When I arrived in Dabney Dorm in the fall of 1975, I met a young architecture student across the hall, Robert W. Shutler (Arch '79). He was like few others I'd known. He could do a handstand for two minutes. He only ran in the rain, and as a Christian Scientist, never got sick. He would "sleep fast"—condensing a night's sleep into four hours—something architecture students needed to do when working on their big projects. He also knew so much about so many different subjects, always marveling at the world around him, a real Jeffersonian in my eyes.
Rob has remained a dear and lifelong friend. And he has created something new, a board game, College Daze, a game, as he notes, "Of the Wahoos, by a Wahoo and for the Wahoos."
Players advance around the board—through first year, second year and so on—by answering questions. Some questions are uniquely UVA, though others are as rich, diverse and fertile as my friend Rob's mind. First to graduate wins. The board itself is a beautiful orange and blue, with a gorgeous photo of the Lawn and Rotunda in the center.
I asked Rob if creating a board game in such a digital age is madness or genius, and he replied, "Probably madness. It certainly isn’t for profit. Creating a niche board game ... is decidedly retro, a breakeven proposition at best. But that is kind of the point. It is a social thing where you have to be face to face—not a social media thing where one is Facebook to Facebook. We do enough stuff alone."
Rob created the game for several reasons. The first is he loves fascinating facts and myth busting, and he feels trivia gets a bad rap. In fact, here is the answer to one of the game's questions, about trivia itself: "The word ‘trivia’ comes from the Latin tri (three) and via (ways), literally meaning the intersection of three roads. And it implies the intersection of ideas—where people meet to confer. But moreover it signified the three foundations of Roman higher education—grammar, logic and rhetoric. Trivia is not trivial."
Rob is an architect living in Northern Virginia, the father of two daughters and married to Sharon Kelberg Shutler (Col '79), whom he met first year. She was a new dormer but we still approved of her. It became clear to Rob as he worked on the game, and to me asking him questions, that creating this game became an act personal growth and fulfillment, way beyond just a commercial enterprise.
"It gave me the opportunity to explore popular misconceptions, interesting statistics, historical coincidences, famous alumni, mnemonic devices, quotable quotes, counter intuitive items, dying words, colorful descriptions, useful life info, handy jokes and so on," Rob told me. "There are 400 quiz cards but thousands of useful ideas on any subject imaginable. Very Jeffersonian."
Another question from the game: "True or False: A Cavalier, UVA’s mascot, was an aristocrat." The answer? "False. A cavalier was originally a horseman. The Cavaliers who came to Virginia were middle or lower class men who were loyal to the English crown—later known as Tories—enemies of the American Revolution. Paradoxical choice for Mr. Jefferson’s University."
"I had to stretch way beyond my comfort zone if I wanted to see this little thing thrive," Rob told me. "I found wonderful people along the way who had a little faith, recognized the potential, or yielded to brow beating." The Rotunda Restoration will receive all profits from sales of the game made on the College Daze website.
I look forward to playing the game with my old roommates next time we get together. But I smile just reading through the questions and answers, hearing Rob's voice in my head: "The American Civil War began in the backyard and ended in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s house, yet 120 miles apart ... Cervantes and Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 and yet a month apart ... Attila the Hun died of a nosebleed ..."