Boredom has spurred more creativity than any other medium, or at least this is true of the games I invented in childhood. I grew up in the country, with almost no media to speak of, electronic games included. I did, however, have a stack of old business cards, scraps of cardboard, markers.
I came up with a game called “Deer,” in which hunters — players — took turns turning over business cards in an attempt to find hand-drawn bucks with impressive sets of antlers, more often than not coming up with blanks. As with real deer hunting, this game was somewhat tedious. I made a board game that in retrospect would have worked better as a drinking game, since it required absurd feats from participants (“hop on one foot around the room”). I tried these games out on my four younger siblings, a demanding test audience who inevitably rejected my non-shiny creations in favor of playing Scavenger Pirate on the front porch.
Scavenger Pirate was also my idea: this way, we could pretend to be pirates, but we didn’t have to pretend to murder people and steal things. Instead, we created intricate and authentic-looking treasure maps stained with tea and cinders as props for our island treasure-hunting. We scavenged from the paranoia of imaginary pirate gangs who stashed their loot where the navy couldn’t find it. My hero was Sir Francis Drake, who was either a pirate or an amazing explorer depending on who you asked.
Pretending to be someone like Sir Francis was probably the first time I ever recognized that different cultures have wildly different takes on the same events and historical figures — more, that I used the ambiguity to create an interesting story and a character who fit both sides.
Localizing games is tricky this way the world over. To localize successfully, you need storylines and subjects that work when they’re imported, or you risk having to redo the thing from the ground up. Gaining game popularity is tricky — I never quite got the hang of it myself, but I trust the experts featured in this issue.