Sunday, March 11, 2018

"Game" Review: The Tragedy of GJ 237b

The Tragedy of GJ 237b is a game that I would not have know about if it wasn't nominated for a Nebula Award (although it did not make a spot on the finalist list).

You can read the full text of the game for free at and you can obtain the pdf on a pay-what-you-want basis at  The game text is very short and there is no way I can avoid spoilers in this review so I suggest that you read the game for yourself or be ready to have the contents spoiled.

The Tragedy of GJ 237b is a science fiction role-playing art piece about the negative consequences of human contact with alien ecosystems.  The game mainly consists of a description of the inhabitants of GJ237b.  Those inhabitants where irrevocably changed by contact with humans.

I will repeat that I cannot finish this review without spoiling what is in the game, so either go read it yourself or be prepared for spoilers.

Spoilers to follow!
The alien life on GJ237b was destroyed by the arrival of humans.  The game sets up a sort of Schrodinger's cat scenario.  The game materials are put out in a room and then the room is sealed with no one inside of it.  When the door to the room is opened, the game ends.

Sounds weird, right?  I will say it again, read the game for yourself.  I enjoyed reading The Tragedy of GJ237b and I ask myself, "Is it really a game?"  I would say that it is game adjacent.  The Tragedy of GJ237b is more of a piece of art than a game, and I think that this is what makes it interesting.  I challenge you to have your game group read the rules and then debate whether or not The Tragedy of GJ237b is a game.

The main theme of the game, that human interaction will fundamentally change ecosystems, is a thought-provoking science fiction trope.  Kim Stanley Robinson explored this topic in his book Red Mars, and it also touches on issues of  colonialism.  It is a heady theme and one that will elicit lots of opinions and discussion. 

Is this game worth playing?  Can you even play it?  I think that this game is worth reading for the fact that it is trying to do something different.  I would love to see it set up at a convention, or in a spare room of a house during a game night.  The alien culture of GJ237b is truly unique and will be an inspiration for science fiction fans.  I recommend it, and if you decide to stage a "playing" of the game, let me know how it went.