By Alec Meer on March 12th, 2014 at 8:00 am.
Dark visions of the world to come, where everyday words are owned and rented out by whichever corporations have been quick enough and greedy enough to trademark them. We won’t stand for that sort of thing here on Big Stone, Pulped Tree, Short Range Firearm. You won’t catch us altering our vocabulary in order to dodge the dread eye of trademark lawyers.
That’s why we heartily endorse free, satirical browser game Trademarkville, a cheerfully dystopian commentary on last month’s Sugary Treat Violent Compression Long Story miseries.
It’s a simple but clever multiplayer game which evokes family boardgames such as Pictionary, only you’ll never communicate directly with any one else. You have two options at any point: guess a thing or rename a thing. What’s going on, you see, is that everyday words are being trademarked at a rate of knots, so the world is in need of new, safe descriptions for bats and witches and memories and gnomes and foetuses and arrows and amazons. If you choose to rename, then you have to come up with a clever but guessable description of it, but made infinitely more complex by the fact that more words are being banned all the time.
For instance, trying to describe ‘amazon’ (as denoted by a picture of a woman), I found that warrior, woman, female, jungle, online, book shop, fighter, river and a whole bunch more were already out of bounds. That’s because the words in question are deemed trademarked as soon as any other player correctly guesses a clue containing them. That means they can no longer be used by anyone writing subsequent clues. So the pool of words drains and drains and drains, and greater ingenuity and abstraction (and frankly, frustration) is required as the game wears on.
Trademarkville’s quickly moved onto its second ‘season’, with a fresh set of endangered words, in order to become playable again, and it’s also added a few new bells and whistles for those seeking higher placement on the high score board. There are points to be won for correct guesses and correctly-guessed renames, you see. But really it’s about challenging your own vocabulary, and experiencing the sinister strangeness of a world in which every day words are someone else’s property.
The game could do with making a bit more of what people have unsuccessfully tried to guess for your clues, as that’s a big source of organic humour, but you can at least see a list of recent successful guesses from across the world here. Already there’s a strong sense of how experimental renamers are having to get.
Clever and silly, and free. Go play.
(I do like that the cheeky name also nods to the cloning culture of the sorts of games which most recently brought about trademark sabre-rattling.)