Minotaur in a China Shop

Played a few rounds of Minotaur in a China Shop, which is sort of a time management game — only not really. In the time-honored fashion of the Diner Dash games, you’re waiting on customers who want items from your shop (in this case, fancy china pieces) and who get more impatient the longer you take. Only (in distinction with Diner Dash) you have to physically maneuver your way around the stalls and stands, using clumsy controls that make it pretty much inevitable that you’ll knock a few things over on the way. Which makes perfect sense considering that you’re half bull.

Fortunately, your condition is recognized by a sympathetic society, and you have Rage Insurance: should you become too angry (as manifested by breaking a lot of stuff all at once), your insurance will pay out for everything you break. You can make a lot more money in a given turn by smashing your plates deliberately and giving up on the tedious and fiddly task of customer service. Leveling up options primarily enhance your rage capacity, as you can buy new maneuvers with which to destroy china, and more expensive china to destroy. So you end up with a game where the fun gameplay all comes from being antisocial, defying the expectations and desires of the nitwits who come into your shop with little heart-meters floating over their heads. While I play time-management games from time to time, I occasionally develop a certain resentment for the message that customer service people should faithfully put up with even the most absurd and demanding customers.

I’m not sure I share Play This Thing’s characterization of the game as an explanation of the financial mess we’re now in, but from an educational point of view it does concisely demonstrate the whole concept of moral hazard.

It’s not really fun enough (in my opinion) to be worth more than about three rounds of play. But as a comment on a social situation — and, simultaneously, a joke on a whole genre of casual game — it makes its point.

2 thoughts on “Minotaur in a China Shop”

  1. I think my conscious thought was oblivious to any metaphors that the game could have been. I was too busy breaking stuff at the time. But, I totally agree with the ‘moral hazard’ bit.

    I hope that the phrase, ‘like a Minotaur in a China Shop’ catches on.

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