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How Chess Became Hardcore: A Short Game Design History

Jonathan Lessard. How Chess Became Hardcore A Short Game Design History. XXIII BOARD
GAME STUDIES COLLOQUIUM- The Evolutions of Board Games, Apr 2021, Paris, France.

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In the past 1500 years or so, mainstream chess has known only one major redesign towards the end of the XVth century. Why this happened then and, more importantly, why the change was so quickly and universally adopted is still poorly understood. In this paper I approach the question through the lens of game design history. I begin by analyzing the repercussions of the rule change at the mechanical, dynamical and aesthetical levels (MDA) in an attempt to reconstitute its general rationale. I refute the hypothesis of a brilliant new design automatically relegating the older variant into oblivion. I extend the MDA framework with a new level of analysis, the “meta”, in order to consider historically changing socio- cultural factors. I finally propose that the advent of new chess is the result of a “hardcore capture” made possible by shifts in the game’s player communities