Playing Games While I’m Board…

Amidst the whirlwind of panic and confusion in recent weeks with the Coronavirus taking the country by storm, I found myself unable to attend the first and what would be only two in-person seminars for BCM300: Game Making. With that, came no experience of playing the given board games with classmates, and thus I have had to come up with my own solution. While not ideal, I think the result was perfect for creating my own unique experience, as I tackled Monopoly and Texas Hold’em… with my mum.

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Firstly, Monopoly. A mass-market family game, its first iteration came in 1903 as Elizabeth Magie looked to create a tool to demonstrate her political beliefs. My experience of the game was far from politically driven, however, as even a civil game amongst family members, purchasing properties and spending time in prison all in a bid to be the victor with all the money, devolved into arguments over rules and cheating. Oh Monopoly, you never fail to cause controversy.

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My… lets say playing partner, seemed to firmly believe that you in fact DID NOT need a full set before you could build properties, and insisted this was the case in variations of the game that existed many years ago (you – like her – can find the rules here.) As comedic as it was, this was a significant point of reflection for me, as I saw first hand an example of a game’s lengthy history (mixed with some stretching of the truth) feeding into the narrative and story of the game’s experience. From there, the game devolved into a bit of fun, playing with rather loose rulings. After all, “If we understand games to be a system of rules… we risk obscuring the way games tell stories. We have to be attentive to the ways that games are both systems and stories.” (Simon Egenfeldt-Nielson et al., 2002).


Our second gaming experience was playing Texas Hold’em. One of many variations of Poker, which often comes with solely a set of playing cards and chips, the game is not at all intuitive. This was by design, as I could observe my… playing partner… learning the game as we went along, similar to how people would have been learning the games played in class. Of course not playing for real money, this took away one of the fundamentals of poker and allowed for us to bet high amounts with no real consequence. 50 dollar chips were bet all over the place, and our bank accounts aren’t looking any worse as a result. This disruption of the game’s usual mechanics – tactical betting that weighs up the risk of losing money with the reward of winning big – allowed for a far more relaxed experience that served more as a card game than gambling extravaganza.

Texas Hold’em, invented in the early 1900s, was actually banned in California as it was deemed a game of strategy instead of chance. That being said, the popular poker variation can be seen as a tactical game of probability and risk analysis, analysing your hand and the cards at play to guesstimate your probability of winning, all while reading the facial expressions of your opponents for a potential read on what they have tucked to their chest.

My experience here tied into my experience with Monopoly, as the laid back setting of playing games in my living room brought the fun side out of what are normally very competitive, stressful and argumentative games. Perhaps Ludas play forms with strict rule sets and specific win conditions need to give way to Paidia forms of play, that are more free flowing and fun for the users. After all, aren’t board games just a bit of a laugh?

That wraps up my experience of games thus far!!! In the early weeks of uni I may have folded to the struggles of poor health, but with more gaming experiences to come… I’m all in.

(I know it’s spelt bored… that wasn’t by accident)

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