As noted here thirteen years ago, "... In 1954, a Harvard undergraduate named Allan B. Calhamer invented a game with rules so brilliantly simple that, like the Asian game of go, its equivalent probably exists on planets of other galaxies. That game was called Diplomacy." The key to Dippy is not, however, the mechanical rules of game-play. It's the negotiation among the players, the shifting alliances, and the outright lies and loyalty and betrayal that lead to victory over-the-board and occasional destruction of real-life friendships.
A few days ago Calhamer's obituary appeared in the New York Times. I was wrong: Calhamer was a grad student in the Harvard Law School and not an undergrad in 1954. After dropping out a few years later he worked in a variety of jobs before returning to his home town in Illinois, where he became a mailman. He was a minor celebrity in the world of Dippy but never made a lot of money off the game. As NYT obit author Margalit Fox observes, however, given the popularity of playing Diplomacy-by-mail, perhaps Calhamer could occasionally take pleasure in the thought that, "... on any given day, slung unobtrusively over his shoulder, there might lurk a letter from one Great Power to another, filled with all the threats, blandishments and cunning hollow promises Diplomacy entails, awaiting delivery by its creator."
|R. I. P. Allan B. Calhamer|