Sunday, October 19, 2014

There Are No More Barriers!

So reads the first line on the back of the Timeship box – in a type larger than any other save for the title of the game.  “You are free to roam the ages,” reads the copy...
Journey from the days of the dinosaurs, to the mystics of the ancient world, to the glory of Napoleon.  If the past is not enough, adventure in the present with its political intrigue, and brushfire wars; or, for those more adventurous souls, you may transcend the present and visit the future where man's home is the universe, populated with all manner of strange and alien beings.
The Timeship makes all of this possible, but what is the Timeship?

The Timeship rule book has 48 pages, including covers.  Author Herbie Brennan uses fully three of those pages to disclose the 'background' of the Timeship.  Seeing as that the adventures (or 'time capsules') encompass half of the book, those three pages represent a significant amount of space that could have been used for rules or advice.  Instead, Brennan constructs a conceit that the Timeship is a method of time travel derived from earlier sources – much earlier.  (Note that in the book, 'Time Travel' is capitalized and TIMESHIP is spelled thus, with all capitals.)  Brennan presents himself as a translator of ancient scrolls (originating “somewhere between 5,800 and 5,600 b.c.” according to carbon dating) that are at “the centre of one of the greatest archaeological controversies of the present century.”  Written in “a particularly archaic form of Sumerian cuneiform,” Brennan supposes that the scrolls were copied from Sumerian tablets which may have been “as much as 40,000 years old.”

“There can be very little doubt,” Brennan states, “that the content of the TIMESHIP scroll manuscript points toward an extra-terrestrial origin.”  Brennan imagines that the alien Timeship culture launched an object into space with the intent of preserving the Timeship technique they developed.  This object eventually found its way to Ancient Sumer.  Brennan writes...
How the Sumerians came to understand these techniques, I do not know.  Perhaps some form of mechanical telepathy was involved.
So, the Timeship is not a physical object, it is a set of 'techniques'.  Presumably, the Sumerians chose to refer to these techniques as 'Timeship'.

Brennan does not claim that his 'translation' is entirely accurate.  Indeed, he takes care to mention that the scrolls are damaged and incomplete, the archaic nature of the script precludes definite interpretation, and the alien Timeship culture would likely have psyches different from humans.  Brennan provides a “practical approximation” and includes “certain additional material” resulting from experimentation.  Ultimately, he concedes that the Timeship techniques may not result in actual time travel (at least with regard to human perception) but nonetheless result in “an experience which many find fascinating, educational, virtually addictive and quite unique.”

Brennan sustains the conceit to the point of claiming that the presentation of the Timeship as a game is intentional.
Our experiments have shown that the best possible approach to the TIMESHIP is within a game context.  Such an approach avoids the initial tensions of other routes and establishes a frame of mind in which the central techniques have the greatest opportunity of operating effectively.
As discussed previously, engaging the Timeship necessitates a ritual.  Of course, a game – any game – is a ritual of a sort; some are more formal than others.

*** *** ***

Product placement in role-playing games?  The image to the left is one of the borders used on the front and back of the Timeship game box as well as the cover of the rule book (although not in color).  It demonstrates a progression from the ancient to the futuristic, indicating the variety of settings available in the game.  Our present, materialistic culture is represented by four readily recognized trademarks.  Kodak seems out of place among consumable products, but it fits within the theme of the entire border image which includes other information preservation artifacts such as cave paintings and hieroglyphics.

Rather than trademarks, I would have used an automobile, a television, a mushroom cloud, and a lunar lander.  I think my choices better represent our era (as of 1983) in terms of historical significance, but perhaps that wasn't the point.  Perhaps the point was to engage the audience.  Sure, a mushroom cloud and a lunar lander are symbolic, but they are not part of our daily lives.  The trademarks are emblems of our media-saturated civilization; they are embedded in our consciousness.  The viewer identifies them as his 'reality' – a single portion of the panoply of history.  Other times are no less real, merely apart.  However, with the Timeship, there are no more barriers – all times are 'real' and accessible.

Alternatively, I may have thought too much about this.

1 comment:

  1. You definitely did think too much about it.:)
    But, as usual, thanks for doing so!!