Corey and Lori's Quest Log

Corey and Lori’s Quest Log

“Modern Lessons from Classic Games”
Part One: Chess

Let’s face it – We get a little compulsive when it comes to gaming. Of course, some games are more compelling than others. Here are a few of our favorite card and board games, past and present, and some of the game design lessons we’ve learned from them.

Chess – The Classic Board Game

Why has this simple board game survived for thousands of years and remained popular today? Everything is out in plain sight, there are only 6 types of pieces, and the board is a boring 2-dimensional checkerboard of black and white squares. If we proposed a game like this to a publisher today, we’d get laughed out of the building.


What’s to Love About Chess?

That very simplicity is a virtue. You can learn all of the rules in an hour and start playing immediately, yet there are deep strategies that take months or years to acquire. Chess only needs two players, so it’s easy to find a game. The equipment is inexpensive and durable. The best player tends to win (or at least hold the game to a draw), but a less-experienced player always has the chance to come up with a strong winning combination. There are strong national and international chess federations to rate players, hold tournaments, and help players find opponents.

What’s Not to Love About Chess?

Especially in tournaments, a single chess game can take hours to play. In fact, a typical open chess tournament consists of 5 or 6 games. One big mistake in any game can result in a loss that takes you out of contention.

This has been partially solved by use of the chess clock. In a tournament game, it prevents one player from agonizing for hours while his opponent suffers. There are also speed chess games in which each player only has 10 – or 5 or 2 – minutes in which to make all her moves. Speed Chess is a very exciting variant in which both players are likely to make mistakes. Chess also requires a lot of memorization, particularly of opening sequences, to play well. It’s “open” nature (no hidden information) has resulted in exhaustive analysis of opening sequences, which detracts from the creative aspect of that part of the game.

What Can We Learn from Chess?

Games don’t have to be complicated to be fun. Clear rules and a small number of possible “moves” that interact to allow deep strategy can make great games. It also helps that chess is a 2-player game. That makes it easy to find a single opponent and gives a “dueling” quality to a chess game. Chess also benefits from great publicity and online play ability due to the simplicity of the rules and game transcripts. When Electronic Arts first started out, their catch-phrase was “Simple, Hot, and Deep.” That describes Chess perfectly.

Coming Soon

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  1. Lori Says:

    I really enjoyed playing chess as a child. I remember coming home thrilled because I beat three other boys at chess. My mother looked at me and said, “You should let the boy’s win.”

    Somehow, I never quite got that lesson.

  2. Marquillin Says:

    Love the game, though I can agonize over the possibilities for ten minutes sometimes, being very methodical about it; for the other players sake, I ought to learn to dive in more instinctively. It’s hard though, since I make some blatant oversights no matter how long I take, perhaps the brain can adapt in the same way as language immersion.

    Chess is a great example of “less is more”.

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