Vision: A Resource for Writers
Is It All Work And No Play For Jack?
may have just spent weeks designing your world and its inhabitants, but did you
give any thought to their social lives? Do your characters work, or fight, all
day and then just retire to a bar at night? Perhaps you've read novels where
that was the case. Maybe it seemed to work fine, but if I lived in a world that
dull I'd probably be dead by now.
the roughest of cultures have games. Children in every civilization play games
as they grow. When they become adults, does that desire for recreation suddenly
can be split into many classifications. In our world we have children's games
games, models and toys) and several types of adult games.
adult games can fall into categories like
of chance (cards, dice, etc.)
of skill (Field events, darts, skeet shooting, foot races)
Games (Soccer, Polo, Hurling)
of intellect (Mancala, Chess, Checkers)
literature also has many examples of these games.
K. Rowling – Quidditch plays a major part in the Harry Potter books.
Gemmell – The Rigante series has a book based almost totally around
Norman – His Gor series has the 'Game' and the 'Players', who walk around
dressed in checker-boarded
clothes and play a game a lot like chess.
even have real world spin-offs like Terry Pratchett's 'THUD' game, which you can
possibilities are endless. If you want to design a game for your world, look at
the culture you are
there religious significance, like in ancient Greece where
the games were part of the worship of the gods? Is gambling popular? We know
games of chance have existed for thousands of years. There is the biblical
reference to the Romans dicing for the robe of Jesus as he was sent for
'intellectual' is the population? The game of Chess, for example, has a long and
varied history. The rules as we know them have only existed for a couple of
hundred years. Before that, pawns initially moved only one square. Chess
developed from another game called Shatranj, which had elephants instead of
bishops, and a less powerful 'queen.'.
Look back even farther and you will find a four-player game called 'Shatarunga'
that used a die to decide what piece was allowed
a bloodthirsty bunch of nomads play chess, or would they be more likely (as in
to play a variant of polo on their war ponies?
ancient Celts knew board games, but they also played a vicious game called
'hurling' which has
survived (in a toned down form) to this day in Ireland and Scotland. In fact, if
you read the ancient
literature, they used this game to settle quarrels instead of a fight, since the
would be a bit lower. Yes, people died playing these games. There were no safety
helmets, no 'fouls.'
far can your imagination take your games?
you think like one of your own characters, you will get more ideas. Imagine that
you, for example, work in the senate
of your local town. You are a pen pusher, you come home at night and ... do
what? Sit and stare at the wall? Get drunk
and collapse, until you do it all over again the next day? There must be
more to life than this. Are you an intellectual? Would you enjoy a board game,
attend a play?
you thirst for bloodier entertainment after a
hard week's work and head for the Coliseum? Do you go there to make money,
laying wagers against the combatants and the racers? Perhaps, as in ancient
Rome, there are well-developed chariot race tracks set up in your world.
Teams from each 'stable' race weekly. The
drivers are heroes to the local crowds. The races are vicious affairs where
whipping an opposing driver is well within the rules. You might bet on your
'faction' in the games, you support them wildly; you perhaps wear their insignia
somewhere about your person - or their colours? This is not a lot different to
modern soccer or baseball games in some ways - all team games have their
Harry Potter work as well without Quidditch? It's not just a recreational
pursuit; the rivalries
are used to move the story forward, to build tension. In the fourth book, the
villain 'fixes' the games in an attempt to
trap and kill the hero. Can you see a way that games and contests could be used
for a similar purpose in your world?
ancient Mayan civilisation played a dangerous game in a stone walled courts with
a solid rubber ball.
By all accounts the team members were heroes to the populace. The game was
dangerous -- the ball could break limbs, or
cause concussion or even death. The players struck the ball with their
hips, but we do not know how much physical contact was allowed between players.
We do know that at least one prince or king took part. It is recorded on one
of their pyramids.
your culture value 'hard men' or would it prefer softer pursuits? Perhaps the
barbarians up the
road play a more vicious game and your culture encounters it - how do they
react? The Romans gathered animals and people from around the world for their
lavish entertainments, with the sponsors
trying to impress the populace. What could the politicians in your world stage
as a recreational activity to sway the population's opinion? Would they even
want to? Might they just take their enemies
and make them fight to the death for sport?
films like Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts,
the gods are depicted as using humankind and
other species as pieces in a game. They move them around a stylised
map and cause death, disaster and conflict by their actions. Are your people
just pieces in someone's game?
about the status of your game players? In the Gor series, the Players are
outside the law. The warring city-states would not harm a Player. The best
famous throughout the world and revered by the citizens. A father might boast to
his son that he once played the Champion of Ar at the Game. It would not matter
that he had lost - he played the champion, it
was an honour that he was allowed to do so. Would your culture revere a sportsman
or a player in the same way?
about games – let them add depth to your world.
Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4)
by J. K. Rowling Publisher:
Scholastic Trade; Reprint edition (July 30, 2002) ISBN: 0439139600
by John Norman Publisher:
New World Publishers; (January 1, 2001) ISBN: 0759201471
Falcon (The Rigante Series, Book 2)
Ballantine Books; (May 1, 2001) ISBN: 0345432363
by Terry Pratchett Publisher: