Chess; The “Off-White Painted Wall” of Games.
Close your eyes and try to make a list of 5 oldest and most classic games of all time. Chances are “chess” will be in that list. Chess is so ubiquitous that I don’t even remember learning how to play it when I was kid, I just know how to play it. Chess is so ubiquitous that, it’s the only game I can play with my “Baby Boomer” dad and my “Lucky Few” grandpa without them feeling like I’ve wasted their time. Chess is just, so ubiquitous. It’s in paintings, designs, posters, movies, cartoons etc. And of course, it’s even in video games.
With its popularity, comes along its many unique and interesting variants. Two of its interesting variants that I want to talk about are “It is as if you were playing chess” by Pippin Barr and “Bennet Foddy’s Speed Chess” by Bennet Foddy. Why do I want to talk about them? Because you have to talk about chess sooner or later, if you’re talking about games, right?
Pippin Barr’s “It is as if you were playing chess”
This particular “variant” of a chess game might bend the rule a little of what “a variant of a chess game” is. What if someone, specifically a game designer, took a concept of “what is chess?” as well as “what is game?” “challenge” it, in a postmodern way? The answer will be this game. As a person who enjoys any form or idea of ‘deconstruction'( that, or I just really like Monty Python-esque stuff), “It Is As If You Were Playing Chess” is a game that I can’t stop smirking while playing it. It’s not so much about the game or what the game wants me to do, but the “novelties” it posited into the game itself.
The rules of the game is simple; You drag a white circle shape into the designated position it is pointing at(as instructed to you in the game), followed by a series of commands that is asking to “look here”at designated area it has marked with ‘X’. And, that’s it. Rinse and repeat. No ‘Kings’ nor ‘Queens’ nor ‘Rooks’ nor ‘Castles’. Not even ‘Pawns” nor the checkerboard itself. None of that familiar chess-y stuff that you can find in chess. Just a white circle, a directional arrow and a dark grey confined “space”, with instructions.
Besides the instructions, there are “flavor” texts that pops in every now and then that “suggest” you to perform certain actions in “real life”. Those texts are amusing to read and to do as it has suggested, but it doesn’t have any sort of “consequences” in the game nor in real life (thankfully) if you don’t follow it.
What “It Is As If You Were Playing Chess” isn’t, it isn’t a “chess game”. What “It Is As If You Were Playing Chess” is, it is “a game about playing chess”. The description about the game by the creator, says it all:
“You’ve always wanted to be a chess master! But you aren’t one! Are you! Now you can at least look like one! Pretend you’re playing chess! Make moves! Act like you feel things! Smirk! Frown! Weep! Chess!” – Pippin Barr
Sidenote: “It Is As If You Were Playing Chess” is a part of a larger project by Pippin Bar called “It is as if you are playing a videogame”. Or it once was? It’s pretty crazy. But the creator of this game is a madman himself. Go to this link if you want to find out more about it and follow his maddening journey. It’s pretty entertaining to say the least: https://www.pippinbarr.com/tag/it-is-as-if-you-were-playing-a-videogame/
Bennet Foddy’s “Bennet Foddy’s Speed Chess”
This “chess game variant”, is a chess game variant I wish that I have sixteen players to play and get confused with. Or at least two players to play and get confused with. I tried to get it to run with all my controllers, but I couldn’t because they game kept putting “the players” on one side and not the other. So, I couldn’t initiate the game. So, take what I said about the game as a person who “observed” from afar.
“Bennet Foddy’s Speed Chess” by Bennet Foddy is a chess game made by a person who respects chess as a game, but hates playing it. It is a chess game that is designed to be “played first and understand the rules later”. It is a chess game that is designed to challenge the conventions that chess veterans are familiar with. It’s no longer about the slow, methodical and logical planning. It’s all about the speed, reflex and anticipations. Or at least that is what I’ve found in my research.
It’s a game in service of chaos. If you like chess, you’ll probably hate this game.” – Bennet Foddy on “Bennet Foddy’s Speed Chess” at “GDC’2014’s Experimental Gameplay Worshop”.
Think about the most important rules of traditional chess game. Chances are you will think of this three rules:
It’s a two-player only game.
It’s a turn-based game.
You can’t eat the King. You can only “check” or “checkmate” the King.
Now cross all three of these rules out:
It’s a two-player only game.
It’s a turn-based game.
You can’t eat the King. You can only “check” or “checkmate” the King to win the game.
And there you have it. “Bennet Foddy’s Speed Chess”.
Chess BENNET FODDY’S SPEED CHESS
It’s a two-player only game.It’s a 2-16 players game.
It’s a turn-based game.It’s a real-time game.
You can’t eat the King. You can only “check” or “checkmate” the King.You eat the king to win the game.
And what you will have a chaotic, confusing, fast-paced, too-many-cooks-type-of chess game:
Non-digitized version of these chess game variants?
Okay, so we know and see many successful video games being brought “out” to real world as board games like “X-COM” board game or “The Witcher Adventure Game” by “Fantasy Flight”. Question is, can “It is as if you were playing chess” and “Bennet Foddy’s Speed Chess” exists outside the realm of the digital world?
It’s a “yes” and “no” for me. Hear me out.
Pushing all of the philosophical hoo-haa about what is “real” and what is”fantasy, I said “Yes”, because literally, there’s nothing for stopping these games to exist in a more “tangible” world (unless the creators do not intent for their respective games to be so).
But I said “No” because can it be played the same way. No. In fact no matter how hard you tried for it be, it can’t. At least at this moment. Or we live in a wizardy world like “Harry Potter”. Let’s take a look of “Bennet Foddy’s Speed Chess” and compare it with a standard high-level “speed chess game:
Some of you already understood what I meant by this, But pay close attention to the real life “speed chess”. Pieces falling all over the place. “Eating” is not as fast as in the game. And you pause… more… when… you… play… it… real… life. And this is just a two-player game. Imagine sixteen people playing it. These are just some of examples of why “Bennet Foddy’s Speed Chess” can exist in “real” world, but can’t be played to the way its original creator intended. That certain “humanistic” factor is what making it a “mess” to play in real life.
Sidenote: “Super Bunnhop” tackled this very same issue as well, but with a different game called “Gwent”. I am highly recommending you to watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xeq1AETA0Q
Well, that’s it yeah? This game will forever stuck in the digital word? Well, not really. When I said “yes”, I also meant it can played differently and still keep the “essence” of those games. I mean, take a look at “X-COM” board game or “The Witcher Adventure Game”. To huge a degree, it plays different different from its original sources. But it’s still an X-COM game. It is still a Witcher game. The “essence” of each respective game is still there.
“Do I want to play “It is as if you were playing chess” and “Bennet Foddy’s Speed Chess” in real life?” Yes. “Do I want to play it the same way as its digital counterpart?” Probably not. But who knows, I’m open to be wrong and being proven wrong. And the virtual reality is slowly creeping into our lives. And that would probably make games like these two, hell of a lot more potent to play, in “real” life.
1. “BENNET FODDY’S SPEED CHESS” – FODDY.NET
2. “It is as if you were playing chess.” – www.pippinbarr.com/games/itisasifyouwereplayingchess
3. “New (old) Project: It is as if you were playing chess” – Pippin Barr.
4. “New Project: It is as if you were playing a videogame” – Pippin Barr.
5. “It is as if you were playing chess: is it a game?” – Pippin Barr.
6. “Pippin Barr press kit” – http://www.pippinbarr.com/games/press/sheet.php?p=It_is_as_if_you_were_playing_chess
7. “A GAME ABOUT PRETEND TO PLAY CHESS IS ALL ABOUT PERFORMANCE” – Nicole Carpenter, KILL SCREEN
8. “Chess was once treated as the video game of the 1800s” – James Plafke, GEEK
1. “‘QWOP’ Creator Bennett Foddy Shows Us His Take on Speed Chess” – Kotaku
2. “Bennett Foddy’s Speed Chess” – Brandon Boyer
3. “Short Vs. Kasparov – Speed Chess Challenge Final Game” – Arkham Noir
4. “Bennett Foddy’s Speed Chess: EGW 2014” – GDC
5. “Magnus Carlsen playing a one minute game against Hans Bohm” – utuub2007
6. “Gwent IRL” – Super Bunnyhop