Studies Issue 3

--{ Editorial }--

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  Board games have played an important role as research objects in the sciences of this century. At first, games and board games were studied from a historical perspective. In 1944, Von Neumann and Morgenstern provided a basis for using games and board games in the computer sciences and in economics, such as in the field of game theory. Research on board games accelerated with research on chess, in particular chess masters, which has proved fundamental in the cognitive sciences since de Groot (1949), followed by Newell & Simon and others. Chess is still dominant in most fields but slowly other championship games enter these fields as examples or tools in research.

Only recently has research on board games other than chess been possible. Since Thomas Hyde (1694) there are historical descriptive works on board games. However, even in 1952 when Murray published A History of Board Games Other than Chess, research did not suffice to warrant an important shift in attention in the sciences. These other games had rules, boards, pieces, players and contexts unknown to the academic world. Sometimes parts were known but never studied, as shown by the first Ph.D.-thesis on the subject of draughts (or checkers) only in 1997.

Since 1952, some disciplines of research have started to consider games and board games other than chess. Studies of sculptured game boards in art history (Walker 1990) and a contextual analysis of board games in anthropology (Townshend 1985) are just examples from the field of mancala games. This interest from art history, anthropology and also archaeology (Schädler 1995), psychology (Retschitzki 1990) and linguistics (van der Stoep 1997) has grown rapidly since the 1980s. International colloquia, scholarly books, research centres and a growing number of articles and inventories are being produced for which this annual publication will provide a continuous platform.

Board games are a complex form of games. They consist of boards and various kinds of pieces (dice, pawns, counters, etc.), a system of rules, and most importantly players. The context of playing board games includes referees, interfering and non-interfering spectators, rules of ceremonies or rules of etiquette, club houses and societies, boards for special occasions, etc. Playing a board game introduces movement, sound, atmosphere and other elements which are described by poets rather than academics. If we consider a context with players, boards and pieces, and rules, it appears that these elements cannot be separated for a complete understanding of a board game. The rules may influence the board and vice versa. The players may determine the shape and kind of boards and the specificity of the rules. They form a complex 'being' which is a board game.

Board games in their complexity present the researcher with various questions. For instance, the (inter)relationship of the aspects of a board game are little understood. Also, the historical development and distribution of board games has been a point of discussion which was started in historical works by Murray (1952), Bell (1960), but also by Falkener (1892) and Hyde (1694) to name a few.

Studies of board games collections (Goodfellow 1997 in bgs) are rare and hardly ever coincide with fieldwork on context and rules. The results of fieldwork, collection studies, analyses of rules and the study of players still need to be studied within their interaction, their dependency and their consequences for the development and distribution of board games. The methodology for classification appears fundamental for answering these questions in a systematic way (Eagle 1997 in BGS).

Each article in Board Games Studies makes a rich source of literature available to scholars. This literature makes it possible to study board games with the necessary background knowledge. Area studies appear both in need of this literature and are at the same time instrumental in adding to such literature. This is shown by Depaulis (1997 in BGS) and Verbeeck (1997 in BGS) who contribute considerably to the field of Latin American studies. However, even interdisciplinary area studies are limited in their approach. Most board games appear to be distributed across the continents and rare board games in Asia may only be understood with a thorough understanding of related games in Africa or their relatives in antiquity (Eagle 1997 & Schädler 1997 in BGS). As such, board games studies are interrelated studies separate from but dependent on the known disciplines.

A discipline of research prefers to concentrate on one of the elements of a board game. Archaeologists and art historians tend to study objects, while computer scientists are more interested in rules and their consequences. This results in two general problems for which this journal intends to provide a solution. Firstly, as was stated above, individual disciplines do not give insight in the complexity of board games. Instead, only aspects are discussed without the complexity of their interaction. Secondly, research on board games is presented in many unconnected publications. It is necessary to create a systematic inventory of board games research in order to get insight in the complexity of board games as a whole. Colloquia of the past seven years have already made an attempt in presenting the findings of various disciplines in one publication. This journal is a direct result of the success of and need for these publications.

In line with the particularities mentioned I sense an ambition for board games research. It is my belief that, in the study of board games, the individual disciplines need to be complemented by a perspective which is primarily concerned with the board games themselves. Since academic disciplines cannot provide us with such a viewpoint, it should be the role of this journal to develop and show the importance of such a perspective providing academia with an insight unknown to the practitioners of its established disciplines.

Alexander J. de Voogt

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