A Grail for game designers

A Grail for game designers

This section focuses on the challenge of designing playable variants on Hesse's great game, and contains materials on other “GBG variants” such as Mark Line's Waldzell Glass Bead Game and William Horden's Intrachange.

The essence of GBG design, not surprisingly, revolves around an understanding of the game as Hesse envisoned it in the novel – but the process of implementing all or even a part of that vision is one in which many other insights and techniques have to be brought into play.

Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game: A Game Designer's Holy Grail… Written primarily for interested members of the game design community, this piece lays out the essence of the game genre called Glass Bead Games, and suggests why the development of successful, playable Games in this genre can serve as something of a “holy grail” for designers. The GBG is outlined here without quotation from Hermann Hesse's writings. This should permit game designers to grasp the essence of the Game itself, without getting bogged down in the specifics as Hesse described them for his own novelistic purposes – and should also allow those who are already familiar with his work to see the Game in a fresh perspective.

Here are two earlier pieces which cover some of the same ground from different angles:

Summary of Approaches to Glass Bead Game Design was an early attempt to describe both the “natural language” and “hieroglyphic language” approaches to GBG design.

Considerations for those who would build variants on Hermann Hesse's GBG was the 6,000 word article which Lewis Lapham of Harper's read, and which he described as introducing “as many motifs as might be needed for a choral symphony”. Part of it's interest lies in the fact that it explores the irony inherent in Hesse's novel, and raises the question whether the attempt to implement playable GBG variants may not be inherently futile: I don't by any means think it is, and this is where I explain why…

Our last two offerings in this section have to do with the design processes involved in designing some of the actual GBG variants now available on the web.

Origins of the HipBone Games describes how the HipBone Games came into existence at the confluence of Hesse's novel, Gabrielle Rico's “clustering” technique for brainstorming, graph theory in mathematics, a mystical diagram used in the Jewish meditative tradition of Kabbalah and so forth…

The Glass Bead Game and its variants offers a brief overview of a variety of current attempts to create playable variants on Hesse's Game, with special emphasis on the different aspects of the Castalian GBG which seem to be the strengths of each.

HipBone Games rules, boards, sample games and other materials are copyright © Charles Cameron 1995, 96, 97.
See Concerning Copyright for full copyright details.