Last night Charles Pratt and I played sports commentators at the first official event of the recently relocated NYU Game Center – an exhibition tournament of the indie arcade game Killer Queen. A 5 vs. 5 game housed in a beautiful custom cabinet, Killer Queen is the creation of NYC game designers Josh DeBonis and Nik Mikros. Commissioned by the NYU Game Center’s No Quarter exhibition that Charles curates every year, Killer Queen is a mash-up of platform jumper, real-time strategy, and the classic 80s game Joust. Although it has the deceptively simple look of a 16-bit console game, Kill Queen encourages each 5-player team to use deep strategy and fast-action skills to best the opposing team and reach one of the three distinct winning conditions.
Streamed live on twitch.tv, Charles and I provided play-by-play commentary and analysis for about two hours – from the preliminary bouts to the nail-biting championship. It was challenging, exhausting, and incredibly enjoyable. I have a new appreciation for the rigors of eSports announcers! The video from the tournament has been archived here. The first 40 minutes are set-up and practice matches, so you might want to skip the beginning of the stream (we have some audio problems at the start). Nik and Josh hold KIller Queen tournaments once a month – so please come join us next time!
This month’s issue of Aperture Magazine is devoted to the theme of play, and I was asked to write a short reflection on the connection between games, images, and culture. The text of my piece is below, which questions the future of photography in our current Ludic Century.
Read on for the full text of my mini-essay. Special thanks to Cameron Sterling, who took the gorgeous photo of Interference that accompanies the piece.
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About four years ago, I started working on a strategy boardgame design where players moved dice around a grid – each die was a unit in a player’s armada-like fleet of spaceships. The very first playtest took place between myself and game theorist Jesper Juul on my kitchen table in Brooklyn. The game was elegant but complex, approachably fun but satisfyingly deep. It evolved over the years, although many core aspects of the game design were there in that first game with Jesper.
With the help of designer John Sharp, it became the prototype Armada d6, which last year won the Game Design award at the IndieCade Festival of Independent Games. The game caught the eye of Philippe Nouhra at Paris-based boardgame publisher Funforge. And now I am happy to announce that Armada d6 is going to be published as Quantum, a strategy board game that will premiere at the Essen Game Fair this fall in Germany.
I’ve put up a page with images and information about the game on my website, and you can find out even more about Quantum at the Funforge site and at its BoardGameGeek page. Overall, I am extremely pleased with how the game turned out, in terms of game design, visual design, and even the somewhat perverse and philosophical narrative of the game world.
I expect I’ll be writing more about Quantum in weeks to come. But it was a tremendous amount of work to bring this design to fruition over four years and for now, I’m just happy and relieved to announce that the game is going to be available for everyone to play. For reals.
Organism, a game I first published in 1998, is available again for free download.
A tabletop strategy game for 2-4 players about evolving cellular life, Organism originally appeared as an insert in the digital culture mag ArtByte. Earlier this year, the fashion/art magazine Garage approached me about doing a project, and so the game was published again – with a bit of a visual refresh.
What I like most about the game design of Organism is the ability to use modular parts (body cells, tooth cells, heart cells, and blocker cells) to evolve your creature in very different ways. The goal is to eliminate your opponents in the petri dish arena, but there are several ways to do that. You can surround and suffocate an opponent, grow teeth to devour your opponents’ hearts, or just survive long enough to grow the biggest.
If you follow this link to my website, I’ve posted a print-and-play PDF file with full game rules, board, and pieces. You can also download an interview between myself and Anna Craycroft that was published in the same issue of Garage Magazine. Enjoy!
This post contains links to some of my favorite talks I’ve given over the last several months. If you are looking to geek out on game design, you have come to the right place.
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Earlier this year, Nathalie Pozzi and I brought our game installation Interference to the Dublin Science Gallery as part of GAME – an exhibition about new forms of play. Here’s a short video of Nathalie and I discussing the game and playing against each other. (If I recall correctly, she beat me soundly.)
The Irish Times also covered the exhibition, taking the occasion to raise questions about the comparison between games and art. If you have more than a few minutes, you might want to watch a video of the talk Nathalie and I gave as part of the Science Gallery’s lecture series. We discuss the concept of the “space of possibility” that lies at the intersection of architecture and game design.