The Glass Bead Game

These rules, the sign language and grammar of the Game, constitute a kind of highly developed secret language drawing upon several science and arts, but especially mathematics and music, and capable of expressing and establishing interrelationships between the contents and the conclusions of nearly all scholarly disciplines, The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts painter might have played with the colors of his palette. All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted to intellectual property - on all this immense body of intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like an organist on the organ.
-- Hermann Hesse, Das Glasperlenspiel (1943)

Written as part of the Game Chef competition for 2006, The Glass Bead Game was one of the top eight finalists, though it did not go on to place in the final competition. The entry draft was written in approximately a week's time.

"This is a fascinating entry. It's a storytelling game with no setting and those are very, very difficult to get right, but this is a very good attempt. The nodes are a pleasantly geeky and interesting way to lay out a story. The resolution mechanic, which involves claiming the nodes as "territory", is completely intriguing. This game won't be for everyone. And I have a slight doubt as to whether I'd want to play this for three sessions. Overall, though, it's an appealing, effective, fascinatingly different game. I'd play it like a shot." -- Graham Walmsley

Inspired by the Hermann Hesse novel of the same name, "The Glass Bead Game" challenges players to find connections between the emotions they bring to the table, building a structure for the stories they will tell. Players create characters that express the themes found at the intersections of these emotions, and play out scenes where their control is limited only by the will of the other players and the constraints they themselves created. The stories they tell will culminate in a narrative that resides in the unmapped space between them.

"I think the components and phases of this game would mesh well in play. It focuses a lot of attention on the emotional tenor of characters and scenes, with the maps connecting them and acting as conveyor belts to drive scenes and link sessions..." -- Mark Vallianatos

The game entered into the competition is very much a first attempt. I've been putting some thought into where the project goes from here and the word that comes up most often is simplify. As written, it's is incredibly complex, and doesn't seem to give players the structural, mechanical help they'll need to construct meaningful stories. There are some good ideas here, most particularly the idea of the game's currency being based on connection: between players, between ideas. I just need to find the mechanics that will support the kind of play I want to encourage.

"It's a cool concept. It's excellently visual. It just needs either a much longer timeframe in which to work, degrees in philosophy or poetry for all participants, or else some of the fancy trimmings removed before it can be a fully playable game." -- Eric Finley

The Game-Chef draft of the Glass Bead Game is hosted as a pdf at the 1km1kt site.

The Glass Bead game can also be purcahsed from Amazon as part of Game Chef 2006: Second Helpings!