Recess! 8 – Cardboard Inspiration

Recess! is a cor­re­spon­dence series with per­son­al rumi­na­tions on games.

Dear Alper and Niels,

This morn­ing I read the news that Jason Rohrer has won the final game design chal­lenge at GDC. A Game For Some­one is amazing—a boardgame buried in the Neva­da desert, intend­ed to be played in a few thou­sand years by those who final­ly find it after work­ing down a humon­gous list of GPS coor­di­nates. The game has nev­er been played, it’s been designed using genet­ic algo­rithms. It’s made from incred­i­bly durable materials.

I find it iron­ic that a boardgame wins a game design con­test at an event whose atten­dants also drool over tech­nofetishis­tic non­sense such as Ocu­lus Rift.

And I love boardgames. I love play­ing big tac­ti­cal shouty com­pet­i­tive ones at my house with friends on Sat­ur­day evenings. Or small, slow med­i­ta­tive strate­gic ones with my fiance on Sun­day after­noons. I love their phys­i­cal­i­ty, the shared nature of playing.

I also love them for the inspi­ra­tion they offer me. Their inner work­ings are exposed. They’re a bit like the engines in those old cars I see some of neigh­bours work on every week­end, just for fun. It’s so easy to pick out mechan­ics, study them and see how they may be of use to my own projects.

I recent­ly sat down to revis­it the game Cuba, because our own work on KAIGARA involved an engine build­ing mechan­ic and Cuba does this real­ly well. KAIGARA doesn’t involve any card­board, but that doesn’t mean we can’t draw inspi­ra­tion from it. On the con­trary. It’s like James Wal­lis recent­ly said in an inter­view at BoardGameGeek:

My games col­lec­tion isn’t a library, it’s a toolkit.”


This is on dis­play at Yes Nat­u­ral­ly, the exhib­it in The Hague also show­ing Pig Chase. Overblown as art, per­haps, but intrigu­ing nonetheless—a her­mit crab who’s made his home in a japan­ese gold­en mask.

Edit: Hein tells me it’s not a japan­ese mask, but in fact a repli­ca of Bran­cusi’s A Muse. Goes to show how much I know…

(via PIERRE HUYGHE | esther schip­per)

Recess! 6 – Less of a game

Recess! is a cor­re­spon­dence series with per­son­al rumi­na­tions on games.

Dear Niels and Alper,

Just before writ­ing this I was play­ing Ridicu­lous Fish­ing. And by the time you read this, you’ve prob­a­bly played it your­selves. So you don’t need me to tell you it’s pret­ty great. As always with Vlam­beer games the feel is just right. The art style is refresh­ing­ly dif­fer­ent. But most impor­tant­ly, it does not try to guilt trip you into play­ing more and more of it. Or ask for your mon­ey so you can skip the tedious bits. There are no tedious bits. I would say its old school and hon­est in that way. 

I’ve also played a bit of Year Walk. Yes, most of my video gam­ing nowa­days hap­pens on iOS. Turn­ing on a con­sole to sit down and play a game for real is a big com­mit­ment. I hard­ly ever get around to it. As with Ridicu­lous Fish­ing I was enam­ored by Year Walk’s brave depar­ture from the usu­al gener­ic art style. The inter­ac­tion design­er in me was also pleas­ant­ly sur­prised by its slight­ly odd move­ment con­trols. You pan left and right to explore a giv­en area, and swipe up and down to move between them. It’s a com­fort­able way of play­ing on a touch screen, plus it gels nice­ly with the lay­ered, pic­ture-book art style. The game’s omi­nous atmosphere—which I’ll lazi­ly describe as “Blair Witch-esque occult goings-on in a snowy for­est” also cap­ti­vat­ed me.

What put me off though, was one of the first actu­al puz­zles I had to solve. I had to use a code I’d dis­cov­ered in one area to open up a door in anoth­er area. I had to grab a pen and paper and write that code down. It wasn’t hard, but it felt like work. I quick­ly lost inter­est after that. I did not feel like doing more of these lock-and-key chores to progress. Come to think of it, this is what put me off FEZ, too. I’d rather just wan­der around and explore the sto­ry world. Sim­i­lar to Niels’s annoy­ance with the JRPG tropes in Ni no Kuni, I want­ed it to be less of a game, I guess.