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12 Halloween pet events around the country

Posted by Stephanie St. Martin October 22, 2012 10:41 AM

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Want to conjure up some fun with your pets this Halloween? Hop on your broomstick and fly off to these parades. Humans aren't the only ones who can enjoy the All Hallows' Eve holiday celebration. All over the country, our four-legged friends are joining in on the spooky fun. From Massachusetts to California, these celebrations let pets express their love for Halloween. And many have contests and prizes, too. Some are only open to dogs, and some welcome different species, so find out before you go. Check out this list of pet parades and feel free to share fun ones near you in the comment section below.

And don't be a scaredy cat this holiday when it comes to making a costume for your pet. Read this list of DIY Halloween pet costumes for inspiration and find one that you -- and your pet -- will love. You never know, maybe you and your pet will win the prize for best duo.


The Canine Promenade

Boston, Massachusetts
Sunday, October 27th
Halloween celebrations in Boston wouldn't be complete without our own pet parade. Drop by the Esplanade to check out Bean Town's best dressed best friends in this half-mile walk along the Charles River. Rover can enjoy tasty treats provided by Pawsh, a local dog boutique, and you can check out a new walking route for him. Find out who'll take home the prize for the most wicked awesome costumes.

FULL ENTRY

Welcome to Pet Chatter

Posted by Stephanie St. Martin October 22, 2012 09:47 AM

Welcome to Pet Chatter!

Love animals? Want tips on the latest pet topics both in Boston and around the country? Well, you've come to the right place. I'm here chat with you about everything pet-related, whether it's dealing with dogs and cats or any other, furry, scaly or slimy friend that has captured your heart.

I'm an obsessed pet parent myself, and I love talking with others who are so creature-inclined. If there's an local pet event you're excited about, a cute story you'd like to share or an animal issue you want my take on, feel free to reach out. I love doing features on what is capturing everyone's attention.

And don't forget to follow Boston.com Pets on Twitter (or you can follow me at @StephStMartin). I'd love to hear from you!

A Dark Idea of Fun: Turning the Salem Witch Trials Into a Board Game For the Whole Family

Posted by Leon Neyfakh October 16, 2012 05:15 PM

Earlier this year, I wrote a story for Ideas about the surprisingly vibrant world of contemporary board game design. While the rest of us suffer through Monopoly and spend evenings playing Scrabble for the millionth time, a subculture of gamers are entertaining themselves instead with elegant, structurally innovative titles that most of us have never heard of. The people who make these games are driven by a curiosity about the mechanics of fun, and the possibilities of conjuring it with a piece of cardboard, a few pieces, and maybe a pair of dice.

One of the things I didn’t get into in my original story was the challenge of matching the theme of the game with the way it’s actually played. Ideally, I was told, the decisions a player is asked to make during a turn somehow draw on the reality of whatever the game is supposed to be about. In other words, a game about pirates should probably include a battle over booty, while a game about politics should probably feature some kind of election. With that in mind, I was very curious to hear about a new game called Salem, designed by a former Bostonian named Joshua Balvin and themed around the Salem witch trials. The game, which Balvin is raising money to produce through Kickstarter, throws players into the midst of the four month-period when, as the story goes, residents of the town of Salem, Massachusetts turned on one another and started killing people they suspected of being possessed.

I interviewed Balvin over email about how the game works, and how he went about marrying the gameplay to the story of what really happened in Salem. (Our exchange was edited very slightly for publication.)

IDEAS: Tell me what aspects of the Salem witch trials you're trying to capture in this game. What did you decide were the crucial dynamics to represent?

BALVIN: The most important dynamic I wanted to capture was to place the players in Salem in 1692. This meant recreating the paranoia that there are witches among us, the fear that you might be next, and the mob-mentality that led to the loss of 20 lives during the summer of 1692. To accomplish this there are 42 residents in the game (based on actual citizens of Salem, selected following extensive research) whose stories unfold over the course of the game. Each player gets six of these residents. Some of each player's residents are secretly identified as witches and it is up to the other players to jail, accuse and hang them. When a resident is hanged, a short synopsis is given of the real-life fate of that person in 1692.

IDEAS: What about the history did you find most difficult to incorporate into the game play?

BALVIN: The game takes place over four rounds representing the actual months of the trials, punctuated by hangings corresponding to the exact dates of the hangings in Salem. I eventually had to give up that the exact number of residents hanged at each of these dates would match history (the fundamental priority is an exciting game and there was simply no way to have this work without disrupting the flow of the game). That was the only real compromise that was made to the historical narrative of the game.

IDEAS: What's the coolest or most interesting decision players have to make when they're playing Salem, and how does it connect to the history?

Players are the judge, jury and executioner. The most interesting decision comes at the end of each witch trial when players must use the information they've acquired during the witch hunt to decide which of the jailed residents they would like to see hanged. The tension is always palpable as you're hoping you've payed close enough attention to get it right. Ballots are cast in secret and revealed simultaneously so each round ends with surprises. This ties in historically with the conundrum these people faced: do I accuse someone else to save my life, or do I die an honest person?

IDEAS: Did you come up with any original game mechanics when designing the structure of the game, or would you say this is an amalgamation of existing mechanics?

While there has been some inspiration from other games (Black Vienna and The Resistance to name a few), none of the inspirations made it into Salem intact. It's taken 6 years to create this game mostly because I simply refused to compromise the historical narrative for the sake of game play and visa versa. 6 years is an extraordinarily long time to spend on any board game, but the final result was well worth fighting for.

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