Massive Chalice
June 8, 2013

Manorialism, Women, Queerness, and Massive Chalice: Medievalism for the 21st Century

A few days ago the game studio Double Fine launched a widely successful Kickstarter campaign to help fund their next project Massive Chalice, a fantasy turn-based tactics and strategy game that focuses on ‘feudal’ bloodlines.1 Unlike many game campaigns on Kickstarter, which post their project close to the release date, Double Fine decided to launch Massive Chalice with little more than idea and a bucket-load of enthusiasm; this invitation to actively involve the supportive gaming community in the pre-production process (called ‘backers’ on Kickstarter) has not only spurred skyrocketing pledges (currently $877,750 at the time of this post), but also conversations among backers and bloggers regarding how to build a medieval-like social system that incorporates twenty-first century liberal values: namely, gender equality and gay rights. It is with the structures and histories of medieval manorialism, in other words, that seem to be the space to explore current political and civic issues—and, I might add, accomplished with crowdsourcing funds from individuals rather than (or in addition to) major investors.

This post departs somewhat from the usual fare on L&L, but I’ve been following the threads of the conversation closely over the past few days and it is really neat to see how people ‘deal with’ the Middle Ages, especially when perceived political structures are no longer ‘politically correct.’

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  1. The $750,000 campaign reached its goal within five days. []
May 20, 2013

Medieval Puzzle of the Week #1

A few people expressed interest at solving ‘medieval puzzles of the week,’ so this post is a trial run. Similar to the game puzzles you find in a newspaper, I would post a new premodern game puzzle each week (e.g. chess, nine-man morris, alquerque, recreational math problems, etc) and provide historical, manuscript, and practical information about – Read More –

Jack Russell Terrier playing with a ball, image from Wikimedia Commons
April 26, 2013

Do Animals Play Games?

I recently received comments on a piece of writing I had submitted that, like all good peer reviewer feedback, has enabled me to re-examine some of my assumptions (about game culture in particular). Two questions the reviewer raised were: “What is particular about the relation of games to culture?”  and“Could we say that games are designed to resist attributions of significance?”

For me, the keywords here are culture and designed. While the questions themselves lay outside the scope of the work, I believe they nevertheless sit at the heart of many curiosities about games; they not only question the cultural relevance of games, but also their very fabrication. Game scholars oftentimes state that games are products of cultural expression, for this belief stems from an understanding of games as meaning-making systems, which inherently incorporate strict behavioural models. Do games truly stem from culture? Do they portray signs of signification?

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London College of Arms
April 2, 2013

An Afternoon in the Archives at London’s College of Arms

One of the remarkable things about gaming texts is that they tend to show up in seemingly random places. Whether they are hastily scratched onto the back of some poor parchment wrapper or carefully scripted in a lovely illuminated manuscript, the range of manuscripts in which game texts appear attest to their popularity and variegated audience. But this variation also often means that one must tread to unlikely places to find them (and they sometimes take a scholar on quite a journey as well). One such chess treatise in London, which I had the pleasure of consulting, resides in a very unlikely place: the London College of Arms.

College of Arms engraving, c. 1756

College of Arms engraving, c. 1756

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