Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Games in Galleries

The Family Center where I work was recently turned into a gallery by a group of visiting artists.  As some of them transformed the main room into an exhibition space, others performed music while a friend from a local catering service demonstrated how to cook some amazing Thai recipes.  Together with some inviting Spring weather and opportunity for children to make their own art outside, it made for a very creative and festive atmosphere.

I thought it would also provide a good opportunity to present my game-as-art project, War Game: A Prototype For Peace, in a better context.  Up until now, I had only tested the game during a game night or prototype-testing session, where it was compared to other games that were meant mainly as entertainment.  This would, instead, be an opportunity for people who are unfamiliar with the gaming culture to approach this as a work of art.  At least, that was my hope.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Emotionally Repressed?

If you've ever been witness to a Chess tournament, you know what I'm talking about. A pin dropping might cause one of the contestants to jump out of his or her seat. It's that quiet. I stumbled upon a tournament while I was in Macedonia several years ago. And from what I've seen in films about these kinds of events, I could have been anywhere. That stoic Chess-player is also the typical image the general public has of a modern boardgamer.

As I visited a recent gaming event in Berlin, I did, in fact, notice a similar atmosphere. Sure, there were intermittent discussions and laughter between games, but most of the players were intently engaged in the components on their respective tables.

Afterwards, I began to wonder if gamers repress their emotions more than the average person. And I began to think about games that actually encourage this: namely those with bluffing elements. There's nothing more somber, after all (and filled with latent tension) then watching a high-stakes Poker match. They don't call them "Poker faces" for nothing.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

GAME DESIGN TV - Part IV: Showtime

I already wrote about my experiences in filming a segment on game design for the ARTE program X:enius (see Part I, Part II, and Part II on this blog). The show was aired this week, and will only be online until next week. Furthermore, it is unfortunately blocked to viewers from the U.S. Below is a brief description of the final show, which lasted 26 minutes:

“Warum wir spielen, und was wir dadurch lernen (Why we play and what we learn from it)”

The program opens with the moderators, Dörthe und Pierre playing a large-scale game of Scotland Yard in the streets of Berlin with the help of an iPhone App. They discuss the enormity of the computer game market which transitions to a segment on South Korea, where professional gamers, earning 6-figure salaries, compete in the computer game Starcraft live, in front of 120,000 fans.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Air Time

The timing is funny, but my games have been featured in two separate news shows about modern gaming in the past two weeks--one on each side of the ocean.

The first aired on April 3rd on CBS Sunday Morning News, in which moderator Mo Rocca played a game of Piece o' Cake at the GENCON convention. The program, entitled Board Games Through the Ages, is also online.

Today, a show is airing on German/French TV station ARTE on their news program X:enius discussing the history of playing games and the modern developments in computer games and traditional board games. They visit the Spielwiese and film the development of one of my unpublished games from inspiration to prototype. The program is also already online in German and in French.

Unfortunately, the program is only viewable online in Germany and France, I believe. Here's the official description:

Ob Brettspiele, Computerspiele oder Rollenspiele, allein oder mit Freunden und der Familie - fest steht, der Spieltrieb steckt in jedem von uns. Gesellschaftsspiele gehören zu den ältesten kulturellen Ausdrucksformen der Menschen, noch vor Schrift- und Lesekultur. Doch auch Computerspiele sind schon lange keine einsame Angelegenheit mehr.

In Korea werden die Computerspiel-Wettkämpfe der Gaming-Liga bereits in großen Stadien vor gut 100.000 Zuschauern abgehalten. Aber warum spielen wir und was lernen wir dadurch? Und was macht ein gutes Spiel aus? Dörthe Eickelberg und Pierre Girard erfahren von einem Spieleentwickler, wie Spiele konzipiert werden und dürfen dabei exklusiv einen bisher noch geheimen Prototypen testen.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Just Enough Time

It has been difficult to find the time to write, as I have been so busy lately. In spite of this, I feel fulfilled in every other aspect of my life, having no shortage of basic necessities, relationships, ideas or diversions. What I always seem to lack, though, is time. It could be our generation's most valuable resource.

It is no surprise to me, then, that the past several years have seen game designs with the element of time playing an important role. Games as diverse as Thebes, Stronghold, and Merkator all use time tracks or time chits, much the same way tracks and chits are used to record victory points and other resources in other games. This is, of course, not including all the recent games that are played in real time with the help of sand timers and soundtrack CDs, such as Space Dealer and Space Alert.

I once wrote about the postmodern evolution in games that changed the goal from trying to earn the most money to garnering the most "prestige points," emphasizing fame over fortune. It seems only natural that, as a reflection of our hectic lifestyles, time would also become a commodity in boardgames, right alongside wood and wool and other typical resources.

The old adage "time is money" is, obviously, too simplistic. It really comes down to time + work + demand for that work + many other factors eventually generates money. And money gives you more opportunities to invest time and resources--or the opportunity to take "time off" for a holiday, after having built up a virtual reserve of time. In any case, many of today's engine-building-type games can surely handle the complexities of adding the time factor to their cube-churning formulas.

Since time is our most prized resource at the moment, and time-management is our most necessary skill, there is surely room to reflect this resource--and the management of it--in boardgame design.

I'm afraid, though, that for now at least, I'm out of time...