Giochi dell'Oca e di percorso
(by Luigi Ciompi & Adrian Seville)
|"The Game of Goose in Advertising: a Study in Board Game Design"|
|Autore: Seville Adrian|
During the 20th century, the traditional Game of Goose was adapted for promotional purposes to advertise goods and services of many kinds. A few of these games simply reproduced the traditional form of the game, with advertising material being added to the non-playing surface. More usually, though – and more interestingly - the game itself was re-designed, being adapted to emphasise the product being advertised. These adaptations have been little studied. Given the variety and extent of material, an exhaustive treatment is obviously impossible. However, there are aspects that can be treated systematically, giving insights into factors underlying board game design. Of particular interest is the creative tension between, on the one hand, remaining faithful to a well-loved and very playable game and, on the other, devising something clever, new and attractive to promote the product successfully. This paper seeks to outline the three main methods by which creative design solutions have been achieved in this genre of games: use of a ‘story line’; iconographic variation; and rule variation. These ideas are illustrated by a selection of games chosen to show the diversity of approaches, spanning several countries of the world. Such a selection must inevitably omit literally hundreds of games.
2.The "Story Line"
The term "story line" is used in this paper to characterise games where the player is invited – in the imagination – to participate in an unfolding story, from the start to the winning space. In the original Game of Goose, devised in the 16th century, the underlying imagery was that of a game of human life, the aim being to reach 63, representing the ‘grand climacteric’, or crucial year of life. This imagery, deriving from the "Christian’ Cabala", is not made explicit and is not generally apparent to modern players. However, many of the variations of the game throughout the centuries do indeed tell an explicit story – for example, the progress of a new recruit up to high rank in the army, or the course of history, or a geographical tour. Likewise, many of the advertising games have a clearly stated story line:
- healthy development of the child (e.g. "Jeu de Lune", advertising patent medicine against worms: from birth to healthy youth; France)
- a fairyland journey to health and happiness (e.g. the "Ivory Castle Game", advertising Gibbs’ dentifrice; England)
- a particular human life story (e.g. "Le Jeu de l’Oie de la Samaritaine", advertising the Paris department store: life of the founder Ernest Cognac; France)
- the course of a single day from rising to bed ("Le Jeu de Santé", advertising Coca Cola; Canada)
- geographical tour (e.g. "Ganzenspel van ons Wonderschoon Belgie", advertising Nestlé products, Belgium)
- geographical tour (e.g. "Le Jeu de L’Huile de Table de Chartreux”, advertising table oil: tour of Belgium, from Willems, where the oil is made, to the capital; Belgium)
- a journey of exploration (e.g. "La Corsa al Polo", advertising Lana Polo wool: a journey to the North Pole; Italy, 1934)
- a fantastic journey (e.g. "Nutrix Cabouter Spel", advertising biscuits; Netherlands)
- choosing and using the product (e.g. "Jeu de l’oie de la Biscuiterie Lorraine", advertising biscuits; France)
- the process of production and distribution(e.g. "Le Jeu de L’Huile de Table de Chartreux”, advertising table oil: from the peanut onwards; Belgium)
- uses of the product (e.g. "Le Jeu du Lion Noir- Frottinette et Frottinet", promoting cleaning materials: the track consists of several short sequences showing the benefits of using the products and the hazards of using others; France, 1930).
- achieving commercial success (e.g. "Il Commerciodromo", advertising to small shopkeepers the benefits of the cartolibreria wholesalers; Italy).
- civic information (e.g. "UNPA Unione Nazionale Protezione Antiaerea", civil defence against air attack, promoting Roberts pharmaceutical products; Italy).
- useful information (e.g. "Nederland Spaarkas", advertising the savings bank: identification of edible and poisonous mushroom varieties; Netherlands).
It is noticeable that, though the story line is often chosen to associate directly with the product, this is not always so. For example, in the Nestlé game, the design motivation is to produce a game with attractive scenes of the home country, promoting the product by indirect association. Again, the Roberts game promotes the product by associating its manufacturer with a sense of civil responsibility; this game could also be classified as a ‘propaganda game’, another genre of Goose variants.
By no means all advertising games have a story line; instead, they use other means to promote the product. Examples (considered further in later sections) are:
- "Les Jeux de La Phosphatine Falieres", advertising a health food; France, 1906.
- "ALSA levure alsacienne", advertising bakery raising agent; France.
- "Jeu des Combinés Barral", advertising egg preserving compound; France, about 1936.
- "Jeu du Chocolat Menier", advertising chocolate products, France.
The second main method of adapting Goose to the requirements of advertising is that of iconographic variation. In the traditional game, there are:
-the favourable spaces, each denoted by the image of a goose;
-the hazard spaces, denoted as: bridge, inn, well, labyrinth, prison, death;
-the ordinary spaces, often left plain or filled with arbitrary devices;
-the winning space, often showing a goose, a bag of money, the victor or other positive image.
Adaptation of the game by iconographic variation (as opposed to mere decoration) can proceed in a number of typical ways:
(a)goose spaces uniformly replaced thematically
(b)goose spaces replaced thematically but not uniformly
(c)hazards replaced thematically
(d)ordinary spaces (those without special playing significance) treated thematically or otherwise differentiated
(e)winning space treated thematically.
Examples of type (a) occur frequently. For example, in "Les Jeux de La Phosphatine Falieres", a child holding a tin of product appears on each of the traditional ‘goose’ spaces – and, in an example of type (e), the winning space shows children enjoying their Phosphatine soup. This game – beautifully drawn by Benjamin Rabier (1864-1939), creator of the famous image "La vache qui rit" - is very close to the traditional game in most respects. Likewise, in the ALSA game – more modified than the Phosphatine game but retaining many features of traditional Goose - there are iconographic replacements of type (b) emphasising the story line: the geese are replaced by packages of ALSA raising agent. The “death” hazard is replaced by a shopping bag that does not contain such a package – go back to the start: a type (c) replacement. Another example of type (b) occurs in a still-more modified game, the "Jeu de Lune": the favourable spaces show a package either of worm powder or a bottle of worm syrup. The latter game also demonstrates type (c): the successive hazards are: illness in bed; ‘ascarids’ (large intestinal round-worms); nightmares (arising from worms); an ass’ bonnet (for not learning lessons); refusing a bath; ‘oxyures’ (pin worms). The iconographic replacements are consistent with the theme of healthy development, though not all refer directly to the product. A witty adaptation of the “well” space is shown in the "Jeu du Lion Noir": space 32: “bad floor polish” – stay there polishing until released by another. Such type (c) examples could be multiplied. Type (d) is also of frequent occurrence. Again, the Jeu de Lune provides an example: the ordinary spaces show children in various stages of growing up, from the baby (found, evidently, in a cabbage patch) to the youth at the winning square, specified as a ‘large and strong boy of 15 years of age, thanks to Vermifuge Lune’ – this last substitution being an example of type (e). However, not all iconographic variations are directly thematic. For example, the “death” space may be replaced by an image more suitable for a juvenile market: it becomes a scythe in the Phosphatine game, for example, while in the Choclat Menier game it shows a knockout in a boxing ring. And, occasionally, variations seem contrary to any reasonable promotion of the product: the "Jeu de L’Huile de Table de Chartreux”, has, in the “death” space, the seal of guarantee of the oil, with the instruction: go back to space 1 (the peanut).
The key features of the rules that characterise the traditional Game of Goose are:
(a)Agreed stakes, paid into a pool which goes to the winner;
(b)Spiral track of length 63;
(d)Special rules for initial throws of 5,4 and 6,3 allow early wins;
(e)Favourable “goose” spaces on 5,9,14,18,23 etc.;
(f)Move forward by the amount of the throw on landing on a “goose”;
(g)Hazards: pay to the pool and: “bridge” move forward as specified; “inn”: lose a turn; “well”: stay until released by another; “labyrinth”: move back as specified; “prison”: stay until released by another; “death”: go back to start;
(h)change places on a ‘hit’, and pay;
(i)reverse overthrows allow “death” space to be reached after passing it.
These rules are sometimes found unmodified (e.g. Ganzenspel van ons Wonderschoon Belgie). More often, rule variations occur; indeed, these may be so considerable as to leave scarcely any vestige of the traditional game except the unicursal track, e.g. "Le Jeu de Santé", which despite its French-Canadian origin shows no detectable rule inherited from traditional Goose; or "The Ivory Castle Game", where the only influence (traceable to the fact that the firm of Gibbs is French) is the length of the track, finishing on 63 “health and happiness”. The other games listed in section 2 above are more recognisably ‘goose games’. Even so, their rule variations are too numerous to list in full. The examples noted below are chosen because of their relevance to the design problem of promoting the product. Relevant variations (a) relating to stakes occur sometimes. In "Nutrix Cabouter Spel", the stakes are specified as Nutrix biscuits (ten to each player and two for the pot) and, indeed, some of these biscuits are required to be eaten on specific occurrences during the game. Less unusual is the specification of a product-based prize for the winner: e.g. the Huile Chartreux suggests that the winner deserves some table oil. Variations (f) of the doubling rule affecting the “goose” spaces are rare. Examples are:
- doubling rule replaced ("Jeu de l’Alsa", promoting cake raising agent: the rule on landing on a "goose" space, denoted by a packet of raising agent, is “go on to the next cake”);
- doubling rule replaced by “go back to original position” ("Jeu de La Samaritaine": the geese are regarded as symbols of stupidity. However, there are three other spaces where the doubling forward rule applies).
Rule variations (g) affecting the hazards are more common, since these can be readily combined with iconographic variation to reinforce the story line. Examples are:
- “death” space: go back to a specified space, not the start ("Jeu de Lune", promoting medicine against worms: space 58: “oxyures”: go back to space 5, showing a bottle of the medicine. In this game, the other worm-related hazards give rise to the same penalty.
- “inn” space rule adapted: ("Jeu du Lion Noir", space 4, “bad shoe polish” – advance to space 7, “cracked shoes”, and lose two turns. (The same antipathy to "brand X" can be found in the ALSA game).
However, whatever the details, the rules for hazards in general are of the type found in Goose: advance, go back, stay a number of turns, wait for release. Rule variations affecting the playing mechanics (length of track, number of dice) are not thematic and occur when it is desired to accommodate the game to a small sheet of paper. This was a design consideration, since the games were usually given free, though some were rewards for collecting tokens etc. Examples of small sheets are the Barral game (53 spaces), Lion Noir (49 spaces); although the "Jeu de Lune" provides the full 63 spaces on a sheet of comparable size, the paying spaces are uncomfortably small. For games that do not retain the traditional 63 spaces, the arrangement of favourable spaces and hazards is arbitrary. Even for those games that do have 63 spaces, the arrangement of favourable spaces and hazards does not always follow that of Goose: for example, in the ALSA game, the favourable spaces are at 9, 28 and 47. This makes unnecessary the special rule for the initial throw of 9 found in Goose (needed in that game to prevent an instant win, since the geese are arranged by nines). Nevertheless, the ALSA game retains the rule in modified form (advance to 19 “cake” on initial throw of 6:3 and advance to 57 “cake” on initial throw of 5:4). In Goose, these initial throws lead to spaces 26 “dice” and 53 “dice”, respectively. The rule is retained in ALSA game to provide the excitement of a possible early win. The rules for a hit and the reverse overthrows are standard for any game recognisably derived from Goose. By contrast, Le jeu de Santé provides a special rule that the player hit must throw a 5 to move on and does not mention reverse overthrows.
The advertising games form a pleasing and interesting genre. They are designed to look attractive and eye-catching. Some are wittily drawn by eminent cartoonists. The story lines are diverse and often skilfully adapted to the product. Some represent new departures not seen in the other genres of variations of Goose. And all this is done within constraints of cost of production and the need to satisfy the sponsor conscious of the demands of the market. Iconographic variation is imaginative and sometimes reflects a sensitivity to the intended market going beyond simple strengthening of the story line. However, some of the games overcrowd the images and thereby sacrifice a degree of playability. The early games of Goose are often models of clarity, it being obvious without reference to the printed rules which are the hazard spaces and which the favourable ones. The most striking tendency in the rule variations occurs in the treatment of the hazards. In many of these advertising games, the space to which the player is redirected after landing on a hazard is given iconographic significance. This is not true of Goose – though it is true of its contemporary in Italy, Il Barone, also a spiral race game. In Barone, though the rules are not so stable as those of Goose, there are directions of the following kind: space 5 “arab racehorse” – go to space 12 “palio”; space 11 “thief” – go to space 20 “prison”. It is unlikely that many of the inventors of the advertising variants of Goose would have been aware of Barone. A more likely source – if, indeed, one is needed – may be other variants of Goose, for example those with a geographical theme, where similar treatment of hazards appears even in the earliest games, invented by Pierre DuVal in the mid-seventeenth century. Many of the rule variations in the advertising games tend to be arbitrary and are obviously made without knowledge of the intricate self-consistent numerical structure of Goose. Such variations risk detracting from the playing enjoyment of the game. The interweaving of these considerations – practicalities of play, theoretical consideration of the game, cost, promotion of the product, nature of the market – provides a formidable challenge in board game design.
Draft 2 of 10 December 2004