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Applying Board Games to Systems

December 2, 2010

One of the things you notice after a few hardcore board game nights, is that you start thinking in terms of board games. Me and my friends joke that the essence of existence can be boiled down into terms of either D&D or Magic the Gathering. Rollover minutes have trample, in various debate teams you have different forms of actions you can take in a certain round, etc.

Anyway, the reason behind this is obvious, because all board games attempt to emulate some form of existing system using agreed upon rules. The various interactions and gameplay that occurs all operate within this system, and thus players are able to come in contact with the system dirrectly. Board games are trying to represent something in the real world, it makes sense then that people would slip into using board games to parse reality.

At this point you may be thinking, “Yes, M, you’re saying that board games are about <strong>things</strong>,” but it’s only a jumping off point, stop hounding me! The significance lies in the fact that board games are attempting create abstract models of existing systems. By learning the rules of a game, you are engaging in a discourse about how these systems function, and looking at their deeper workings.

This is something I believe is integral to human life, and something that I feel is often lost, understanding systems. The economy tanked when the real estate bubble burst and nobody saw it coming? People failed at understanding how the systems at work in the economy would lead to the collapse if left on a certain course. The divorce rate is way up? People are likely struggling to work with the interdependant systems that apply in relationships and the institution of marriage. Etc etc etc.

There are clear lines of cause and effect for those that can spend the time to work out the way the system works. Noone can understand a system entirely, just as noone can win a boardgame 100% of the time, there’s always too many variables. Yet understanding the sort of game strategies that work within the confines of a set of rules, is an excellent step in conditioning yourself to recognize systems at work in the real world. Nearly every other medium works at disguising the interior systems that express the message (video games, movies, books), but boardgames really emphasize the player interacting with those systems. Part of the reason why I think their such a healthy form of entertainment.

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From → game theory, Misc

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