Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Acid Test

Just when you thought a role playing game fortified with immersive scent-explorations was 'out-there' as far as gaming goes, the creator of Adventure Scents have now come up with a new idea, even more multimodal than their last.

This time we're looking at Cooking with Dice: The Acid Test, a ‘classic RPG with a delicious twist,’ and in other words, a Gamified Cookbook.

What the hell is a gamified cookbook? It’s half cookbook, half role playing game. The Cooking with Dice system uses elements of traditional tabletop role-playing games to turn your kitchen into an adventure zone

Your character tries to level up to the esteemed Chef de Cuisine by executing recipes concocted by a roll of the dice. What's interesting here is that the recipes don't use heat, but acid (like the chemical-reaction-acid, not the kind of acid that melts your face off). You make things like pickles, jam, ceviche, .... No fire-breathing dragons necessary.

If this is anything like the last offer from Jennifer Howlett, Adventure Scents creator and game guru extraordinaire, Cooking with Dice is guaranteed to be an adventure of multisensory complexities.

I can’t help but zero-in on the way this game is ultimately played, which is by fostering chemical reactions that turn raw ingredients into edible adventures. First of all, it’s genius for a kids’ cookbook – they get to “cook” and yet they don’t even have to play with fire.

Next of all, it totally reminds me of The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, which won the 2013 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Reference and Scholarship, which pretty much blew my mind when I read it. If you think you know what it means to be human and yet you haven’t read it, maybe you should. The idea of offloading the work of digestion to bacteria that exist outside our bodies, so that our bodies can do more important things – like thinking – is nuts. (It also helps to put in perspective the development of cooking and human digestion – where fermentation is the accelerating of a metabolic process via bacteria, cooking is the same but by fire. One is a kind of biological heat, and the other a more basic, chemical heat.) Anyway, fermentation is cool, and I think Jennifer Howlett is one smart cookie for coming up with this workaround for a kids’ (gamified) cookbook.

Finally, the ‘acid test,’ as she calls it, is essential to understanding the world of smell, because smell is a bacterial thing, a microbial thing. You cannot smell chlorine, or ammonia, or sulfur (these are single chemicals and we can’t smell that kind of thing). What you smell are biological reactions involving these chemicals, and which have created through their reactions more complex organic molecules that we can smell. Metal does not smell; “the smell of metal” is bacteria that live on our hands and in our sweat, reacting with metal to create new compounds that smell “like metal.” Understanding acids and how they work is the foundation for chemistry, and this gamified cookbook is a synaesthetically satisfying way of getting to know chemistry and the smells that come from it.

Check it out!

And while you’re at it, if you’re ever looking for that perfect ‘moldy dungeon’ smell or the smell of the breath of a fire-breathing dragon, check out Adventure Scents.

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