Glass Bead Games
Neural Nets Considered Playful
Back in 1993, I found some files on a BBS
regarding somthing called a "Glass Plate Game", which dealt with moving
around tiles that represented ideas on a map, according to rules based
on the player's interpretation of the iconic pictures on each tile. It
was based on Herman Hesse's famous book
"The Glass Bead Game,"
but I wouldn't know about this until more than ten years later. I was
fascinated and wanted to learn more, but the zip archive was posted
to the BBS as an accident. There was no point in playing with other
teenagers, since cognitive psychology isn't talked about outside of a
Science Fair. Still, the idea stayed with me, and eventually I made a
pen-and-paper game out
The Glass Bead Game With Icehouse Pieces
an Icehouse stash for each player (15 pyramid pieces, 5 1-pip, 5 2-pip and 5 3-pip), each player having a different colour, as well as a pad of Post-It(tm) notes, a pen, and a flat, level and smooth surface the notes and Icehouse pieces can rest on.
An Idea in the context of this game is a Post-It note affixed to the play area with text written on it; the text can be either a subject("a firetruck", "Daphne's boyfriend," "that time we went swimming"), or a predicate ("is red," "eats bugs," "made everyone laugh."). An Indicator is an Icehouse piece resting on it's side on an Idea. An Indicator Indicates another Idea.
Players agree on a single Idea to start. This Idea isn't owned by anyone, so no Indicator will be placed on it. It is called the Root Idea or Theme. Put the idea at one of the edges of the playing area (this is to limit the direction the game will be played). Agree who will go first, and turn order: roshambo works, or odds and evens.
On a player's turn, a player take the post-it notes pad, writes an Idea and places it on the play area with an Indicator. The Player has much lattitude on where the Idea can go, so long as it follows these rules:
- Ideas may not overlap other Ideas. Post-Its usually come in squares, so you can rotate a square so it's corners don't overlap another Post-It.
- You must place the Idea at least 1 Post-It edge-length from the indicated Idea for every pip on the Indicator. (i.e.: with 3-inch Post-Its, an Idea with a 1-point indicator must be placed at least 3 inches away from the indicated Idea. 2-point indicator, 6 inches, and 3-points mean nine inches.
- Ideas are either subjects or predicates; the Idea placed must have an indicator that points to an Idea of the opposite type. Subject ideas will have Indicators pointing to predicate ideas, and vice-versa. (note: if you're playing in Lojban, all Ideas are selbri so you don't need to worry about type) It's a good idea to point to your own Ideas or the Theme, to get a better score in the endgame.
- A newly placed Idea, with it's inidcated Idea, forms a statement: (subject-Idea) is (predicate-Idea)". All players must agree that this statement is true, true in come cases, or at least more likely than not to be true. If the current player cannot come up with a convincing example of this statement, then they must take back their Idea, forfeit their turn, and take a penalty of the number of points on the indicator they tried to use.
- An example of the previous rule: The Idea "grass" is on the table. Another player puts down "is green" and uses an indicator to point this idea at "grass." No argument. The next player writes "is a euphamism for drugs" and indicates "grass." Some naive players may not understand, but more worldly players can cite the documentary "Reefer Madness."
- An Idea can have at most three other Ideas indicating it.
- It is possible (and rewarded) to place a new Idea in such a way that another Idea's Indicator will point to it. There is no limit to how close a newly placed idea can be to other ideas, so long as they do not physically overlap if viewed from above the table. Ideas thus placed must be the opposite type of the indicating Idea, and form valid statements.
The game ends when no more ideas can be placed, either because there are no more indicators left, or no more usable space on the table. Scoring is as follows:
- Lose points for unused pips
- Lose points for pips of indicators pointing to other player's ideas, except the theme idea that started the game.
- Gain points of pips of indicator on ideas, when some other player's idea indicates yours
- sudden idea: what if we turned this over, and you could only point at opponent's ideas? Would avoid the problem of players feeding only on their own thoughts... wait, that means you'd never wish to place an interfering piece. Maybe would work with limited play surface.
- The Metagame (cardgame) by Macklin, Sharp & Zimmerman has a game mode reminiscient of the Glass Bead Game.
- Doug Aitkens's Glass Plate Game was the original inspiration.
- HipBone Games came up with the idea earlier, but I didn't find it until later.
- Mark P. Line's Waldzel Canon Ontology was another attempt at making the Glass Bead Game (website no longer available)
- Joshua Frost devised a bead-and-tile essay form of the glass bead game in 2004. (website no longer available)
- GraphViz for the game boards/maps
- Lojban, a conlang with rules for synthesizing compound ideas and words, was useful in making random glass bead games (if nonsensical ones)
- Icehouse pieces are good abstract game components