Why We Like

Jeremy Gordon

“I love Risk so much,” a friend of mine once told me, “that my band wrote a song about it. It’s called ‘Risk.'”

Well, there you have it. What else is there? The charm of Risk, to some a children’s game played on family nights and to others the ultimate test of intelligence and savvy, lies in the activity it represents: war. You have to win at war. If you lose, you’re dead. This isn’t some nonsense like poker, when you just lose your money, or football, when you lose your manhood. War is about life and death. Risk is about life and death. There is nothing else.

But playing Risk in person is one of those things left to high school, when it wasn’t so difficult to organize five people to play a board game for hours at a time. In college you have to worry about making sure everyone can stay focused for the time it’ll take to finish a game. You also need just the right amount of people because if you have any stragglers, they’re going to sit there on the outside, unable to participate. The other month, my friend from Italy turned me on to Conquer Club, which is exactly like Risk except played online.

The Internet component meant we didn’t have to sit around and wait for our friends to finish their turns. We could go to class and come back to find it was our turn to roll the virtual dice, deploy our virtual troops and attack some virtual cities. We could be excited to open up our e-mails and see those words, “It’s now your turn!”

We could use the in-game chat room to talk with other players, or if we knew them in real life, gchat them in order to form secret alliances. I would message my friend to complain, “I can’t believe I attacked Dubai with a 10 to three troop advantage and you still won,” and she would smirk, “That’s why it’s called Risk.” Friendships would be broken, names shouted, caps lock furiously pressed, all in the name of war. “I want you to die,” my friend told me as I broke his hold on North America for no reason other than I wanted to, “God, I just want you to die.”

The game is just simple enough: There’s no option to invest money in dirty bombs, no nuclear warheads to drop, no anti-Communist propaganda to distribute to citizens in order to get them to rebel against their Red overlords. Each gamble doesn’t carry the human impact of real war-it’s totally justifiable to attack South America because you want to prove a point, rather than needing some motivation for it. There are no WMDs to fake, no world policing, no dubious morality. Just the gimme gimme gimme mentality of needing every city. You could settle for just beating your opponent, but you could also take everything. It’s always worth the risk.