Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rediscovering My First-Ever Game Design

I was back home in Iowa for a recent visit, and while cleaning out the closet in my old room that still contains a few things of mine—namely, boardgames—I stumbled upon a game design artifact from my childhood.

I opened the small plastic bag and dumped out the pile of hand-drawn cardboard counters, a section of a game board, a “hit” table, several dice, and a rules booklet.  It was the first game I had ever designed.

As Risk was one of the first strategic boardgames with which I was ever infatuated, it came as no surprise that my first original game design was also a war game.  Other influences were the primitive land and sea battle games that I played on my friends' Atari 2600 and Intellivision consoles back then.  And I remembered that all of the counters depicting military units for land, sea and air, had been inspired by the discovery of my uncle’s Avalon Hill Midway war game (released in 1964), although I had never actually learned how to play it.

At the time, I was still in elementary school, and the Cold War had shown no signs of coming to an end.  In this context, it was also not surprising that two of the four nations in the game were the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R.  A more telling—and frightening—sign of the times was the large “Atomic Bomb” counters which included my own colored marker illustrations of mushroom clouds.

To my recollection, I never played the game with anyone else, nor showed it to anyone, either—even my parents.  I do remember playing it a few times alone, however, as I play-acted both sides of the conflict, turning the Cold War to “hot” in my imagination.  Thankfully, history provided a much better resolution, and I am now living in a city that represents the reunification of east and west—just as Berlin once represented the division of Europe between the Superpowers.

And I’m also happy to have moved on from war game designs since that time.

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