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A new tabletop game challenges you to maximize ratings as a TV executive

Operating a television network is not a game. Hold your laughter and that thought. We’ll return to it momentarily.

The Networks is a tabletop game that challenges players to perform the duties of TV executives who seek to maximize viewership and, consequently, profit. You bid for shows and talent and allocate them in a way that will hopefully see your ratings soar and your opponents demoralized—not necessarily in that order. The game collected over $103,297 on Kickstarter, which is roughly four times what it set out to make. In light of the rise of cable cutting, it might therefore be more lucrative to make a game about programming than perform the actual task. (Amirite, Les Moonves?) 

But TV is no game. It’s not a game when somewhat sentient taxidermy project Donald Trump hosts SNL, just as it isn’t a game when Larry David earns $5,000 for yelling “Donald Trump’s a racist” during said broadcast. Likewise, the ongoing travails of Don Lemon are no game. Only the serious-minded would ask if a plane disappeared through a black hole, or perhaps those hoping to uphold Betteridge’s Law. No, this is no game. Nothing to see here—except television, that is. 

Part of the appeal of The Networks is that it channels the raw cynicism of network programming towards ends that are not fundamentally toxic. It’s okay to do whatever it takes to win in games, because it’s an artificial environment. There are no broader consequences to your lusting for eyeballs. The ends justify the means, and in this strange, artificial world, that’s okay. In a similar vein, it’s okay to use Gordon Gekko as an outlet for your rapacious capitalist impulses. At least it’s okay until irony dies and an entire generation grows up wanting to be the Gekko. Then you’ve got a problem. But The Networks isn’t out yet so we can still be somewhat optimistic. 

You can find out more about The Networks on its Kickstarter page.