Creativity: The Driving Force in Games?

A photo of a sunset being painted by a hand holding an artist's paintbrush, symbolising the creativity of painting the world.The Oatmeal recently released a comic about creativity. In a nutshell, it points out that creativity is like breathing. You have to breathe in before you can breathe out. In this analogy, you can’t produce creative content if you don’t also consume creative content. Creativity is an energy, like electricity or heat; in order to use that energy, you have to get it from somewhere. This can come in the form of reading, watching TV or movies, listening to music, looking at visual arts, and many other forms besides. But in consuming the creativity of others, one becomes more able to create works of one’s own.

This is in part because ideas don’t spring fully formed into a creative person’s head. They are reworkings of things these people have seen or heard or felt or experienced. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, ‘Good artists borrow. Great artists steal!‘ Which is a valid, if somewhat flippant, way of saying that consuming the creative works of others is the essential fuel for one’s own creativity.

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Golden Age of Board Games

A collage of images representing the golden age of board games: a close up of a game of Asphodel in progress; a display of board games for sale; a large gathering of people at a board game cafe; a group of people playing The Resistance; Wil Wheaon dropping lots of dice on an episode of Tabletop; the game Settlers of Catan set up as a demo display.I was talking to an acquaintance of mine the other day. In the course of our discussion, I mentioned that I write blogs about tabletop games. She asked me what I meant by ‘tabletop games.’ When I said, ‘as opposed to video games,’ she responded, ‘So you mean like Monopoly and Sorry?’ I had to explain to her that there was a lot more to modern board games than the ‘classics’ that she was probably used to from her childhood. I got to explain to her that we are currently in the golden age of board games. But it seems to me that her experience is typical; not many people seem to realise just how amazing board games have become in the last two decades. So today, I want to talk about the golden age that we are currently experiencing.

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Player Agency – To Play or to Observe

The boards for the games Candy Land and Snakes and Ladders, overlapping on a table, with the boxes for both games stacked on them. These are two of the worst examples of games with no player agency.Many people had their first experience with games playing things like Candy Land or Snakes and Ladders (the latter being known in the United States, for some reason, as Chutes and Ladders). Other examples may include Hi Ho Cherry-O! and Cootie. What I find interesting about these games is that they are pretty much the perfect examples of games that have no player agency at all.

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Object of the Game vs The reason for playing

A photo of the rules for Parcheesi printed on the inside of the box top. The object of the game is highlighted: it reads 'The object of the game is to be the first player to move his four pawns from his START to his HOME.'Often, when reading the rules to a board game, you will find an entry listed as ‘Object of the Game.’ This tells you the conditions which a player must fulfil in order to be declared the winner. However, it is misleading to call this the ‘object’ of the game. The object of the game is to have fun! Obviously, I’ve talked about this some before. But I want to talk about a specific phenomenon that I see frequently in games, and that’s confusing the object of the game with the victory conditions.

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Discrimination in the Geek Community

Directional road signs, one labelled 'us' pointing left, and one labelled 'them' pointing right.A friend of mine recently posted a link on facebook. This link led to an article about women experiencing harassment at gaming conventions. He also included a link to a second article discussing the same topic. Both articles were, I thought, well written, and described a common problem. The sad truth of the matter is that the geek community does include a lot of discrimination. Obviously, it’s most commonly directed at women, but it’s not limited to that demographic. There are examples of anti-LGBT+ discrimination as well. I would like to take a moment to discuss my thoughts on this matter today.

WARNING!

I’m going to be discussing some fairly bothersome topics in this post. In order to adequately talk about discrimination, I will have to provide some examples of that discrimination. This will include some language that will be offensive, as well as possible triggers. Please be aware that some of what I am about to say is going to bother some people. Use your best judgement in deciding whether to continue reading beyond this point.

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Children as players in roleplaying games

A father GMs for his wife and children, two daughters, all of whom are sitting around a table covered with Dungeons and Dragons paraphernalia.A friend of mine recently posted a link to an article about playing D&D with your kids. It was short, but had some interesting points. In particular, there was the part in which the author described a gaming session with his group that includes some parents who’d brought their children to the game. In this particular session, the three-year-old daughter of one of his fellow players was having fun with his miniatures. He states,

…as I was explaining what each monster was she began to ignore me and make up her own names and stories for them all. I smiled and played along with her. As we played however, I noticed that this was really kick starting her imagination. Stories of strange beasts and dragons with giant spiders as pets…

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