PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Jeremy Antley on 1989: Dawn of Freedom

The website Play the Past always has great material on “the intersection of cultural heritage (very broadly defined) and games/meaningful play (equally broadly defined)”—which is why we feature it in the RSS feed here at PAXsims. Most recently, Jeremy Antley examines the boardgame 1989: Dawn of Freedom (which we reviewed here), and in the process makes a couple of important points about the way in which we intellectually engage with games themselves.

First, Jeremy rightly emphasizes that to understand a game one must experience it. As he puts it, “games are kinetic objects that surrender the nuances of their design only through active operation.  Just as you cannot fully understand the feeling of riding a roller-coaster by sight alone, so too will the integration of a games play-design mechanics elude you if you do not engage with the game on its own terms.”

This is true not only for what might be termed (to use the kinetic metaphor) as the “physics” of the game, but also especially for its “metaphysics.” By this I refer to the many intangible ways in which its game creates the experience of play, such as the sense of excitement that it generates, or the degree to which rules, player interactions, and physical presentation all combine to create an immersive sense of being elsewhere (whether that be in in Eastern Europe as communism falls, exploring  derelict spaceship, or anywhere else that a game seeks to depict). Even games that don’t aim at immersion in a historical or imagined world derive much of their value from things like the social interactions they encourage among players, something that is hard to envisage from the rules alone.

Second, Jeremy emphasizes the extent to which our ability to understand the features, designer’s intent, and played experience of a game is greatly enhanced today by a vibrant community of online discussion. BoardGameGeek, ConSimWorld, and other sites provide opportunity not only for player discussions and reviews, but also for thoughtful interaction with designers themselves. The result is a truly rich array of perspectives, experiences, and analysis.

For more of Jeremy’s thoughts on games, history, knowledge, and understanding, visit his blog Peasant Muse.

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