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The Game of Kings

posted by TelltaleGames Telltale Staff on - last edited - Viewed by 344 users
Chess is dumb.

Kevin bought us a lovely wall-hanging chess board for the office. It is one of those kinds with clear pockets and flat plastic pieces that is very large so you can watch the turn of the tides from across the office. The day it arrived Kevin hung it up, slipped every piece snugly in its windowed pocket and scampered mischievously back to his office to watch the chaos ensue from afar.

Gregfrank was the first brave soul to make a move. He innocently moved one of the light pawns forward two spaces, then sat back down at his desk, whistling innocuously. Lunch time approached, and with it a general collecting around the chess board as we discussed various chess strategies, bizarre moves that are legal and yet have no relation what-so-ever to the basic rules and decided how we would mark whose turn it was. Right before we all left for lunch, I decided I'd be the next intrepid soul to make a move. I studied the board carefully, and moved a beautifully calculated dark pawn from H7 to H5. Gregland chuckled and then, all humor gone, said simply "no"�, and moved my pawn back where it started. My honor besmirched, my pride trounced upon, I asked him what was wrong with my tactics. "We need to decide what move to make."� he responded. "I decided on a move!"� "You don't know how to play chess."� He said simply, and returned to his desk, not even taking the time to make a move himself.

I don't know how to play chess?! The audacity. I certainly DO know how to play chess. I know what moves all the pieces make and I understand the goal. What more is there to a game than understanding the rules and the goal? (Well, the avoidance of cheating, no matter how tempting).

From that moment on, I skulked by my desk, staring with bile at the vinyl board which had now become some sort of strategic general status symbol. I cursed Kevin and Gregfrank as they made move after move, oblivious to my wounded pride. I would tell the story of Gregland's insensitivity again and again to anyone who would listen, painting him as a cruel villain until the whole office stared at him and muttered things under their breath whenever he passed by. Mua ha ha.

After telling this story for the umpteenth time, Gregland looked up in exasperation from his CSI related blood spatters and fluid samples and commented "Well, I guess the difference is if you're playing to win or playing to have fun."�

What I think Greg meant (I didn't ask him, only stared him down with penetrating darts of iciness) is that the act of trying to win is a different kind of fun than exploring the possibilities the game has to offer. "Playing to win"� should also be fun, or else why would one play the game? But exploration offers a different kind of reward.

Academics offer up many different definitions for what constitutes a "game"�. Many of them require that the game have a winning or losing condition. The ones I prefer require instead that games have goals that can be set by the player. Winning can be a goal. Reaching level 30 with your half-elf wizard can be a goal. Causing as much frustration as possible by secretly making bad chess moves while no one is looking can be a goal.

Adventure gamers seldom say they have "won"� an adventure game. Or even that they have "beat"� it. They say things like they have "finished"� the game. In other words, they have explored the world to their heart's content and followed all the story lines to their completion. This is the essence of their charm. An adventure game gives you a world to explore, characters to meet, and challenges to overcome. The player can set their own pace, doesn't have to worry about pitting their brain against a cruel and deceitful opponent and can lose themselves in another world. At least, these are the qualities about them that I have always appreciated.

Life is stressful enough without my entertainment being about winning or losing. No matter what game I am playing, whether I'm playing on a board or a computer or a console, I play for fun. This can frustrate those who take their gaming as seriously as their breathing. Chess is one of those games that seem to generate and amplify this frothy competitiveness.

Excellent! No one's watching! Now, should I move that castle thingie or the horsie guy? (Whose turn is it anyway?)
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