Board Games

One of the greatest pleasures of my childhood was playing Monopoly with my grandparents. I used to play for hours imaging myself as a real estate tycoon buying titles, erecting houses and hotels, collecting rent etc. Then later on I got this game Scotland Yard which was a much more complex game with a much lesser luck element. Here you have an entire map of London on the board. Five players team up to be detectives and one person is a thief. It is a turn based strategy game where the thief moves around the map using various modes of transport and the detectives have to track and catch him or her. Then there are the simpler games – chess and snakes & ladders. The thing about all these games is that they have some kind of basic storyline. Board games are thus another interesting medium for storywriters – both in terms of writing a story for players to live through while playing the game as well as creating a platform for them to jointly create a story.


The games I have mentioned are quite simplistic but I am sure games with much more complex storylines can be created and I have seen some such off late in toy shops which could be just that. Of course one could argue about the relevance of these games with advent of computer games. However there is a charm to a physical game with coins and dice that one can touch and feel with players physically present rather than being located somewhere remotely. Maybe one day virtual reality will remedy the touch and feel aspect and give much better experience than the simple tokens and boards can provide and also have holographical projections of your remote fellow players. But such technology is still some time away. Till then board games will continue to hold sway.

To show the possibility a board can hold for a fantasy story, I must point out the example of one of my favorite movies of all time - Jumanji. In terms of game play, it is one of the simplest and most popular – one moves from square to square based on the dice throws. Squares may have some instructions which cause you to miss a turn, give an extra turn, move you few steps back or move you few steps forward and possibly other penalties and rewards. The whole Jumanji story is centered on the rewards and penalties turning out exotic and real. For instance, a square says stay in the game says ‘stay in the jungle till someone throws six’ and the hero is whisked away really to a jungle and has to be there till someone discovers the game many years later and throws a six. I really like the concept. The makers followed up with a sequel around the same concept – Zathura which was again a fun watch. 

There are also quite some story themes based on the game of chess. The first Harry Potter book and Edgar Rice Boroughs Chess Men of Mars are stories that immediately come to my mind. I am sure there are many more. Of course not just board games – various other kinds of games are also used in different ways in stories. But board games I feel have a closer relation to stories than say something more like a sport like say carom board.

Though board games is not an area where I see as much scope for fantasy fiction, as is evident from my post, there is lot of synergy both in terms of using fantasy concepts to design board games and using a board game to plot a fantasy or science fiction story around.

Coming up next Tuesday - A new series

Comments

  1. Board games and Enid Blyton--it is refreshing to know that the child in you is so very active :-)

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  2. Nothing to beat physical presence for me too :) Will be good to see a more complex fantasy game as a board game.

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    1. They may already be there, Suresh. Maybe I can get one for my son.

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  3. Oh, the vicious quarrels and heartbreaks we used to have over Monopoly! Somehow I couldn't lay may hands on Scotland Yard despite my early introduction to Messrs. Holmes and Watson. As for Jumanji, isn't life a board game, after all?

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    1. Ah - one more common thread in our childhoods, Umashankar.

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  4. That was insightful. A good way to think for a story. It's so interesting how we can get an idea even from board games! :)

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