Monday, 18 April 2016

parity or difficulty-setting: hard

Thanks to Messy Nessy Chic’s for spotting this 1970 reimagining of the board game Monopoly in Blacks & Whites: The Role Identity & Neighbourhood Action Game—by the brain-trust at Psychology Today.  The purpose of this game, debuted not long after the was to illustrate to adult players lessons about racial-relations, privilege, economic disparity and the opportunity gap.  White game pieces are afforded considerable advantages and for them the rules about going to jail are rather more fluid.  The goal of playing, more in the spirit of the original concept for Monopoly, was not to accumulate the most money and property and causing one’s opponents to give up but rather to achieve an economic-balance, one which the game’s rules made impossible.  

Friday, 4 March 2016

snakes and ladders

In 1971, a company decided it might be a good idea to release a Monopoly-style board game knock-off called Beat the Border, reports Dangerous Minds. The objective of trafficking in the game was far less fraught with danger and intrigues—and less rewarding, although one’s friendly neighbourhood pusher was careful to put out the disclaimer that it was all in good fun and reinforce the message that drugs are bad and the “dope” peddled was left up to imagination—though handy conversion charts were included. In these times, rather than exploring one’s hidden fantasies of being the head of a Mexican drug cartel—which does not strike me as particularly wholesome family-fun for the 1970s, in the same rather vicious spirit, I detect “Run for the Border” to be a new gladiatorial reality television franchise for the presidential-pretender.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

the encircling game or alphago

The artificial intelligence research division of one internet giant (with other rival concerns not far behind) has developed a tandem neural-network that’s able to best human champions at the ancient strategy game Go.
Meaning the encircling game in Chinese, its goal is to capture more territory on the board than one’s opponent, AI experts once believed that a machine could never excel to human competence as unlike checkers and chess, where computers can use their bullying calculating speeds to forecast out all possible moves and outwit its challengers, the go game-board has more combinations than atoms in the known Universe (incidentally, I’ve started to wonder what that means, really, as I trust it’s more than just some clichรฉ and represents some exponential threshold, but does it take into account the Universe that’s mostly dark energy or the amount of stuff that ought to be there be that cannot be directly observed…) so brute force calculations are not a practical option for even the fastest computers. Human players—and there are grand-masters of go, which is quite sophisticated and challenging despite deceptively simple rules of engagement, began to lose their edge once a dual bit of programming was introduced that asset values and policies in a segregated fashion and apply those judgments in the same way as its competition. What do you think of this enterprise? Does it make for sore-losers?

Sunday, 8 February 2015

larp oder knutepunkt

Though this event reported in Spiegel (DE) is not the first instance of live-action role play—in some ways Renaissance Fairs, Civil War re-enactments and Comic Conventions can be considered games in the same genre and a few epically sophisticated ones are cited in the article, but this four day challenge that was held on board a battleship turned into a marine museum, transformed into an elaborate gaming environment in Wilhelmshaven probably really surprised its creators for its depth and wrenching emotion. Project Exodus, loosely based around the arc-of-story of Battlestar Galactica—with humans on the run from cyborgs intent on wiping them out, was immersive and elicited a lot of bathos, well-up from unexpected places, due to the game’s “play-to-lose” nature. The scripted plot had leadership killed off at crucial moments and the crew had to manage to carry on. The organisers of the game hope to eventually bring this experience to the classroom—to schools and universities, since it might prove more effective in teaching lessons about conflict and what it means to be a refugee better than a lecture.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

dig dug

Spotted on the ever-excellent BLDGBlog, here is beautifully crafted nineteenth century German boardgame from the collections of the British Museum called Der Bergbau. This precursor to Minecraft (which also does not have rules, per se) looks like a version of 'Chutes and Ladders' but there are unfortunately no instructions on how to play.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

dice, deed and deck or weal of fortune

It is an interesting irony and twist of commerce that one of the most popular and enduring board games, Monopoly, was originally meant to be stark warning against allowing land and real estate (utilities and transport too) to be concentrated, hoarded in the hands of the few.
Rather than encouraging accumulation and acquisition as a life-skill, the inventor of The Landlord’s Game, a brilliant reproduction shared by a Happy Mutant on the wonderful Boing Boing, was hoping to indoctrinate young people and families in the economic philosophies of Henry George (DE), who was an advocate for business and commercial enterprise (in so far as it was something that one built oneself) but believed that natural resources and land ought to be in the hands of the public, and the property held privately, by exception, ought to be taxed at a high rate. George did not want the government to nationalize assets or limit ownership but thought a progressive tax, on the landed gentry, could help pay for the public weal and work to discourage such amassing of wealth (via rents rather than industry) in the hands of the few, privileged and to the manor born. Just as the original was not propaganda for socialism, the familiar modern inspiration and all its variations are ruthless games of capitalism and probably still illustrates the dangers of high-rent districts and slumlords and an anti-competitive landscape.