-speed, low-quality version of Linkin Park’s “Numb” plays on a loop. I hear there are forms of RKR without Numb. I am uninterested in them. You can prioritize your own kitty’s wellbeing, or you can play the hero and backtrack to rescue your fallen kitty comrades. At some point, the twin constraints of hardware and software issues will probably prevent us from playing the original version of RKR ever again.

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Why do we still do this? What enjoyment can we possibly wring from hearing chipmunk-ified “Numb” another three hundred times? To ask these questions is to ask why the elves lingered in Lothlorien, or to ask where memes come from or where they go when they die, or why I still keep a ceramic bowl full of old concert tickets on my bookshelf. Which is to say that you don’t need to ask, if you have a heart. 

On this week’s episode of Normal Gossip, we travel to the Midwest and experience (or perhaps excavate?) deeply-rooted drama within a group of women who have been playing bunco together for many decades. Decades! How does one navigate deception, intrigue, and betrayal within this strange social circle imbued with more layers than a crepe cake, where the game and the meta-game have become one? 

Kelsey is joined this week by Lindy West and Meagan Hatcher-Mays! They co-host a podcast about their delightful and deranged friendship, Text Me Back. Meagan has worked as an expert on democracy policy and the courts, most recently at the nationwide grassroots organization Indivisible. Lindy is the author of Shit, Actually: The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema, as well as the New York Times bestselling memoir Shrill and the essay collection The Witches Are Coming. Lindy’s next book, Adult Braces, will be available for pre-order soon.

Lindy and Meagan shared the joy of genealogical research as gossip, with some colorful examples courtesy of Lindy’s ancestors. Then Kelsey introduced them to Beverly, Mildred, Phyllis, and the game—nay, the lifestyle—of bunco. 

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