Thursday, 29 March 2012

Games Britannia: part 2

Continuing from the first episode, Benjamin Woolley returns to present the influence of board games on British society and how they were used as a moral teaching tradition for many generations.

The episode highlights the invention of Monopoly in America in comparison to the English variation called The Game of the Landlords. Other games covered were Cluedo and Scrabble.

 The Landlords Game

The Landlords Game' similarity to Monopoly was astounding yet it was different to the original game, as in that it had a moral teaching.

Elizabeth Magie collaborated and created the Landlord's Game (in 1904) and was granted a patent on January 5th. Elizabeth wanted to teach others what she learned from studying Progress and Poverty (by Henry George). She stressed that the game was to be a "practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences".

Here is a video of Woolley playing the Landlords game:
I really liked how Elizabeth designed a game with a moral teaching, as stated in the video it would have created discussion on politics and certain moral ethics when playing. Through a game she made it more than a game by teaching through example.

New Games Journalism

New Games Journalism (NGJ), coined in 2004, is a branch of journalism on reporting discussion of video games design, play, and culture. NGJ is a model of New Journalism applied to video game journalism.

New Journalism characteristics

New Journalism has certain technical characteristics that make it different to normal Journalism. In contrast to normal Journalism, the approach highlights art and creativity rather than information based on facts.
  • Subjective journalism - Subjectivism journalism allows for the writer's opinion, ideas or involvement to apply in the approach.
  • Form and technique - Emphasizing opinion over facts through a non-fiction style. Non-fiction writing style involves the usage of actual events narrated and combined with fictitious allegations in the style of fiction.
  • Intensive reportage -The use of the result of the writer's immersion of the subject.
I quite like New Journalism as it adds style and personality through the review of games. People have moved on from boring  non-biased approaches to reviewing games. When reviewing a game the audience needs to know if the game was a major fail or if it was amazing, there is no room for reviews of games that simply state "the game was ok" and had this many good or bad points. New Journalism allows for different and opinionated game journalism which can ignite a discussion and appeal or not to appeal to a certain audience.

An example of New Games Journalism

Gender and Gamers

In any industry, target audience is crucial, so by specifically targeting an audience we can design our game specifically for them.

Our audience? 

In the United Kingdom there are approximately 31.3million gamers, according to the Todays Gamers Survey (TNS Global). Although TNS states that there are over 31million gamers it also states that 73% of the British population plays games, this kind of confuses me because 31 million is a little too low for 73% of the population of Britain so this source may be incorrect or a typo. The base for this survey is 8 years and older who have access to the Internet.

Today's Gamers Survey, United Kingdom Nationl Gamers Survey 2009, TNS Global
As you can see, from graph A, there is an obvious direct correlation between the player age and playing video games. The younger the player, the percentage of play becomes greater. One possible cause for the correlation is the growth of digital media (such as the Internet) becoming so widely accessible.


The discussion of designing female-targeted games - for the untapped female gamer market - or whether "gender-neutral" games should be the ultimate goal is interesting to me. Should we as designers try to make our games marketable for the target audience of girls? I would of course agree that we should strive for both genders rather than one so that the game appeals to both. Contrary to this there are certain genre of games that target a specific gender and also age. 

From graph B, we can see that there is really no correlation between age and average number of hours spent per week on games. What we see in from graph B is that females generally play less hours per week than males.

We can see already that the percentage of game playing males and females are somewhat equal, so from my view the Games Industry has already tapped in to that market and only time will tell if the average hours per week of play equal out.

La Decima Vittima

La Decima Vittima (1965) is an Italian movie about a "Big Hunt". The Big Hunt is a violent game where people are pitted to hunt and kill each other. If a player survives 10 rounds they receive 1 million dollars and gain the status of being a national hero. The premise of La Decima Vittima inspired modern movies such as Battle Royale and the Hunger Games (based off the books).  La decima vittima translates to "The 10th Victim".

Compared to The Hunger Games, Le Decima Vittima strives for comedy rather than epic serious scenes and cool decapitations. This particular scene reminds me of one of the Austin Powers movies scene.
I really liked the movie because it had some really clever and funny moments in it. Other than that the movie tries to convey a message that through games we can transfer our violence from reality to games rather than in reality...which is probably for the good. But then again in the movie real people are actually killing each other in a tv show rather than in a virtual world so I guess what I wrote is rather moot =/....but again it is a non-serious movie...

Ancient Games & The Game of Ur

Games have existed since the dawn of time and can be shown through the example of board games and ancient board games. The earliest known ancient board game dates back from 2600 BC, this is the Royal Game of Ur. Some of these ancient games are still played, for example Chess and Draughts. Other ancients games are: The Viking Game and The Stanway Game.

Classifying Board Games

Ancient games in general have been classed in to different categories by H.J.R. Murray.
  • Games of alignment and configuration - noughts and crosses
  • War games - chess
  • Hunt games - fox and geese
  • Race games - backgammon, pachisi, etc
  • Mancala games - mancala
 R.C. Bell also organised games in to different categories:
  • War games - chess
  • Games of position - nought
  • Mancala games - mancala
  • Dice games - hazard
  • Domino games - ma-jong
  • Race games - pachisi
David Parlett had a much simpler categorised list:
  • Race Games
  • Space Games
  • Chase Games
  • Displace Games
There are some obvious similarities to these list (e.g   Racing Games) however I don't think any of these are right or wrong as games can breach many categories. In my opinion, games don't need to be categorised, when an ancient game in the past was made I doubt they thought, "oh hey, let's make a racing game", they created the game to entertain people when they were bored and obviously people copied the game mechanics and built on them or adapted them.

The Royal Game of Ur

Dating back from 2, 600BC, five significant findings of game boards were excavated from the Royal Cemetery of Ur by Sir Leonard Woolley, between 1926 and1930, which was TRGoU discovered. The board designs consisted of a large rectangle (4x3 squares) and small rectangle (2x3 squares) connected by two squares. Patterns of five rosette squares are spread every four squares. Modern versions of the boards had removed the smaller rectangle for a straight line of eight squares protruding from the large rectangle.

Many writers speculated the rules of the game. Murray suggested that pieces enter and leave the board on the same square, looping in a 27 square circuit (Murray, pp. 20-21, 1952). Bell proposed pieces started on the inner side of the large rectangle and ended on the corresponding side rosettes squares of the smaller rectangle (Bell, Fig. 18, p. 24, 1979). Becker suggested that the boards were used for divination, proposing the elaborate symbols linked to astrology (Becker, pp. 12-13, 2008). In an 1880 excavation, a tablet was unidentifiable until Finkel released his research on the material which was incited by a 1956 journal article featuring the tablet.

 Irving Finkel, who worked as an assistant keeper at the British Museum, deciphered the “cuneiform script” on the tablet. Finkel states that the associated symbols on the tablet linked to astrology (Finkel, p. 18, 2008), however he clearly states the board is used for gaming and not divination. For this essay, we will be using Finkel’s game rules, which he names “The Game of 20 Squares". Finkel’s game rules are based on the late variations of the board, with the smaller rectangle removed, the pieces enter similarly to Bell’s rules and race to the end of the bridge on a rosette. Landing on a rosette gives the advantage of allowing another dice throw. The later versions of the game were played with five pieces rather than seven.

The game mechanics and game rules are specified very clear and concisely by Finkel, especially the complexity involved with the five pieces (white and black counterparts) having different names, starting positions, and values. For example, the Swallow landing on a rosette meant that the player would have “women and well being," this gives the appeal of fortune telling, which would have been quite popular back then because the players were much more superstitious compared to players of this era.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

British Museum Trip

Finally found some time to upload images for the blog on British Museum. Here are some photos I took on the trip !