Despite the fact that I'm not sure what my own chimerical game-to-beat-all-games will look like, there are plenty of perfectly fine "game variants" out there that can be used in the meantime. I've also realized that getting more experience working with them will also help me to build up a database of possible game moves that can only help when I'm designing my own forms.
I've blogged before about a few of these other game variants, and today I'm going to use Charles Cameron's Hipbone rules. The basic idea is to lay down a pattern of inter-connected regions, like this one...
...then start composing a game by "placing" specific ideas in each circular cell. The challenge is to make sure that neighboring cells, connected by lines in the diagram, correspond to ideas that can be inter-connected (in some way), too. The ideas can be words, images, pieces of music, logical arguments, or references to whole other works of art or science. The connections between the ideas can be whatever you want them to be, but it's best when the connections are interesting or even surprising.
(Seems simple, right? The initial moves may be... but then it gets progressively more difficult to think of ideas that will mesh well with the ones already on the board. The last few moves that bring the game to completion can be real head-scratchers. But when done right... sublime!)
So here's what I'm planning: Today I'll start the ball rolling by filling in three cells. What comes next? I don't know! Please feel free, dear readers, to make suggestions about new ideas to add, or to point out connections between existing ones that I missed. As of right now, I have maybe one or two additional thoughts about what to place in some of the other empty cells. Beyond that, I have no idea how this game will be completed. The future is wide open.
Okay, here are those first 3 ideas:
In the central spot, which is connected to all but one of the other cells, I place Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. So many superlatives have been spilled in praise of this masterpiece that I hesitate to add more. Maybe my use of gold for the image of the cell says it all. I first discovered it as a kid, when this toy came packaged with some pre-programmed bleep-bloop music pieces that included the main leitmotif of the Ninth. In college, it was like a religious experience to hear the whole thing for the first time. I memorized the first few stanzas of the choral poetry (Schiller's schmaltzy but earnest Ode to Joy) when taking German.
In the cell "southeast" of the central one, I place the Japanese New Year's tradition of "Daiku." I just learned a few days ago that it's grown into a pretty core tradition for millions in Japan to listen to, or also to sing along with, the Ninth Symphony in the final days of December. It's very similar, I think, to the western practice of putting oneself in a hopeful frame of mind by crafting resolutions for the new year. I used a deep verdant color for the cell because I found a list of Japanese symbolic colors for each month of the year: January's new beginnings include pine and sprout green. The connecting link between this cell and Beethoven's Ninth itself is an obvious one, but this phenomenon seems to be a quite unique thing of its own.
In the lowest spot -- which I don't mean to imply is low in importance, but instead can be a firm foundation to all the rest -- I place Aerosmith's 1973 song Dream On. It was one of their first major hits, and its emotional lyrics still -- after decades of repetition on classic rock radio -- have the power to make you re-examine your life. Songwriter Steven Tyler once said that he came up with much of this song by thinking about his childhood. When still just a toddler, he would crawl beneath his father's piano and listen to him play classical music. The links to "Daiku" are the passion and hopefulness of living one's infinite dreams in a finite world.
Sing with me, sing for the yearFor the cell image I used what I think is the most iconic logo from an Aerosmith album, stylized wings that evoke the band name's origin from pictures of aerial ballet, and also may symbolize the flights of dreamy fancy brought to mind by this song.
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear
Sing with me, just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good lord will take you away
Okay, that's it for now. If you'd like to help make this a crowdsourced Glass Bead Game, please chime in with ideas. Like I said, I've got a few thoughts about my next few moves, but nothing definite. Play on!