I’ve recently started a 1:1 game with my wife.
To outsiders, and that includes most everyone, the Institute for the Advancement of an International Perspective (IAIP) is a dreary European think-tank in a decent Art Noveau house in the neighborhood of Belgisch Park (Dutch for “Belgian Park”), a sub district of district Scheveningen in The Hague, the Netherlands. They have an eccentric collection of academics and probably do something associated with one or another of the international organizations that make the city their home.
To a select few the IAIP is an odd-player in the European security: an agency that has the purported purpose is top take intelligence from a variety of intelligence agencies, meld it with a significant open-source-intelligence viewpoint, and offer unbiased interpretations. In actuality it seems to go from periods of neglect to being in the hot house. Yet it’s managed to do that since its founding in 1994 totally invisible to the outside world. Whether that is a testimony to its security and well-groomed connections or a result of it being ignored by those it is supposed to serve is difficult, again, for an outsider to know.
Start with the tradition of the contemporary realist school of spy novels, especially John le Carré’s work, with special attention to the Karla trilogy and more recent novels like Absolute Friends and Our Kind of Traitor. Mix with the great paranoiac movies (Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View, The Conversation, The Manchurian Candidate) and re-mix it in a modern way, ala Rubicon. Add in inspiration from Tim Power’s Declare, with the weird being present in the sidelines and a dawning understanding, but also not going far enough to have any party in the know — no secret branch of British Intelligence, no Black Chamber alive and kicking, no secret Vatican special ops arms.
This is a game of the political and the personal. Espionage, by its very nature, is political. By linking play so firmly to NATO this game will emphasize that espionage, like war, is an extension of politics. That politics will extend to the institution, IAIP, with politics within and between the co-workers. By setting it in Europe we focus on a quest for relevancy in a rapidly changing world.
The scholar as detective meet the politics of espionage. There will be a lot in common with aRomance of the Archives, especially in focusing on issues of ownership and independence, the practice of collecting historically significant cultural artifacts, and to the possession that a biographer feels for their subject
Through the course of this game one of the goals will be to develop a coherent and richly symbolic world to carry a major part of the thematic burden, while not overshadowing action and character. As the world of espionage is one forever caught in a world of appearances and dense, undiscerned realities, an espionage game and the wainscot will have much in common; expect this relationship to be explored. Memory, personal and institutional, will play a key role in this game.
“What has to happen before something happens?” Following in the best traditions we will find the answer in historical research, a resort to the archives, by turning to “secret intelligence”. This game will turn on the divergence of dream, folklore, and prosaic fact. Despite their contingency, dreams and myths (illusions) are essential, but without awareness of their social construction they can be dangerous.
Violence and misery are behind the veil. They happen, they will be involved in plots, we don’t describe them in detail. While the world this game focuses on will, inevitably, involve some pretty horrible stuff, there is a need to not stay there. There will be as many wins as there are loses, and every attempt will be made to avoid grind.