As a hypochondriac with a fear bordering on superstition that any choice I make will trigger a series of Rube Goldberg events that could lead to long-term hospitalization, I was skeptical when I heard that downtown game designers Two Bit Circus had concocted a medical-themed board game.
Goofy absurdity may be the underlying theme of many Two Bit Circus experiences, but an operating table is still an imposing sight, even in a place where a robot mixes drinks. Would I really want to evoke hospital room vibes at a party? Relive your fears! Remember your tragic moments! And don’t forget to use hand sanitizer when you go out.
Then I learned that the doctor in the game is a puppet. It changed everything. There is an inherent magic to the puppet, an underused medium in the age of digital effects. The puppets indicate a handmade but otherworldly quality – something out of this world but alien. Their presence gives permission to break through our imaginary walls and venture elsewhere, whether it be the fantastical elegance of Netflix’s “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” or the wide-eyed madness of the Muppets.
“Dr. Botcher’s Minute Medical School” certainly evokes the vibes of Muppet. It’s a bit like stepping into a life-size game of “Operation,” except that we don’t extract any objects from our patient; we try to give this puppet-like man plastic life and do it by connecting him to IV bags filled with, say, glittering unicorn blood.
But this is just one of many games in “Dr. Botcher’s Minute Medical School” which also includes a microscope which, through the eyepiece, turns out to be an arcade game in which we have to eliminate viruses. Patient side tablets act like scanners and require teamwork, as participants on either side of the operating table need to look for commonalities.
Two Bit calls these experiences “story rooms”. The point is not to find random clues to escape but to play with a quick and silly story. There are a lot of tubes to hook up to the sensors or find the right tool for the job, but it’s the hide and seek that is designed for comedic collaboration. The game lasts about 25 minutes and requires three to six people.
“With each story room, interactions should be as easy as possible,” says Eric Gradman, co-founder and game designer of Two Bit. “It’s not about solving puzzles. When people fail to solve puzzles, they become frustrated. This piece will transport you.
And if that won’t cure your medical phobias, it probably won’t trigger them.
“Throughout the design process, we asked people, ‘Does this turn you off?’ And if people were disgusted, we replaced them with opposite funny things. “
And yet, no unicorn was hurt.
“Dr Botcher’s Medical School Minute”
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