The Opinion Engine 2.0:
What's the most exciting thing you see on the way to work?

Guest answer from Jess Haskins.

Life First, what work for me is — I'm a game designer. I work at a small game development studio in New York City called Muse Games. Earlier this year we moved our office from a loft in Chinatown to an office block in the Financial District, right on Bowling Green. In the weeks that followed our move, we experienced an earthquake, a hurricane, a flood warning, and the dawn of a protest movement: Occupy Wall Street.

I pass Zuccotti Park on my way to work every day, and I first noticed that something was happening when on my morning walk I was joined by a merging phalanx of drum-tapping, horn-tooting, sign-bearing, mask-wearing protesters. As I read their signs and listened to the sound of their chants and matched the cadence of their steps, I inhaled deeply and breathed it in. I was marching! I was protesting! At the next corner, they turned and I kept going straight, resuming my New-York-paced speedwalk, once more weaving and dodging into the crowd instead of trundling along with it in synchronized solidarity.

From then on, I watched the burgeoning movement with interest, observing the daily evolution of the protest campsite: the information desk and its staffers, the expanding library, the cardboard Faux News cameras, the print edition of the Occupied Wall Street Journal. (OWS was making its own media, as the mainstream media seemed conspicuously absent from this engaging and newsworthy scene.) Although I didn't feel the urge to participate personally, I appreciated the efforts of the protesters and admired their presence and perseverance. I sympathized with their message and hoped the movement would be a success.

Zuccotti Park ready for public enjoyment

But I don't want to talk about the park. The park is empty now, stormed and swept and cleared away so that the space could be freed up for the use of "the public" — now it's a sea of barricades and trees decorated for the holidays, ringed with police and a handful of hangers-on and of no use to anyone at all. I don't want to talk about the park. I want to talk about the bull.

A few blocks from Zuccotti Park is Bowling Green, site of Charging Bull, the famous statue representing the virile capitalist vigor of Wall Street. Our office building sits directly opposite the statue, affording us an excellent view of the daily throngs of tourists queuing up and massing around it, snapping photos, clambering over its back, swinging from its horns, and polishing its scrotum for luck. But this ritual molestation is a thing of the past — since the outbreak of the Occupation, the barriers went up around the bull, too, and now it enjoys the protection of a 24-hour security detail. The poor tourists can only stand around the outside of the pen for their photos, sometimes leaning over for an awkward hug with one of the horns before running over to pester the cops for more photos and directions to Century 21. (It's up Broadway. Just keep walking.)

A frustrated tourist reaches for the bull's horns

It's for the bull's own good. Since OWS kicked off with Adbusters' poster of a revolutionary ballerina poised atop Charging Bull's head, with a vanguard of occupiers rushing forward from the misty background, the statue, with all its loathsome, potent symbolism, must have been deemed a prime target for the movement's rage. As far as I know, no shenanigans have been attempted by occupiers (the last prank I remember directed at the hapless bovine was the painting of its balls blue during the depths of the recession over a year ago), and all I can think of is how disappointed the tourists must be. Apparently the bull is a big deal in some parts of the world, and people come from far away just to see it — then to be forced to stand back and have to grope it clumsily while stretched across a crowd barrier! For one day only I saw the cops allowing the tourists to line up and enter the pen one at a time for hugs and photos, as if the bull were signing autographs. That didn't stick, though, and the next day it was back to leaning on barricades, longing to get just a little closer to the symbol and source of all that throbbing financial potency. Just a few blocks away people were camping out 'round the clock in the deepening cold to protest a corrupt and exploitative financial establishment, while here just down the road were people who had traveled thousands of miles just to line up and fondle the testicles of the establishment's graven idol.

I thought up a game for Occupy Wall Street. It's a mobile game. There are crowds of people filling a public square, and you are Charging Bull. With a flick of your finger you send Charging Bull careering through the crowds. Every time you hit someone they fall down and some money flies out, and they yell out a slogan, like "People Not Profits!" or "Make Love Not Toxic Assets Repackaged As Junk Derivatives And Foisted On The American Taxpayer!" You eat the dropped money, which represents your score. The crowd has a a 1% chance of spawning a suited investment banker who will jostle his way through the crowd; if you hit a one-percenter, he will yell a slogan like "Get a job!" or "Corporations are people, too!," then the game immediately ends and you lose. There will also be white-shirted police officers who move through the crowd, randomly pepper-spraying people who will fall down and stop moving (but you can still hit them and get their money). If you hit the white shirt, he will pepper-spray down your throat and you will regurgitate and lose all the money you have collected so far. The game ends when you have collected all the money from the people and retire to a villa in the Caribbean. I call it Bowling for Green.

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