Outrageous Claims

This is where we state unambiguously just how fine we believe our HipBone Games to be:

games ideally suited to the multimedia capabilities of the web
tight artforms comparable to the sonnet or sonata
games in which true mastery is possible
pretty close in spirit to Hesse's original Glass Bead Game

That's saying a lot, we know. Are we out of our tiny minds? You be the judge.

HipBone Games -- we feel -- can also be useful tools in education and therapy. And lastly, they make terrific party trivia games, and fine ways to keep in touch with friends by correspondence.

Since we're more than a little serious about all this, let's examine each of the four outrageous claims above in a little more detail:

games ideally suited to the multimedia capabilities of the web

The moves in a HipBones game are ideas -- but they can be graphic ideas (a drawing by Maurits Escher, a video clip from Jean Cocteau), or musical ideas (a cut from Joni Mitchell, a theme from a Bach fugue), textual ideas (a quote from Yogi Berra, a paragraph of Annie Dillard) or even numerical ideas (an equation from Werner Heisenberg).

And graphical, musical, textual and numerical ideas can now be juxtaposed with one another -- each can be directly presented on the web in digital form -- something which would have been almost unthinkable before the web came along.

So, yes, though it's perfectly possible to play the HipBone Games with no more than a pencil and paper napkin, we claim they are ideally suited to the multimedia capabilities of the web.

tight artforms comparable to the sonnet or sonata

Serious arrogance here!

In fact, we claim the HipBone Games are not only innovative "multimedia" art forms in their own right...

They offer writers a polyphonic form in which ideas can be presented in juxtaposition rather than in sequence. As such, they are close kin with other avant garde literary forms which cross over into the territory of games, such as Michael Joyce's "hyperfiction" afternoon, a story, and "interactive fiction" games like Gareth Rees' Christminster and Neil deMause's Lost New York.

They are also meditations in the tradition of the Renaissance idea of reading nature as a book, with possible connections to Abraham Abulafia's "associative" techniques of meditation, dillug and kefitsah.

And they can be viewed as offering a test case for a theory of the arts: that what constitutes an art (music, poetry) is a field of discourse (sound, language), while what constitutes a form within that art is a tightly defined structure (sonata, sonnet) which constrains the passions poured through it.

Hesse's Magister Ludi can thus be viewed as describing an art (glasperlenspiel), constituted by a field of discourse (ideas in all media), in which the numbered positions and predefined linkages of the HipBone gameboards provide the formal structural constraint.

If this theory offers an accurate picture of arts and art forms, then it follows that a sonnet-like beauty should be feasible in our games.

games in which true mastery is possible

More serious arrogance...

Chess and Go are games which can be played by ten year olds playing their third or fifteenth match, by gifted amateurs who have been playing for five or ten years, and by Grand Masters: but at each of these levels, the player can feel stretched to his or her limit by the game, can make tragic mistakes or moves of genius -- at what we may term their own level.

Most CD ROM games can be played faster or slower, according as the player has more or less hand-eye coordination, or more scrupulously checks each screen to ensure that they have picked up all the highlighted articles -- and on occasion they may involve the solving of puzzles which are challenging brain teasers at one level or another.

But one doesn't get the sense that every player can be challenged by them in the way that Chess can challenge a beginner or a master, nor -- though there may be extremely quick or scrupulous players who finish the game in less time or after racking up more points -- that there is anything akin to the mastery which an observer of a Chess game can clearly see demonstrated by certain players.

If you take a look at the variety of levels at which the HipBone Games can be played -- ranging from the simplest links like "rodeo rider" to "bucking bronco" in our Chuck Stew game, to the arcane connections between alchemical ideas in the Phoenix and the Peacock game -- or even better, if you try a round or two of our games yourself -- we think you'll agree our games can challenge and stretch players at any level.

That's why we claim the HipBone Games are games in which true mastery is possible, and thus on a par with Chess and Go.

We would like, incidentally, to develop a CD ROM game ourselves which (i) accomplished this stretching of players of all levels to their utmost, so that (ii) moves of genius or folly could be experienced or recognized at any level of play from beginner to master, (iii) thus permitting true mastery of the sort we associate with great Go players -- or great painters or pianists, for that matter...

pretty close in spirit to Hesse's original Glass Bead Game

Hesse's Glass Bead Game is impossible to re-create. And yet consider Hesse's own description of play:
A Game, for example, might start from a given astronomical configuration, or from the actual theme of a Bach fugue, or from a sentence out of Leibniz or the Upanishads, and from this theme, depending on the intentions and talents of the player, it could either further explore and elaborate the initial motif or else enrich its expressiveness by allusions to kindred concepts.
Because players of the HipBone games can juxtapose precisely these kinds of ideas in "natural language", the games themselves can bring them close to an experience of what it must have been like for a Castalian to play Hesse's fabulous game.
I'd been reading and savoring Hesse's Magister Ludi over several weeks, because I knew my friend Charles was working on the design of some games based on Hesse's work -- but I frankly thought the GBG itself was unattainable. It wasn't the sort of thing you could "translate" into playable form: Hesse just didn't give you enough to go on. I figured Charles would come up with an interesting game, because he's bright -- but I didn't see how his game could match what Hesse sketchily described.

Later, after I'd played several of Charles' TenStones and WaterBird games, I re-read a particular passage in Hesse's novel, and was hit by an eerie feeling. As I was reading Hesse's description of his game, I realized I was seeing it in an entirely new way -- because I felt as though I'd actually played it myself. And that's what finally prodded me to join him in the development and promotion of HipBone Games.

There are quite a variety of other attempts to design playable variants on Hesse's game, of course, and a collegial spirit prevails among their designers. May they all in their different ways attain that "unattainable" goal!

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HipBone Games rules, boards, sample games and other materials are copyright (c) Charles Cameron 1995, 96. See Concerning Copyright for full copyright details.