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Subject: Classic versus modern games rss

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Bill Cook
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milomilo122 wrote:
The interest in game design has exploded in recent decades, and as far as I can tell, for the first time in human history.

What is your basis for this? (EDIT - I don't mean this to come across as harsh... I'm curious what your basis is)
 
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christian freeling
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So far as I'm concerned, I was there. I bought all issues of Games & Puzzles in 1975 or thereabouts and have been following events closely from then on. Inventing abstract games was often a kind of ad hoc event and there were very few inventors who had something of a 'oeuvre'. Alex Randolph, Sid Sackson and Robert Abbott, that was about it so far as I remember. Frank Thibault made Ploy, which was one terrible design that got published. There were hardly any discussions about fundamentals (and far fewer means to do so).
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christianF wrote:
mocko wrote:
christianF wrote:
So we solve things better sometimes. That the game that offers these solutions lacks the tactical richness of Go is a fact that is not really relevant to that statement.
...except that when Nick said he thought we could "do better" it's not clear to me that solving issues better is an adequate approximation to what he meant. I'd like to hear his answer to that, anyway.
Insofar games are designed to be adequate sport weapons, they will have to fulfil certain criteria, like the material used in any major sport. To achieve that there will be issues to be solved. It's an integral part of any design process.

mocko wrote:
And then, to put you on the spot, what are the five greatest abstract strategy games in human history to date? (Please don't invoke issues of definition. Just give us the five you most wish you'd invented ... or are proudest that you did )
Checkers and Draughts are great games and once they were great sport weapons. But in that capacity Checkers died of old age and Draughts is terminal and in denial of it. Now here's the thing, they are still great games. But as sport weapons they are history. Shogi is great and to me it has a 'ever modern' quality. Very decisive and no questionable turn order issue. XianQi on the other hand is too archaic for my taste. Its quality must be in the playing because it certainly isn't in the structure.

I wish I'd invented Go and Hex and Ayu and Pente maybe and probably a couple of others (Trax, there you are), but most of all Go.

I'm not proud of any game but I commented on the five I consider most significant (for people who consider abstract games significant) in 'Moving forward looking back'.

When I read Lines of Action in A Gamut of Games, I thought it was brilliant and innovative, both in its movement and objective. I've never played it, though. Is that a game you wished you'd invented?

Twixt is another one. I'd be extremely proud if I invented either one .
 
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christianF wrote:

So far as I'm concerned, I was there. I bought all issues of Games & Puzzles in 1975 or thereabouts and have been following events closely from then on. Inventing abstract games was often a kind of ad hoc event and there were very few inventors who had something of a 'oeuvre'. Alex Randolph, Sid Sackson and Robert Abbott, that was about it so far as I remember. Frank Thibault made Ploy, which was one terrible design that got published. There were hardly any discussions about fundamentals (and far fewer means to do so).

Why is Ploy terrible? I've only read about it in The Playboy Winner's Guide to Board Games, which gave it a good review.
 
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christian freeling
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TheGodsMustBeCrazy wrote:
When I read Lines of Action in A Gamut of Games, I thought it was brilliant and innovative, both in its movement and objective. I've never played it, though. Is that a game you wished you'd invented?

Twixt is another one. I'd be extremely proud if I invented either one .
Yes, Twixt's knights move connection was a very intriguing way to create a square connection game. Later, referring to an earlier post regarding the evolution of inventing abstract strategy games, the subject was approached more fundamentally by Luis Bolaños Mures with excellent results.

LOA works fine but is prone to opening analysis. I found Inertia in an intentional attempt to make something with unification as its object, inspired by Luis' Ayu. I think it's better than LOA and it certainly isn't prone to opening analysis or turn order issues. But it got lost in the flood

 
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christian freeling
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TheGodsMustBeCrazy wrote:
Why is Ploy terrible? I've only read about it in The Playboy Winner's Guide to Board Games, which gave it a good review.
Yes it looked good. The game itself is one of the most striking examples of internal imbalance. It's almost impossible to mess up a chess variant, but Frank Thibault succeeded.
 
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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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christianF wrote:
TheGodsMustBeCrazy wrote:
Why is Ploy terrible? I've only read about it in The Playboy Winner's Guide to Board Games, which gave it a good review.
Yes it looked good. The game itself is one of the most striking examples of internal imbalance. It's almost impossible to mess up a chess variant, but Frank Thibault succeeded.

Did Frank Thibault ever explain the reasoning behind this design decision?
 
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christian freeling
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nhjelmberg wrote:
christianF wrote:
TheGodsMustBeCrazy wrote:
Why is Ploy terrible? I've only read about it in The Playboy Winner's Guide to Board Games, which gave it a good review.
Yes it looked good. The game itself is one of the most striking examples of internal imbalance. It's almost impossible to mess up a chess variant, but Frank Thibault succeeded.

Did Frank Thibault ever explain the reasoning behind this design decision?
I never tried to find it. Judging from his page at BGG he published at least seven games and by the looks of it they were meant for the market. So maybe he was better at other types of games, but Ploy was 'less than satisfactory' to say the least.
 
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Laurentiu Cristofor
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I came over this thread late, but finally made my way through it.

russ wrote:

Do you think that you'd decide that Chess is clearly better than Shogi, and that it captures your imagination more than Shogi?

I think I would be intrigued by Chess more than I was intrigued by Shogi coming from a Chess background. I wouldn't decide which is better on the spot, though, of course.


One question I've also been pondering recently is whether the so-called weaknesses of classic games (rules often criticized for being convoluted or artificial) may not actually be their strength. Modern games, in their attempt to be more straightforward, may perhaps lose some of the tension and opportunities provided by those exceptions/additions that they avoided. Or, otherwise put, what if the bugs were indeed features?


TheGodsMustBeCrazy wrote:

The massive popularity of soccer, on the other hand, is mostly historical. I prefer every other football code - American, Australian, Canadian, Gaelic, Rugby Union, Rugby League. Well, maybe not League.

Football has several advantages over all other sports:

- it only requires a basic piece of equipment that can just be a bundle of old clothes.
- it can be played in small spaces.
- it doesn't rely on grabbing/tackling or other maneuvers that would prove dangerous if you'd execute them on an asphalt or cement surfaces.

This makes the game available to everyone. You can go to the poorest place on Earth and they can still play a game of Football. You can go to a park and you'll see people playing Football. I've never seen someone playing American Football or Rugby in a park - they may play with the ball of those games and practice throws, but they don't play the actual game, because it's too rough. And you wouldn't be able to play those games safely on city streets either.

Also, as a side-note, what do people mean by "historical" justification? Everything is historically justified because it couldn't happen any other way. Not when you look at all the details of how things happened.

andyl wrote:
Although it spread before all the tweaks that make it the game it is today. Queens could only move one space diagonally. Bishops, two spaces but could also jump pieces.

I am not sure that Chess is as good with weaker queens and bishops. Also at that time it wasn't a unified game. There was lots of slight differences.

I think that this is the interesting aspect of Chess - that it not only spread, but that it changed during its spread. Rather than being treated as a sacred cow, it kept being improved as it came into contact with new cultures.
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Laurentiu Cristofor
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milomilo122 wrote:
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.

We can be trapped by many thoughts, like, for example, the thought that we are being trapped by thoughts.

There are people that hold the opinion that the past was better, but there are also people that think that everything new is better.

There is great music composed in every era. The idea that there was better music composed in, let's say, the 1800s, is in no small measure due to the fact that we have never been exposed to the poor music that was composed in the 1800's - the nice thing about the past is that it is recalled through very selective memory - we only remember the important things about it, so it always seems more exciting than the present, in which important events mix up with the banality of daily life. That being said, there is a better likelihood that what is now considered a masterpiece of the 1800s will continue to be held as such vs what passes as a masterpiece today. Test of time and so on.
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Laurentiu Cristofor
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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.

Advantage: Past, I believe.

But seriously, I think both are as unlikely. That's why they happened when they happened, not sooner nor later. The idea that something could have happened earlier is just speculation - a "what if" type of exercise. If something were to have happened, who would have achieved it and if they were in a position to do it, why did they not do it? Once you look at all the details, you'll inevitably reach the conclusion that "it just wasn't meant to be!"
 
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Corey Clark
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Abstract game design is still in a grotesquely primitive stage as a discipline. Where is the game designer's Linear Algebra or Fuxian Counterpoint? It hasn't been codified. Anyone who has an interest in designing board games is in a uniquely advantageous position of potentially helping to pioneer an entirely new field of academia. Most seem to entirely overlook this possibility in favor of perpetuating worthless postmodern aesthetic philosophy.
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Laurentiu Cristofor
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majormajor wrote:
But is there anyone nowadays who thinks someone has composed a symphony greater than Beethoven's 9th

I never understood the fascination with the 9th. The finale is my least favorite part of all his symphonies. Beethoven himself was reported to have had doubts about the last part:

Quote:
Surprisingly, Beethoven seems to have had some doubts about his decision to introduce a vocal finale into the symphony. His student Carl Czerny reported that, well after the premiere, the composer told some of his close friends that he felt he had made a mistake in doing so and that he wanted to eliminate the finale and substitute a purely instrumental movement in its place. He claimed already to have musical ideas for a new movement, but for unknown reasons, he never wrote it or replaced the original version.

Furthermore, I think it's very symplistic to single out one work and call it the greatest ever made. There is no such thing.
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Laurentiu Cristofor
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christianF wrote:

A fair discussion indeed, deserving some general conclusion. Anyone?

Let's not jump to conclusions. As someone remarked, a conclusion marks the point in a conversation when the parties got tired of the discussion.
 
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Richard Moxham
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CoreyClark wrote:
Abstract game design is still in a grotesquely primitive stage as a discipline. Where is the game designer's Linear Algebra or Fuxian Counterpoint? It hasn't been codified. Anyone who has an interest in designing board games is in a uniquely advantageous position of potentially helping to pioneer an entirely new field of academia. Most seem to entirely overlook this possibility in favor of perpetuating worthless postmodern aesthetic philosophy.
Corey, this seems to me a really interesting and challenging comment. Can you give us a clearer idea of what you have in mind when you write of "worthless postmodern aesthetic philosophy"?

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Richard Moxham
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Laurentiu wrote:
christianF wrote:

A fair discussion indeed, deserving some general conclusion. Anyone?

Let's not jump to conclusions. As someone remarked, a conclusion marks the point in a conversation when the parties got tired of the discussion.
Not absolutely fair - but fair enough in enough cases to be worth adding to the commonplace notebook.

 
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Laurentiu wrote:
majormajor wrote:
But is there anyone nowadays who thinks someone has composed a symphony greater than Beethoven's 9th

I never understood the fascination with the 9th. The finale is my least favorite part of all his symphonies. Beethoven himself was reported to have had doubts about the last part:

Quote:
Surprisingly, Beethoven seems to have had some doubts about his decision to introduce a vocal finale into the symphony. His student Carl Czerny reported that, well after the premiere, the composer told some of his close friends that he felt he had made a mistake in doing so and that he wanted to eliminate the finale and substitute a purely instrumental movement in its place. He claimed already to have musical ideas for a new movement, but for unknown reasons, he never wrote it or replaced the original version.

Furthermore, I think it's very symplistic to single out one work and call it the greatest ever made. There is no such thing.
I agree with your summing up, of course. I do find it an interesting side-issue, though, that on a clear majority of occasions when I've heard someone cite a musical work and claim absolute pre-eminence for it, the work they've singled out has been Schubert's 9th, not Beethoven's.

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Joel Fox
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mocko wrote:
Laurentiu wrote:
majormajor wrote:
But is there anyone nowadays who thinks someone has composed a symphony greater than Beethoven's 9th

I never understood the fascination with the 9th. The finale is my least favorite part of all his symphonies. Beethoven himself was reported to have had doubts about the last part:

Quote:
Surprisingly, Beethoven seems to have had some doubts about his decision to introduce a vocal finale into the symphony. His student Carl Czerny reported that, well after the premiere, the composer told some of his close friends that he felt he had made a mistake in doing so and that he wanted to eliminate the finale and substitute a purely instrumental movement in its place. He claimed already to have musical ideas for a new movement, but for unknown reasons, he never wrote it or replaced the original version.

Furthermore, I think it's very symplistic to single out one work and call it the greatest ever made. There is no such thing.
I agree with your summing up, of course. I do find it an interesting side-issue, though, that on a clear majority of occasions when I've heard someone cite a musical work and claim absolute pre-eminence for it, the work they've singled out has been Schubert's 9th, not Beethoven's.


My original statement may have been slightly misleading - I am not arguing that Beethoven's 9th is the de facto best symphony ever composed (which isn't to say I don't think it's true), but that no modern symphonies could reasonably be said to be greater than Beethoven's 9th. While interesting to read Czerny's report, it tells us little that Beethoven would question his choice of vocal finale, since he is known to have been critical of almost everything. I think most musicians would place Beethoven's 9th above Schubert's, but I certainly don't condemn the taste of anyone who loves Schubert.
 
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Bill Cook
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majormajor wrote:
I think most musicians would place Beethoven's 9th above Schubert's, but I certainly don't condemn the taste of anyone who loves Schubert.

They may prefer one over the other, but I think many would say the question of which is inherently "better" to be meaningless. Same with boardgames, IMO.
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EMBison wrote:
majormajor wrote:
I think most musicians would place Beethoven's 9th above Schubert's, but I certainly don't condemn the taste of anyone who loves Schubert.

They may prefer one over the other, but I think many would say the question of which is inherently "better" to be meaningless. Same with boardgames, IMO.
Not quite. Insofar games are used in competition they are the 'weapons' players compete with. And as such they'll have to meet certain requirements. I agree that in the recreational realm it's also, or even more, a matter of taste.
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Corey Clark
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mocko wrote:

Corey, this seems to me a really interesting and challenging comment. Can you give us a clearer idea of what you have in mind when you write of "worthless postmodern aesthetic philosophy"?


I used to regard the design of abstract games as a pure science and categorically distinct from the arts. However my attitude has more changed in a way that encompasses the other arts. Doubtless games seem to have a more obvious teleology and metrics of evaluation than art but art ultimately requires systematization as well to accomplish its more nebulous goals with any kind of proficiency.

Having familiarized myself with the musical academic tradition, I will say that reconciliation with established principles, which in turn are founded on the concept of the UNIVERSAL overtone series is something that is evidenced even well beyond the atonal idiom of Schoenberg. Its really only when extramusical concepts such as commentaries, aleatory systems, even extended techniques move to the focal point that things start to break down in a big way. This is not to say we can point at one listener's preferences and say his are better than another persons but it is to say these preferences, to the extent they are fundamentally musical in nature, come down to different treatments of these universal principles. That is to say in order to produce something fundamentally new in terms of its sound a composer would first need to recognize these principles exist and understand their relationships in increasingly subtle ways- and quite honestly it also takes an increasing effort on the part of the listener to pick them up. This is not a result that can be produced through a mere flight of fancy as the trust-fund snowflakes would have it.

Just because we haven't identified a thoroughly objective system of musical evaluation does not allow us to say that such a thing is nonexistent anymore than we can say some random astronomical number is nonexistent and the preponderance of the evidence, if anything points to the possibility of such a system. At the very least right now we can say to the extent that different stylistically unrelated pieces of music still represent some underlying objective principles, they may more easily distinguish themselves from one another. A cat walking across piano keys has about as much of a chance of producing a coherent result as John Cage's star map. Meanwhile Calypso music and Einojuhani Rautavaara have a chasm of any expanse separating these forms of music.

Now that's enough pontificating on music wouldn't you say? Let's tie it back in. Like in game design, the first instance of a (monomedia) methodology in any other art-form could be regarded maybe not as better but still more essential than a much later example of the same idea; after all its given us new tools by which to derive the craft. Connect 6 isn't well regarded because of its goal, something that by then had been done to death but rather because its recognized as the first game to utilize the 12 swap, a metarule that has become invaluable to game designers today. Likewise, we didn't have a connection game before Hex and by being the first instance of an entirely novel objective on an entirely novel board with entirely novel structure and mathematical perfection, Hex has distinguished itself as perhaps the most essential game we have today.

Fortunately for us game designers, unlike various forms of art, game design has a more obvious logos to it. We know what variables make up a good game, we can even quanitfy them and the only question is how to best manipulate them. We can even think of something approximating a best possible abstract. For instance, how about one with up to 300% move conservation over space, high visual clarity, identifiable subgoals and one drawn position that results from perfect play? We can objectively say this game is better than tic-tac-toe any way we slice it as long as we actually impact the cake- something admittedly postmodernists might have a hard time with. The question of how to manipulate all the relevant variables related to mathematics and human cognition to produce superlative games is the academic lacuna serious abstract designers face. In fact once we begin to establish such principles abstract game design may come into its own as an art-form as this will allow for the possibility for aesthetic differences and personal tastes of designers to be relevant in the first place.
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Richard Moxham
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CoreyClark wrote:
mocko wrote:

Corey, this seems to me a really interesting and challenging comment. Can you give us a clearer idea of what you have in mind when you write of "worthless postmodern aesthetic philosophy"?


I used to regard the design of abstract games as a pure science and categorically distinct from the arts. However my attitude has more changed in a way that encompasses the other arts. Doubtless games seem to have a more obvious teleology and metrics of evaluation than art but art ultimately requires systematization as well to accomplish its more nebulous goals with any kind of proficiency.

Having familiarized myself with the musical academic tradition, I will say that reconciliation with established principles, which in turn are founded on the concept of the UNIVERSAL overtone series is something that is evidenced even well beyond the atonal idiom of Schoenberg. Its really only when extramusical concepts such as commentaries, aleatory systems, even extended techniques move to the focal point that things start to break down in a big way. This is not to say we can point at one listener's preferences and say his are better than another persons but it is to say these preferences, to the extent they are fundamentally musical in nature, come down to different treatments of these universal principles. That is to say in order to produce something fundamentally new in terms of its sound a composer would first need to recognize these principles exist and understand their relationships in increasingly subtle ways- and quite honestly it also takes an increasing effort on the part of the listener to pick them up. This is not a result that can be produced through a mere flight of fancy as the trust-fund snowflakes would have it.

Just because we haven't identified a thoroughly objective system of musical evaluation does not allow us to say that such a thing is nonexistent anymore than we can say some random astronomical number is nonexistent and the preponderance of the evidence, if anything points to the possibility of such a system. At the very least right now we can say to the extent that different stylistically unrelated pieces of music still represent some underlying objective principles, they may more easily distinguish themselves from one another. A cat walking across piano keys has about as much of a chance of producing a coherent result as John Cage's star map. Meanwhile Calypso music and Einojuhani Rautavaara have a chasm of any expanse separating these forms of music.

Now that's enough pontificating on music wouldn't you say? Let's tie it back in. Like in game design, the first instance of a (monomedia) methodology in any other art-form could be regarded maybe not as better but still more essential than a much later example of the same idea; after all its given us new tools by which to derive the craft. Connect 6 isn't well regarded because of its goal, something that by then had been done to death but rather because its recognized as the first game to utilize the 12 swap, a metarule that has become invaluable to game designers today. Likewise, we didn't have a connection game before Hex and by being the first instance of an entirely novel objective on an entirely novel board with entirely novel structure and mathematical perfection, Hex has distinguished itself as perhaps the most essential game we have today.

Fortunately for us game designers, unlike various forms of art, game design has a more obvious logos to it. We know what variables make up a good game, we can even quanitfy them and the only question is how to best manipulate them. We can even think of something approximating a best possible abstract. For instance, how about one with up to 300% move conservation over space, high visual clarity, identifiable subgoals and one drawn position that results from perfect play? We can objectively say this game is better than tic-tac-toe any way we slice it as long as we actually impact the cake- something admittedly postmodernists might have a hard time with. The question of how to manipulate all the relevant variables related to mathematics and human cognition to produce superlative games is the academic lacuna serious abstract designers face. In fact once we begin to establish such principles abstract game design may come into its own as an art-form as this will allow for the possibility for aesthetic differences and personal tastes of designers to be relevant in the first place.
Thank you very much for this - an awful lot of effort at someone else's whim, and greatly appreciated in this quarter. A lot to think about, too, though I can't claim by any means to follow everything. Just as you apparently do, I loathe the term "postmodern" (what could it ever sensibly mean to an even halfway rigorous thinker?) but I'm not quite sure what sort of line, in your account of things, 'postmodernists' (whoever they are) take with regard to game design. Is there, for instance, a particular game you could give as an example of such a design - or is that not how it works?

As I say, lots to ponder, and obviously deeply thought-through on your part. Thank you again.

 
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mocko wrote:
Thank you very much for this - an awful lot of effort at someone else's whim, and greatly appreciated in this quarter. A lot to think about, too, though I can't claim by any means to follow everything. Just as you apparently do, I loathe the term "postmodern" (what could it ever sensibly mean to an even halfway rigorous thinker?) but I'm not quite sure what sort of line, in your account of things, 'postmodernists' (whoever they are) take with regard to game design. Is there, for instance, a particular game you could give as an example of such a design - or is that not how it works?

As I say, lots to ponder, and obviously deeply thought-through on your part. Thank you again.

First off, with all due respect, I do like to hear myself talk

The thing about postmodern attitudes is that they really pervade western culture in a way that we are no longer sensitive to them by name. In the arts this is especially true. Postmodernism says that for something to be art only the claim has to be made that it is art (think Duchamp's urinal). I don't find that a particularly robust idea however. Postmodernism necessarily encompasses all truth value claims and therefore along with aesthetic systems brings into question matters such as the topology of the earth which personally I don't believe is up for debate, least of all in any practical sense. And the truly sinister element of postmodernism is that it isn't merely cynical but actually the very quintessence of nihilism. Postmodernism doesn't merely cast doubt on the possibility of truth nor does it say knowing truth is ultimately impossible, because even then we could still identify things that work for us. No, postmodernism says that any truth is just as good as another. That's a subtle distinction on paper but the implications are vast and sweeping when it comes to doing math or science even of the most practical sort. And since that would be complete madness we can be grateful that this philosophy has been relegated to the arts and "soft sciences".

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christianF wrote:
EMBison wrote:
majormajor wrote:
I think most musicians would place Beethoven's 9th above Schubert's, but I certainly don't condemn the taste of anyone who loves Schubert.

They may prefer one over the other, but I think many would say the question of which is inherently "better" to be meaningless. Same with boardgames, IMO.
Not quite. Insofar games are used in competition they are the 'weapons' players compete with. And as such they'll have to meet certain requirements. I agree that in the recreational realm it's also, or even more, a matter of taste.
Even when games are used for something other than serious mental sport they will be more or less suitable for the chosen purpose. This is partly obscured (but not negated) by the fact that games are used for many different purposes. We can't put all games into a single hierarchy without choosing a specific purpose, but one any purpose is chosen there are going to be better and worse games.
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Laurentiu Cristofor
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mocko wrote:
I do find it an interesting side-issue, though, that on a clear majority of occasions when I've heard someone cite a musical work and claim absolute pre-eminence for it, the work they've singled out has been Schubert's 9th, not Beethoven's.

It is called "The Great" after all.
 
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