A Darwinian Explanation for Settlers of Catan and Yeezus

The best kind of roommate is the one who doesn’t really exist. They’re more of a concept – an ambiguous life force that surfaces every first of the month… with cash and no questions. That’s a roommate that works.

New Yorkers don’t need an incessant reminder of this life force. Obviously, we’re broke. Obviously, we live with roommates.  But given the other eight million we’re forced to confront on the train or waiting to get inside a club or the line to get a cronut, I don’t need to engage the eight millionth and one when I’m trying to get my Real Housewives on with a bowl of Ramen. The eight million I tolerate. That one extra is too much.

The absent roommate is a roommate I can believe in. They’re there. They’re kind. They’re full invested in my emotional and physical health by being emotionally and physically out of the way. That isn’t the truth everywhere.

Washington D.C. doesn’t aspire for these kind of relationships. They want life partners. Compatriots. Friends. They want fellow disciples in the church of organic, produce markets. More than that, they want people who play Settlers of Catan.

Settlers of Catan is a board game where participants build roads and cities by trading sheep and wheat. Knights are involved. The participant with the most roads wins.  I’ve never played the game, only watched it in action, so I can’t actually comment on the game beyond these rudimentary observations. Please don’t think I’m making the game something less than the sum of its parts. Those are the sum of its parts. These parts add up to two hours of sheep herding, wheat threshing and the occasional Knight and something called “special development building”.

I’m open minded when it comes to these kind of things. Games are cool. I’m glad games exist that people like. If people like playing Settlers of Catan, I’m glad Settlers of Catan exists. Having any further opinions on the game is silly. That motivation is only appealing to Millennial writers with an inflated sense that their feelings have weight beyond the end of their noses. But I am a Millennial writer. I love Mary Poppins. Let’s continue.

Settlers of Catan is not compelling. Clearly, on a purely visceral level, Settlers of Catan can never capture the euphoria of landing on Free Parking (assuming your house rules involve capturing the money from tolls and fines) or fully utilizing the glory and honor of an Anne Frank card during Apples to Apples.Those moments are just objectively fun. They are objectively everything you wanted to happen when you decided to play a game in the first place. Settlers of Catan doesn’t. Worse, it doesn’t even try.

Settlers of Catan isn’t intrinsically fun. No Martian visitor to Earth would watch people playing Settlers of Catan and ponder what Darwinian journey lead to the development this game and despair that random mutations didn’t happen on the 4th rock from the sun. Enjoying the game demands an enlightenment that isn’t the product of natural selection. It’s fun in the way certain things are when only a distinct type of people like to play.

Which is why you won’t find a Craigslist ad for roommates in Washington D.C. where Settlers of Catan isn’t included. That’s a lie. But no one would play Settlers of Catan and not put it into an ad. Housing seekers could see the price and location and Settlers of Catan and know instantly if its a go. It’s code. Which makes sense. You could  judge an applicants whole profile: which news publicans they follow on Twitter and what kind of bourbon they prefer in a mixed drink or the kind of sexual positions they prefer. Just because they play Settlers of Catan.

But is this a problem? No one who plays settlers of Catan has a stalk of wheat tattooed to them. They aren’t evangelists. It’s just a convenient way to not ask for anyone who doesn’t have a faint appreciation for Jonathan Franzen’s talent to not apply.That’s the beauty of Settlers of Catan. It says enough by saying very little.

Plenty of things are like this. The best reason to like Yeezus is that only a certain type of person liked Yeezus. I’m one. Yeezus is so on its face unappealing that knowing you’re the kind of person who likes it is satisfying. At some point in the thousands and thousands of hours I’ve listened to music in my life, my musical palate developed to the point where I can connect with the frenetic, distorted rage showcased on Kanye’s manifesto. I just get it. Yeezus is the musical version of Settlers of Catan. From now on, the next time I need to find a roommate, I’ll ask if they speak “Swaghili”.

If you don’t speak Swaghili, I’d have to believe you don’t refill the toilet paper roll when its out. If you don’t speak Swaghili, I’d have to believe you watch porn without headphones. If you don’t speak Swaghili, you would make me feel guilty for not inviting you to go out with me on weekends. That’d be annoying. Had I not asked if you spoke Swaghili, I’d be stuck with your loser ass. Chill. Download Spotify and find me in six months.

It’s simple. Some people speak Swaghili. Some people play Settlers of Catan. These are the tools by which we explain who we are, our passions and our preferences in the people we’d like to break bread with. By not having to articulate all that. It’s convenient. It’s necessary. It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t supposed to. Not to you at least.


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