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Links: Games as Life Lessons, Games as Clothing, and Games as Storytelling Vehicles

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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I'm still digging through my inbox and discovering items that I sent to myself throughout 2019, so let's examine a few that are still relevant:

• Takuya Ono is a board game journalist who runs the Japanese site Table Games of the World, and I republish his coverage of Tokyo Game Market events in this space courtesy of translations from Saigo. Ono is also a member of the International Games Award jury and, in his day job, a student of Buddhism and the 33rd resident priest of Soto Sodomatsuji in Nagai City.

In this January 2019 interview by Taku Kawakami, Ono examines the best games of 2018, highlighting Azul, Piece o' Cake (which had a new edition released in 2018 by publisher New Games Order), and Tricks and the Phantom and talking about those latter two titles from a philosophical perspective instead of a gameplay perspective.

I'm relying on Google Translate for an understanding of the conversation, but I appreciate his thinking about Piece o' Cake, which I'll summarize this way: "The idea of the 'cake separation problem' corresponds to 'Ritagyo', one of the basic practices of Mahayana Buddhism that is prevalent in modern Japan, and it is the idea of ​​making people happy." You can't play Piece o' Cake from a selfish perspective and ignore the needs of others because you will inevitably be disappointed when what you want is taken by someone else. Says Ono, "But what do you want everyone to do? Thinking about this, it is easy to divide things that are pleasing to this person and that are joyful to this person. Then the rest that comes to you will be a nice cake. Naturally it becomes a win-win relationship."

Tricks and the Phantom is a deduction game from Oink Games in which players reveal limited amounts of information while trying to both win and deduce who is going to win. Says Ono: "Play time is short, so if you continue playing with the same people, the game will become more heated. While playing, my presence is gradually conveyed to the opponents, and the identity of that presence depends on those others... There is an idea that you don't exist from the beginning, but appear in your relationship with others. An attachment to oneself is just an attachment to an intangible thing. This is a game where you can feel that teaching strongly."

Takuya Ono (Photo: Kazunari Onoseki)

• Phoebe Wild, who's written for BGG News and who runs Cardboard Vault, is creating a line of tabletop-inspired clothing called LudoCherry. Says Wild, "My goal with LudoCherry is to create clothing that is both beautiful and geeky, that winks at gamers but can be worn anywhere. Those polka dots? They're D20s! The floral design? Look closer and you can spot the hidden meeples!"

A 1950s vibe runs through the line, which Wild plans to Kickstart in 2020. Says Wild, "Each fabric will be available as either a button-up shirt or a skirt — and yes, the skirts have pockets! The shirts will be available in sizes S-4XL, and the skirts in sizes 6-24. Currently we have five unique fabric designs, but are already looking to expand to game-specific ones and a variety of garment types."

• In May 2019, Shut Up & Sit Down posted a video of author Scott Westerfeld giving a talk titled "Victory Points Suck". The video is long and meandering, and game designer Gil Hova nicely dissected the arguments presented in that video in a rebuttal titled "No, victory points don't suck".

Hova's short take: "It is vital to be able to tell the difference between a game that needs improvement and a game that's not to one's taste." A slightly longer take from Hova:
The larger issue is that Westerfeld is a player who derives enormous pleasure from figuring out emergent narrative from a story. There's nothing wrong with this; it's a popular way to enjoy a game.

But the problem is, in the context of Westerfeld's talk, it's the only way to enjoy a game. And just as it would be absurd of me to stand in front of a bunch of writers and tell them that the kinds of stories I enjoy are the only kinds they should write, it's absurd for someone to tell me that the way they enjoy games is the only proper way to enjoy a game.
I also appreciate this bit from Hova:
I know that it's a fashionable thing right now to look at game design as storytelling, and to look at game design as a way of telling stories.

But there's no way around it: It's not a game designer's job to tell a story. Well, not directly, anyway. Rather, it's a game designer's job to create a system capable of telling stories that are always compelling, but not always the same.
• In February 2019, Matthew Ross compiled a GeekList of playing card game systems, that is, a list of various standard and non-standard card decks that can be used to play a variety of card games. Examples include the Decktet, the Badger deck, the Mystique deck, and the Rainbow deck. That info was already publicly available, mind you, but it's nice to have it in one place for comparison (and so that I can find it in this blog via search in the future when I forget where I saw it previously).

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