Read a great short story earlier this year, I am now tearing my hair out trying to find it again. It's game rules for a mechanical interpretation of a catastrophic event we caused to another species. To paraphrase the whole thing:
- Humans irrevocably erased the existence of an alien species along with all trace of its culture simply by setting foot on the planet.
- The alien species may not have been unknowable, but now must be, by virtue of its nonexistence. We don't know anything about them and we can't know anything about them.
- Here is a game that simulates first contact with this species: take a few pencils and several pads of paper and set them up on a table in a room in your house that's less trafficked. Close the door. The game is now in play; it happens behind closed doors, and we can never know the rules, or the outcome, or any of it. Play ends immediately as soon as the door is opened again.
I want to say I read it on Tor's website, but I'm not 100%. I was positive it was nominated for a big award, too, but nothing I could find. (followup to this: I looked at short-story noms going back to 2012 for the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Locus awards and did not see it in there.)