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All Aboard

June 24, 2009

Brenda Brathwaite’s Train is receiving more publicity than I could have imagined while I was watching its development down at SCAD. Many people have now seen the game, played the game, and talked about the game. Talking about it is something I have put off for a while, and now that it is in the public eye, I think it’s time to do so.

The first time I saw the game in its full form was during a class of Design Patterns. The class was cut short as Train was being photographed (which is where the picture to the left comes from) and the class was going to go see it. As we watched it being photographed, Brenda told us some stories about its development and about the symbolism, specifically the broken glass, which had been blessed by a rabbi beforehand. I had realized long before that the kind of power a game could have on a person because of its interactive properties, but this was the most powerful game I had ever seen because of the abstracted forms of the symbolism – like how you stuff the pawns into the trains just as the Jews were in the holocaust – and the surprise ending which, to the uninitiated in this game, causes a great deal of shock and disgust.

After the photo shoot was over, the glass shards on the table were swept up and put into a box, which Brenda then handed to me. I took the box and was immediately unable to think about anything other than what I had in my hands. These shards were blessed under my religion. I don’t consider myself much of a religious man, but Train actually had me thinking twice about that. Nothing has ever made me question whether I want to take my religion more seriously. Train did.

This game put me in a very strange mood, one that I’m not sure anyone else in the class could fully appreciate. All I could say at the time was, “I’ll talk to you about it later,” to which the response from Brenda was, and I’ll never forget this, “Dan never has nothing to say!”

A couple months later, I was sitting in the cafeteria at Montgomery Hall with my friend Thomas, when he received a text from Brenda to come upstairs alone as she had something to show him. I figured, “Okay this must be a thing for grads only.” As it turns out, she wanted to show him the Nazi S.S. typewriter which the ruleset for Train had been written on. I really wish I’d gotten to see it just so I’d have more to say here. Sure I’ve seen photos of it, but just as with Train itself, sometimes photos don’t do a thing justice.

As much as people are praising this game, no amount of praise I could give would do it justice. Not just because it is a great game – it is. I give this game praise because I got to see it in development, and I love seeing games come together, be them my own or anybody else’s. I’ll never forget how speechless I was at seeing the end product.

I want people from all over the nation to take a pilgrimage to see this game, even if they don’t get to play it. You must see it in person to fully understand it. Photographs and videos are no substitute for what this game proves: that games themselves are art, not just through their artwork but through being played, and though this is a concept new to a species trained to just look at art instead of interacting with and experiencing it (not to mention a species that thinks all games are for children), Train is more than a step in the right direction. She may not have realized this when she named it Train, but Brenda Brathwaite has started taking us on a ride down a whole new track of game design.

All aboard!


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One Comment
  1. Wow, Dan. That is incredibly humbling. Thank you.

    You were the only one who could hold the glass. I also didn’t want you to see the typewriter, not without knowing, out of respect.

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