Sunday, April 26, 2009

Day 3 of the Board Game Studies 2009 Colloquium

Friday I had to leave at 5:00 in order to get home before shabbat. So I missed whatever happened after 5:00, as well as all the events of the fourth day. Much of that time was spent by the attendees touring around Jerusalem, I believe.


1. Science Museum

We went to the Bloomfield Science Museum. I'm not familiar with other science museums other than the Ontario Science Center, but this one seems like a very nice one for kids, comparable to the OSC, if perhaps smaller.

We first sat down around a table while a museum staff member showed us a number of puzzles: an arrangement of balls you have to stack to make a pyramid, a rope with which you must make a knot without letting go of the ends of the rope, and ropes looped around two people's wrists and interlocked out of which you must get unlocked.

The staff member had only before done this with kids, of whom she claimed 25% were able to solve the puzzles. We told her right off that she was sitting with the world's experts in board games, which impressed her, so naturally none of us were able to solve any of the puzzles (except for the first, and except for those who had already seen the puzzles).

We then went to a games exhibit, where a number of games were set up, each associated with a specific area of thinking. Some were word games.

This one should look familiar: it's Quarto, a game that I think should be a forced draw for either player. In any case, I have never lost, and I doubt I ever will.

This second game was filed under "anticipation". On your turn, you may move a single one of your balls one grid space sideways in either direction. Or, you can jump any number of contiguous pieces (yours or your opponents) in any orthogonal direction. Like Chinese Checkers, the object is to get all your pieces into your opponent's home spaces.

However, there is a twist: on your turn you tilt the board toward you, so any single ball in a double grid slot slides back to your side.

Someone made a big mistake, and I'm fairly sure it's me; the above cannot be the correct rules. Without your opponent cooperating, it seems impossible to actually get your last ball in. When you tilt the board toward you, your last ball is always at least two grid spaces away from your opponent's corner, unless your opponent is kind enough to leave a ball there to prop it up. If anyone can solve this with the rules as given, let me know.

After some wandering around, we returned to Hebrew U.

2. Piet Notebart & Luc Blomme, A method to evaluate math games

Piet and Luc manage a vast collection of 10,000 games in Belgium. They are now organizing the games in various ways. One way it to evaluate the suitability of each game in the classroom setting.

They are first classifying games that can teach math concepts. They're classification categories are based on topics from the Belgium national, Catholic, and kindergarden math curricula. These curricula have 19 major math terms: number sense, quantities, early counting, operations, search strategies (Blokus, Ingenious), measuring (comparison, area, monetary, numerical), geometry, algebra, ... and so on.

Their method is to examine ten aspects of the game material and ten of the concept. Each aspect is evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5 for use in a classroom. All types of games evaluated (not only "math" games).

The material aspects: attractiveness (will kids want to look at the game), clarity of components, orientation issues (can children see the board if it's upside down to them), laguage independence, stability of components during play, durability and replayability of components, functionality (components actually work), clarity of storage solution (so as to quickly evaluate if all parts have been put away), space requirements, and setup requirements.

The concept aspects: complete and clear rules, explainability, knowable time requirement (and not widely variable time length), possibilities of different levels of play for different levels of children, involvement and interaction, matches curriculum goals, the ability for the kids to play independent of teacher assistance, employable in schools (I forget what this is), fun, and originality.

After establishing the categories, they sent questionnaires sent to teachers and also added their own evaluation. When available, they give suggestions to make games more suitable. If the game evaluated as very good (or can be made so), they would like to provide a logo for publishers to put on product. They also develop lesson plans for the games.

3. Yoav Ziv, Redesigning games

Yoav runs workshops where older teens and singles recreate old toys and yard games with new designs. These redesigns might change yard games into table games. Results of these workshops are games such as Ring-o Flamingo by Gamewright.

4. Fred Horn, The Game "Academie" of Mr Van der Gaag

Fred Horn is from Holland, organizes Chess clubs, and creates abstract games. He described his research on the history of game production in Holland, and specifically Mr Van der Gaag and his game "Academie".

5. Claude Hayat, Invention of Games as a Way of Expression

Gadi and Claude

Claude described his abstract games (see second day's notes), and followed with a little on a hard life.

And then I went home, leaving some of my games for them to play later in the evening. I may write some more thoughts about the conference in a followup post.

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