My Approach to the Glass Bead Game

Terence MacNamee

I have always admired the writings of Hermann Hesse. *Das Glasperlenspiel* was the last of his books I got around to reading. When I read it, I said to myself: of course, a computer game! And so I set about trying to reconstruct the Game to Hesse's tantalising specifications.

Following Hesse, I take it that a game is composed by one person, and consists of a series of intellectual structures linked by isomorphism. A particular game may create a mood, or teach a lesson, or broaden understanding. Others may play the game by meditating on the structures, the links, and the conclusion.

To develop such a game, I relied on my background in linguistics, particularly generative grammar, and on my related studies in Structuralism, notably Levi-Strauss on myth and Foucault on the history of thought. I express the series of isomorphic structures making up a game as a series of transformations operated on a root sentence. This initial pattern is called "the sentence", and the transformed exponents of it are called "the tropes". In addition, the sentence and the tropes are provided with "glosses", which are instructions or suggestions for the meditation on each one.

My game is text-based, and written in HyperCard. Some of the structures are also visual, and I envisage an eventual multimedia treatment.

In *Das Glasperlenspiel*, Hesse also mentions the ludus sollemnis, the annual public game attended by members of the fraternity. Again the description is tantalising, but I take it that the ludus sollemnis was presented as a kind of liturgy. As a liturgist myself, I am interested in recreating this kind of game as liturgy, and hope to do so experimentally before long.

Terence MacNamee


See Terence MacNamee's game, The Jewish Cemetery.

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