Thursday, November 28, 2013

Classics Lecture Series: Telling a Story - The Game of Life and Clue

A grand party held on a dreary night is ruined as the homeowner and organizer of the festive event winds up dead, worst of all his murder is one of the fellow party goers. This scene, which could come from a classic Hitchcock movie, is in fact played out in a board game.

Board games can invite people to partake in a story adventure where their choices make the difference.  A game can tell the story of a persons life. The Game of Life is an epic story where you are taken on a journey making important decisions that affect your life. You start as an 18 year old deciding if to go to college, and finish as a 70 year old with god knows how many grand-children picking a place to retire.

In life you have some pivotal moments where you think you control your destiny only to discover Life has a different path for you.  Don’t you find yourself naming your twins and wondering who is your wife sitting next to you in the car, especially when your real life wife is also playing the game and is married to some other random jerk.

But don’t feel sorry for me, I’m a happily married accountant with twin boys, every tax season people need my services, it’s a living, but I want more. I see an add for the community college, sure I still need to pay off the rest of my student loans, but for an opportunity at a more exciting career, the $10,000 doesn't seem that bad. After a few classes in computer science, I decided to dive headlong into my passion for painting and get my arts degree. My wife is screaming at me what in the world am I thinking but I ignore those beautiful pink plastic lips and risk a family life of destitute confident that I will hit it big and we will spend our golden years a millionaire estates.

The game gives you circumstances.  You, the player, take those circumstances and turn it into a story.  

Story events do not have to be a predetermined path.  Stories can be made through game play actions.  In the game of Clue you create the events by bouncing off a series of theories with all the other people who were in the house during the murder.  Each theory is an opportunity to tell a story.
Mrs. Peacock snuck into the library after an argument with Mr. Green about returning to her letters she wrote Mr. Body’s wife prior to their divorce.  Fearful Mr. Body would force her out of high society after he read the letter she concluded her only hope of maintaining her privileged position was to grab the candle stick off the table and beat him to death without him ever knowing her motive.

Each time a player moves another player the player asks “What do you have against me Mrs. White?”  “Well, Ms. Scarlett, I saw how you approached my husband in private.  If you were willing to flirt with a married man then you lack the moral capabilities to stop yourself from murdering poor Mr. Body.”

Clue and Life give us events to weave tales.  They show board game designers that turning a mechanism into a tangible action empowers any game to be more than an abstract competition.  The game becomes real in one’s senses and imagination.

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