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.”