For the past several years, across a number of essays and talks, I have been kicking around the concept of the “Ludic Century” – the idea that we are living in an era of history that has a special relationship to games.
Kotaku.com has just published my Manifesto for a Ludic Century – a short essay that articulates that notion, along with a discussion of systems, play, design, and why in the future everyone will be a game designer. Heather Chaplin, who has been an important sounding-board for these ideas, has written a wonderfully critical response that appears just after the manifesto itself.
Big thanks to Kirk Hamilton and Stephen Totillo at Kotaku for making this happen! The Manifesto will also appear next year in The Gameful World, a book of essays edited by Steffen P. Walz and Sebastian Deterding.
MIT Press has just published a new edition of Bernie DeKoven’s classic book on play, The Well-Played Game. Bernie is one of my game design heroes, and in 1978 when he wrote this book, he pioneered ideas about the importance and meaning of play, re-imagining games as a social community of players who transform and improvise rules.
Full disclosure: Bernie asked me to write the foreword to this new edition, and I was happy to pen a few pages that connect his concepts to what is going on in games today. You can find a PDF of my forward here (it’s the second essay on the list). It turns out that Bernie’s ideas anticipated many of the debates currently raging in games, from the rise of independent games and alternative player communities to addiction, eSports, and games in education.
It’s hard to convey what is so special about a book like The Well-Played game. It’s more than the brilliant ideas Bernie explores. It’s also the way he explores them. The writing follows his restless, curious mind – telling stories, cracking silly jokes, but always deftly bringing insight to bear on crucial topics around playing games and being human. Bernie doesn’t write about play in a book, he plays – and this book is what resulted.
The Well-Played Game is full of challenging ideas and is a joy to read. My highly biased recommendation: read it.
This is something to see.
I am still processing the over-the-top, completely ridiculous and completely awesome video trailer that Philipe Nouhra and my publisher FunForge created for my new boardgame Quantum. You can see the video here on Boardgamegeek.com and it really does resemble nothing so much as a film trailer for a high-budget science-fiction film. (OK, maybe a rough cut with some of the scenes still storyboarded in – but you get the idea.)
Since my company Gamelab closed about four years ago, as a designer I have returned to my roots creating experimental games – my architectural installations with Nathalie Pozzi, and digital experiments with the Brooklyn Game Ensemble, the Leisure Society, and Local No. 12. That’s why it feels a little strange to be part of what feels like a “AAA boardgame” marketing campaign for Quantum.
But yet – I love it. Yes, it’s a boardgame. But it’s a boardgame with a kick-ass cinematic trailer. Possibly the most crazy-awesome video in the history of tabletop games. Nice work, Philipe.
Like the gleaming, spinning 3D chrome letters ask… Are you ready for Quantum?
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.
Read the rest of this entry »
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.