Jason Pook's Games Design Blog

Chess- Game Theory

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Moving onto board games I played Chess. Chess is a two player strategy board game in which the objective is use your pieces to attack the opponent with the goal of placed the opponents king in checkmate. Check mate is when the king is in a position where it cannot be moved into a safe place or blocked by any other piece, you can put the king in ‘check’ at any point but its only check mate if the check cannot be stopped.


Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi’s theory of flow applies to Chess as the tactical board game requires alot of planning, tactics and intelligence to dominate the board. In a game where both opponents are highly skilled that is when flow occurs, chess will always vary in the flow chart purely dependent on the opponents skill level. If the opponent or yourself is a beginner to the game and is unaware of the rules of the game and the individual piece rules then the requirement to teach them to play will have you or your opponent relaxed until they improve their abilities. My experience in chess is high as I have played it majority of my life and actually won a chess club tournament a few times at junior school, so when I came up against Brad who claimed to be also highly skilled in chess due to his strategies in the game it induced flow, this turned into control mid way through as he unknowingly was forced into a mistake costing him his queen and from that point I never let up and won. Flow continued into my next opponent which was my tutor Paul who is a experienced chess player, this was a much closer game but I eventually got him in check mate.


Categories of Play:

For Roger Caillois’s ‘categories of play’ Chess would fall under primarily ‘Agon’. Agon is games of competition, in Chess it is a 2 player game so you are competing against the other player at all times wanting to be more strategic than them to win the game.

It also falls under ‘Alea’. Alea is games of chance, Chess can fall into chance dependent on if the opponent makes a mistake in the game. Rules of Chess state that one you have let go of your piece if its been moved that is the end of your turn, so if someone makes a move lets go then realises the mistake its too late. So chance can play a part but personally id say its all technical ability.

Bartle Test:

To link this into Bartle’s test which defines you as a player through a series of questions this type of game being strategy based board game is more an ‘achiever’ style of player rather than the others due to the achiever always wants to win, in chess your aim is to place the opponent in check mate or force them into forfeit on impending defeat.

Killer can also apply, Chess is a strategy game to simulate a war field its your army of pieces against your opponents on a battlefield, the way to win is to be the more strategic player by defeating your opponents pieces then eventually the king. By taking an opponents piece to attack their ranks is an offensive strategy a killer would employ.

Socialiser can also apply due to the game being a 2 player activity. Chess is now also a sport hosting big tournaments and a world championship so social presence comes into it if you go professional, otherwise its a social experience between you and another player if challenged to a game of chess.

Chess for me immerses you in the chessboard, even when its not your turn your constantly thinking a few steps ahead planning how you can take your opponent down with various strategies. Personally I like to use my line of pawns as a line of defense but due to the movement of the Jacks and Knights they are available to get out from behind the line of pawns if I should so chose, this allows an offensive but still defensive method of play. I find chess mentally simulating as it tests me and my intelligence in one versus one basis through strategies, this passion for chess and being a constant game in my life since being young has had an effect on other games I enjoy today, like Sid Meier’s Civilisation series.


Author: Jason Pook 3D

Current student at Hull School of Art and Design studying Games Design.

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