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Tammy's Got a Gun
by jasonrohrerThursday, October 24, 2013 [7:00 pm]

Something has been missing, both mechanically and thematically, from The Castle Doctrine.

First of all, though the castle doctrine (the in the legal sense) is a very old idea, our modern discourse around it generally centers on the right to shoot an intruder with a gun. Of course, so far, there have been no home-defense guns in my game. In fact, home defense has been an entirely indirect, hands-off, automated affair. You set up mechanisms to trick, trap, and kill intruders, but you never shoot them. You come home later and watch security tapes to find out how well your contraptions worked.

The game works this way because you're not home when intruders come in, and you're not home when intruders come in for a variety of good design, technical, and thematic reasons.

But someone else is home when intruders come in: your wife.


So far, the wife has been somewhat unsatisfying both mechanically and thematically. Yeah, she earns money outside the home, making her a valuable mechanical asset. But when a robber comes in, her interaction consists of hiding until she spots the intruder and then running along the shortest empty path to the door.

The empty path requirement is important for technical reasons (otherwise, if she could interact with your traps on her way out, the server would have to verify a viable interactive path for her, which I believe is an NP-hard problem). It also adds a nice texture to each house, because you have to design different sections for the house with different styles---a heavily mechanical part surrounding your vault, and a smoother, more hospitable part surrounding your family.

But the empty path requirement also means that your family protection options are quite limited. You can put dogs in clever places along the family's exit path, but that's it.

And thematically, when a robber comes in, the wife is completely passive. This seems like a commentary about the different roles of men and women when a family is under threat, and it is, to some extent (as a man, I have felt a stronger family protection pressure placed on me when things have gotten dicey). But I think the setup in the game is too stark, and it's missing some important aspects of the truth, as I see it.

Women that I know, when under threat, are willing to arm themselves to overcome inherent physical disparities. My wife is no exception. In fact, she had pepper spray in her backpack twenty years ago, before I met her.

And what about guns? Well, they're by no means an exclusively male concern. I'm not exactly immersed in gun-owning culture, but out of the self-defense gun owners that I have met, quite a few have been women. I'm reminded of my scrappy, ex-nun aunt Ginner, who used to go camping alone in the national parks packing a .38 special revolver.

And my experience matches the data, because nearly one in four U.S. women is a gun owner.

But what kind of gun is appropriate here? I recall talk show radio host Michael Savage saying something zany like, "A shotgun is your best friend in a darkened bedroom." And when I lived in New Mexico, our neighbor across the street had a shotgun as her home defense weapon of choice ("Dude, when it's nighttime, and you can't see nothin', you don't need to aim it---just point and shoot, dude," her husband explained to me).


And a shotgun is mechanically rich, because it's deadly only at close range, so it provides a nice mechanical contrast to the handgun potentially carried by the robber.

I also added a way for the family members to interact with the other mechanical aspects of the house, somewhat indirectly: they now have a panic button that they can press on their way out, and that button can connect into whatever house circuitry the owner devises (opening the trapdoors, releasing the dogs, and so on). My wife actually had panic buttons in her house when she was growing up.

So, a robber who stumbled his way into the family's chambers used to find something like this:


And now, that same robber might find this instead:


Tammy used to be a victimization waiting to happen. Now she's Jodie Foster in Panic Room.


That's more like it.

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