Jump off da Porch — the pivotal moment in a young person’s life when they started hustling in the streets.
Those phrases and others appear in a glossary at the end of the game’s rule book, and they serve two purposes. They offer a nod to those players who, like the game’s creator, grew up knowing those slang terms, and they provide a guide to those players who come from backgrounds where “catchin’ plays” and “trap doors” weren’t part of life.
Parker, who grew up in the D.C. region, was 28 and serving a 15-year sentence in a federal penitentiary when he came up with the idea for the board game “Plug Wars” (Plug — a connection for everything you need; the main supplier of a commodity).
At the time, Parker envisioned the games sitting on tables at group homes, juvenile detention centers and prisons.
“I kept thinking of my 14-year-old self and how there were still 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds being incarcerated,” he tells me on a recent evening. “I thought what if they had something they could interact with and get a view of the path that they’re going down? What if they could visually see it while they’re playing?”
Only after he was released two years ago and received advice from individuals within the board game industry — an industry he hadn’t known existed — did Parker start to consider that his audience might go beyond people behind bars.
“I didn’t realize the potential of other people actually wanting to play it, people who don’t come from that lifestyle but who still have questions about it,” he says. “By playing the game, you learn about the ins and outs of the street life and maybe come to an understanding of why people make the decisions they make.”
The game forces players to start as a young hustler with nothing but an objective: Survive and start a legitimate business. “You have to see through his eyes,” Parker says. “He’s growing up in the streets. How does he make it out? How does he go legit?”
How does he make it out? How does he go legit? Parker could be describing questions he has asked himself in the past few years. Even as the 36-year-old tries to market a game that pulls people into the street life, he is trying to escape it.