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Subject: Classic versus modern games rss

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David Buckley
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althus wrote:

This ties in too with David's point about whether the "goodness" scale is more like technology, or more like art. One feels more likely to be infinite, the other not. The problem is that a game is both art and technology. It's a technology for pleasing our brains.

By the same token: music is technology for pleasing our ears and paintings are technology for pleasing our eyes.
 
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Quote:
I've seen a lot of posts on this site comparing advances in board game design to advances in technology. The comparison has never seemed apt. A better comparison would be with other art forms. Music for example. Do we consider that the music of today is notably better than the music of 10 years ago? 100 years ago? 1000 years ago? Or is it just different?

Some thoughts...

In the history of Western music, there's a break between the Renaissance and Baroque periods: the "musical vocabulary" expanded greatly. A parallel in painting might be the (re?)discovery of perspective.

Better? Worse? That may be ultimately subjective, but the evolution of tools/techniques is hard to ignore.

Perhaps we're in a similar period with games, grandiose though the thought may be.

Excellent discussion, gentlemen!

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milomilo122 wrote:
christianF wrote:
Buckersuk wrote:
I've seen a lot of posts on this site comparing advances in board game design to advances in technology. The comparison has never seemed apt. A better comparison would be with other art forms. Music for example. Do we consider that the music of today is notably better than the music of 10 years ago? 100 years ago? 1000 years ago? Or is it just different?
Good point, especially where recreational games are concerned. But 'sport weapons' rely on functionality and that characteristic is recognisable and to a degree measurable. Advances in playing strength may lead to an increased demand for functionality. I think the majority of sports have gone to upgrades and innovations in terms of material. In the case of 'abstract sport weapons' the material is a set of rules. On the one side these rules usually have an air of holiness about them, on the other hand, they're easy adaptable. The difficulty lies in showing the improvement. It's easy to see that a clap-skate beats a regular one. That's why they're now regular. It's less easy to show that Dameo beats Draughts.

I love this question. I often compare games to music so I can hardly deny the point. A couple of out-loud thoughts:

I'd argue our ability to create great music has expanded. The range of sound palettes we can now produce, and our understanding of how our brains process and respond to music, is more refined than ever.

However, whether we actually have created better music is a tough question.

There's a "looking backward" aspect in the judgement of music. Popular music of the day is rarely thought to be as sophisticated or as good as music which was once popular but now considered "classic" or "classical". Yet today's popular music will someday be just that, and in the future we'll have a reverence for it that those who lived through it have a hard time imagining.

I feel this is happening right now with the digital production of music. The production of popular music has become completely divorced from instrumentation and it's caused Cambrian-level explosion in new kinds of sound-production.

I'll bet my boots that someday we'll look back on the pioneers of this period and see some of them as geniuses. We'll see them as having "advanced" music (I have my bets here too). But right now, there's a widespread antagonism for synthetic sounds among people who feel that "proper" music is fundamentally instrumental.

I'm confident about it because the same thing has happened nearly every time there's been some major musical shift. Wide swaths of my grandparent's generation thought the Beatles were morons. My dad still doesn't think hip-hop qualifies as music even as the level of artistry involved has risen to sometimes breathtaking levels.

We're all trapped by our formative thoughts and experiences. This same problem has led to numerous periods in science during which various commentators decided this or that scientific discipline had gone as far as it possibly could. Surely Newton's mechanics are fully correct! They are so perfect! They have so much explanatory power!

This ubiquitous cognitive trap is the reason I'm instinctively, deeply suspicious of claims that our best is behind us. The bias toward thinking this way is so universal, and it has led us astray so many times in so many fields, that I think it's silly to assume that finally, at this time, in this field, things are different.

Music differs from boardgames in the sense that advances of technology have opened up new possibilities. Human League and Clean Bandit could not have existed 100 years ago but it would have been possible for a game designer 100 years ago to come up with (eg) Catchup, Slither or Dameo. I would even go so far as to say that if I didn't know when those games had been invented I would have found it plausible that they were over 100 years old.

But my feelings about modern versus classic music are similar to my feelings about modern games versus classic games. The modern supplements, rather than replaces the classic.

Aside: Going back to the conversation about what type of music most resembled abstract games on the other thread. I thought you were on to something with
Quote:
"I actually think combinatorial games are more like pop music than any other kind of music. They're constructed simply, from very simple elements that have already been used a million times before, and yet the best of them sound brand new and can exalt you (or me, anyway). There's something magical and emergent about a great pop song."
but in thinking about this new topic I decided that a better comparison would have been to folk music, based on their ability to be played with a minimum of simple widely available components.
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Buckersuk wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
christianF wrote:
Buckersuk wrote:
I've seen a lot of posts on this site comparing advances in board game design to advances in technology. The comparison has never seemed apt. A better comparison would be with other art forms. Music for example. Do we consider that the music of today is notably better than the music of 10 years ago? 100 years ago? 1000 years ago? Or is it just different?
Good point, especially where recreational games are concerned. But 'sport weapons' rely on functionality and that characteristic is recognisable and to a degree measurable. Advances in playing strength may lead to an increased demand for functionality. I think the majority of sports have gone to upgrades and innovations in terms of material. In the case of 'abstract sport weapons' the material is a set of rules. On the one side these rules usually have an air of holiness about them, on the other hand, they're easy adaptable. The difficulty lies in showing the improvement. It's easy to see that a clap-skate beats a regular one. That's why they're now regular. It's less easy to show that Dameo beats Draughts.

I love this question. I often compare games to music so I can hardly deny the point. A couple of out-loud thoughts:

I'd argue our ability to create great music has expanded. The range of sound palettes we can now produce, and our understanding of how our brains process and respond to music, is more refined than ever.

However, whether we actually have created better music is a tough question.

There's a "looking backward" aspect in the judgement of music. Popular music of the day is rarely thought to be as sophisticated or as good as music which was once popular but now considered "classic" or "classical". Yet today's popular music will someday be just that, and in the future we'll have a reverence for it that those who lived through it have a hard time imagining.

I feel this is happening right now with the digital production of music. The production of popular music has become completely divorced from instrumentation and it's caused Cambrian-level explosion in new kinds of sound-production.

I'll bet my boots that someday we'll look back on the pioneers of this period and see some of them as geniuses. We'll see them as having "advanced" music (I have my bets here too). But right now, there's a widespread antagonism for synthetic sounds among people who feel that "proper" music is fundamentally instrumental.

I'm confident about it because the same thing has happened nearly every time there's been some major musical shift. Wide swaths of my grandparent's generation thought the Beatles were morons. My dad still doesn't think hip-hop qualifies as music even as the level of artistry involved has risen to sometimes breathtaking levels.

We're all trapped by our formative thoughts and experiences. This same problem has led to numerous periods in science during which various commentators decided this or that scientific discipline had gone as far as it possibly could. Surely Newton's mechanics are fully correct! They are so perfect! They have so much explanatory power!

This ubiquitous cognitive trap is the reason I'm instinctively, deeply suspicious of claims that our best is behind us. The bias toward thinking this way is so universal, and it has led us astray so many times in so many fields, that I think it's silly to assume that finally, at this time, in this field, things are different.

Music differs from boardgames in the sense that advances of technology have opened up new possibilities. Human League and Clean Bandit could not have existed 100 years ago but it would have been possible for a game designer 100 years ago to come up with (eg) Catchup, Slither or Dameo. I would even go so far as to say that if I didn't know when those games had been invented I would have found it plausible that they were over 100 years old.

But my feelings about modern versus classic music are similar to my feelings about modern games versus classic games. The modern supplements, rather than replaces the classic.

Aside: Going back to the conversation about what type of music most resembled abstract games on the other thread. I thought you were on to something with
Quote:
"I actually think combinatorial games are more like pop music than any other kind of music. They're constructed simply, from very simple elements that have already been used a million times before, and yet the best of them sound brand new and can exalt you (or me, anyway). There's something magical and emergent about a great pop song."
but in thinking about this new topic I decided that a better comparison would have been to folk music, based on their ability to be played with a minimum of simple widely available components.
... and of course - if we're talking about the classics - the evolutionary (as against authorial) genesis.
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Buckersuk wrote:

Music differs from boardgames in the sense that advances of technology have opened up new possibilities. Human League and Clean Bandit could not have existed 100 years ago but it would have been possible for a game designer 100 years ago to come up with (eg) Catchup, Slither or Dameo. I would even go so far as to say that if I didn't know when those games had been invented I would have found it plausible that they were over 100 years old.

But my feelings about modern versus classic music are similar to my feelings about modern games versus classic games. The modern supplements, rather than replaces the classic.

The more I think about this tonight, the more I'm starting to believe that this comparison to music is not apt at all. It misses the vital point that centuries ago, there were no professional designers of games, whose job it was to think about them fulltime. Traditional abstracts are happy accidents. But hundreds of years ago, there *were* professional composers of music, whose job it was to home in on the ways music tickles our brains. Contributions of technology I think are a red herring. What they contribute, is that past composers and present composers are working with different musical vocabularies. Nowadays we have a wider vocabulary, but they're still vocabularies, professionally deployed. Comparing musics to each other is more akin to comparing the vocabulary of territorial games to that of race games. Not comparing old games to new.

 
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althus wrote:
The more I think about this tonight, the more I'm starting to believe that this comparison to music is not apt at all. It misses the vital point that centuries ago, there were no professional designers of games, whose job it was to think about them fulltime. Traditional abstracts are happy accidents.
Probably. But something else is going on too.

The concept of a path from a to b (one side of a board to the other) was obviously known to people even in antiquity. Yet the first combinatorial connection game (I see n-in-a-row as more pattern-building) didn't arrive until well into the 20th century. So why didn't we see a connection game earlier considering the long time-span? I am not sure that it was solely due to time available for game-designing. Or maybe was there such a game but it just faded away without any historical record?
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andyl wrote:
althus wrote:
The more I think about this tonight, the more I'm starting to believe that this comparison to music is not apt at all. It misses the vital point that centuries ago, there were no professional designers of games, whose job it was to think about them fulltime. Traditional abstracts are happy accidents.
Probably. But something else is going on too.

The concept of a path from a to b (one side of a board to the other) was obviously known to people even in antiquity. Yet the first combinatorial connection game (I see n-in-a-row as more pattern-building) didn't arrive until well into the 20th century. So why didn't we see a connection game earlier considering the long time-span? I am not sure that it was solely due to time available for game-designing. Or maybe was there such a game but it just faded away without any historical record?
Actually I made a comment that touches on this earlier in the thread. Elimination and territory, killing and grabbing so to say, are primal motives. 'Connection' may be more of a sub-goal, as it is in Go. For more ancient minds the idea of making a game with connection as a goal in itself may have been too remote.
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christianF wrote:
andyl wrote:
althus wrote:
The more I think about this tonight, the more I'm starting to believe that this comparison to music is not apt at all. It misses the vital point that centuries ago, there were no professional designers of games, whose job it was to think about them fulltime. Traditional abstracts are happy accidents.
Probably. But something else is going on too.

The concept of a path from a to b (one side of a board to the other) was obviously known to people even in antiquity. Yet the first combinatorial connection game (I see n-in-a-row as more pattern-building) didn't arrive until well into the 20th century. So why didn't we see a connection game earlier considering the long time-span? I am not sure that it was solely due to time available for game-designing. Or maybe was there such a game but it just faded away without any historical record?
Actually I made a comment that touches on this earlier in the thread. Elimination and territory, killing and grabbing so to say, are primal motives. 'Connection' may be more of a sub-goal, as it is in Go. For more ancient minds the idea of making a game with connection as a goal in itself may have been too remote.

Maybe in the depths of antiquity, although I am not sure that modern minds are that different. However I would have expected a Renaissance, Age of Reason, or even Victorian example (there is a late Victorian era connection game with blind draws).

Similarly I don't think hexes really turned up until around the same date (either as tessellation on a rectangle or a hexhex grid). People knew about regular hexagonal tessellation yet didn't use it (unless I have missed something) in games.
 
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Russ Williams
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FWIW the earliest hexgrid game I can recall is Queen's Guard, supposedly from 1843.

(There have been various past threads about this question of the earliest hexgrid game, but some cursory searching just now didn't find any earlier examples.)
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russ wrote:
FWIW the earliest hexgrid game I can recall is Queen's Guard, supposedly from 1843.

Ahh a bit earlier than I imagined.
 
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Lots of activity of mathematics around then (Gauss): connection? Zeitgeist?
 
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It's quite remarkable indeed. If one googles "ancient game boards" nothing hexagonal turns up exept Catan and "The Ancient Game of seraQetra" which has "ancient" in the title.

Having "ancient" in the title obviously seemed a good idea. Why, I wonder.

So now I've invented the game of Umph. I need something on the box like

- The ancient Game of Umph!
- The classic Game of Umph!
- The modern Game of Umph!

What would be best?
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christianF wrote:
Having "ancient" in the title obviously seemed a good idea. Why, I wonder.

So now I've invented the game of Umph. I need something on the box like

- The ancient Game of Umph!
- The classic Game of Umph!
- The modern Game of Umph!

What would be best?
Whichever you go with, be sure to put the slogan "A minute to learn, a lifetime to master!"
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russ wrote:
christianF wrote:
Having "ancient" in the title obviously seemed a good idea. Why, I wonder.

So now I've invented the game of Umph. I need something on the box like

- The ancient Game of Umph!
- The classic Game of Umph!
- The modern Game of Umph!

What would be best?
Whichever you go with, be sure to put the slogan "A minute to learn, a lifetime to master!"
Or "The never get board game"

But here's a fact: try "ancient", "classic" and "modern" to find a board game here at BGG. Three pages, two pages, one page. What does that suggest?
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christianF wrote:
russ wrote:
christianF wrote:
Having "ancient" in the title obviously seemed a good idea. Why, I wonder.

So now I've invented the game of Umph. I need something on the box like

- The ancient Game of Umph!
- The classic Game of Umph!
- The modern Game of Umph!

What would be best?
Whichever you go with, be sure to put the slogan "A minute to learn, a lifetime to master!"
Or "The never get board game"

But here's a fact: try "ancient", "classic" and "modern" to find a board game here at BGG. Three pages, two pages, one page. What does that suggest?
How does "sacred" score?
 
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christian freeling
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"Sacred" and "holy" both score one page too, like "modern".

It seems to me that the majority of producers has more faith in "ancient", with "classic" as runner up. This seems to suggest that the majority of buyers feels along the lines of "old is better" where games are concerned. For which other products besides games would this be the case I wonder (barring antiques and Dutch cheese).

Edit:
To narrow it down to abstract strategy games, the widely known ones are all old. They are time-tested and have 'history'. That's perceived as good. New games are not widely known, are not time-tested and have no history. That can't be that good.
However, we now see some classic games being 'time-tested to their misfortune'. I wonder how that changes the landscape.
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David Buckley
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althus wrote:

The more I think about this tonight, the more I'm starting to believe that this comparison to music is not apt at all. It misses the vital point that centuries ago, there were no professional designers of games, whose job it was to think about them fulltime. Traditional abstracts are happy accidents. But hundreds of years ago, there *were* professional composers of music, whose job it was to home in on the ways music tickles our brains.

A fair point. That is why traditional board games are not represented by symphonies in my analogy but by traditional folk tunes.
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I think David Buckley deserves a round of applause for getting interesting discussion going here lately and breathing some life into this forum. I'm grateful for that.
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milomilo122 wrote:
I think David Buckley deserves a round of applause for getting interesting discussion going here lately and breathing some life into this forum. I'm grateful for that.
A fair discussion indeed, deserving some general conclusion. Anyone?
 
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christianF wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I think David Buckley deserves a round of applause for getting interesting discussion going here lately and breathing some life into this forum. I'm grateful for that.
A fair discussion indeed, deserving some general conclusion. Anyone?

I'm right
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milomilo122 wrote:
I agree our discussions here are limited. We tend to discuss balance and decisiveness because they're easy to discuss.

I could imagine, however, in the future, consensus possibly building up around other measurable qualities.

For example (I'm not making predictions here but just giving examples), maybe future games players collectively decide that the ideal tournament game should fall in some range of coldness
Nick, I've noticed you making mention of this issue before. But in the above post I haven't managed to glean (and it's probably just me) whether you think a high degree of coldness is a good or a bad thing in a game.
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mocko wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I agree our discussions here are limited. We tend to discuss balance and decisiveness because they're easy to discuss.

I could imagine, however, in the future, consensus possibly building up around other measurable qualities.

For example (I'm not making predictions here but just giving examples), maybe future games players collectively decide that the ideal tournament game should fall in some range of coldness
Nick, I've noticed you making mention of this issue before. But in the above post I haven't managed to glean (and it's probably just me) whether you think a high degree of coldness is a good or a bad thing in a game.

Without making any claim to what's right (not ready to be so bold), my preference is games that are hotter than they are cold, but not totally hot. As a ratio, maybe 80-20 or 90-10. I suspect one is most likely to find games with oceans-deep strategy in that range.

However, it may vary some according to the specifics of the game. There's a card game called Schotten Totten, which to me is a work of art, which is significantly colder than it is hot. I've never seen a spatial abstract strategy game that cold that works for me. Draughts games tend to be pretty cold, but the ones I like still seem to me more hot than cold.
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The way I've learned to understand coldness is that it concerns positions in games with compulsory movement or placement in which an equilibrium has been reached that neither player can break without (a feeling of) disadvantage. So you'd wish it were the other player's turn.

If the position were disadvantageous for the moving player to begin with, then it's just a bad position. If it were advantageous to begin with, then it's hard to imagine how this would be possible without having a good move.

Like Nick I like hot games with a touch coldness. Since it concerns identifiable positions in a game tree (like draws, though maybe a touch less identifiable) we might speak of a 'margin of coldness'.
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milomilo122 wrote:
However, whether we actually have created better music is a tough question.

There's a "looking backward" aspect in the judgement of music. Popular music of the day is rarely thought to be as sophisticated or as good as music which was once popular but now considered "classic" or "classical". Yet today's popular music will someday be just that, and in the future we'll have a reverence for it that those who lived through it have a hard time imagining.

My feeling is opposite to yours - I think that in most artistic disciplines the works of the last 50 years do not compare to those of 100+ years ago. I feel this way for music, literature, painting, sculpture, and I believe the same would hold in dance but that is much harder to study. I don't have a convincing argument for why, but part of it must be a lessened cultural focus on art in general. Also, I don't think this applies to games, and am only arguing the point because it was mentioned in this thread.

I think that actually your "looking back" point is somewhat of a myth, at least in classical music. There are certainly examples of unrecognized genius, but I think much more than half of the great composers of music were recognized and celebrated in their lifetimes. Even those artists without public success generally had support and respect from circles of fellow artists or connoisseurs. But is there anyone nowadays who thinks someone has composed a symphony greater than Beethoven's 9th, or a play better than Hamlet?
 
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majormajor wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
However, whether we actually have created better music is a tough question.

There's a "looking backward" aspect in the judgement of music. Popular music of the day is rarely thought to be as sophisticated or as good as music which was once popular but now considered "classic" or "classical". Yet today's popular music will someday be just that, and in the future we'll have a reverence for it that those who lived through it have a hard time imagining.

My feeling is opposite to yours - I think that in most artistic disciplines the works of the last 50 years do not compare to those of 100+ years ago. I feel this way for music, literature, painting, sculpture, and I believe the same would hold in dance but that is much harder to study. I don't have a convincing argument for why, but part of it must be a lessened cultural focus on art in general. Also, I don't think this applies to games, and am only arguing the point because it was mentioned in this thread.


If true (and it may be), it points to a significant weakness in the analogy between music and game design:

The interest in game design has exploded in recent decades, and as far as I can tell, for the first time in human history. But that would seem to raise that chance that my original claim is right

If so, a proper analogy with music might be with the invention of polyphonic music in the 10th century. Nearly all the great pieces of music were composed after that, because it was only after that that the study of music exploded. That's what's happening to games now.

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