A Rare Marxist Game Sparks Yet Another Intellectual Property Battle
This week’s New Yorker features a nice bit on the cult board game Le Jeu de la Guerre, a copper- and silver-plated strategy game recently showcased at the “Form as Strategy” exhibit at Columbia University. The 30-year-old game was the brainchild of Guy Debord, a Marxist philosopher and filmmaker probably best known for leading the situationist movement in the 1960s. The New Yorker’s Ben McGrath describes it as “a kind of modernist take on chess” – and evidently a very special one, as only a handful of them were produced. Regardless, the game acquired underground fame among military strategy fanatics, socialists and history buffs alike and led to the creation of a digital version dubbed Kriegspiel (German for “war game”), a free computer game designed by a local programming collective called the Radical Software Group. Alexander Galloway, an associate professor of culture and communication at N.Y.U., is the founder of the collective and helped create the game with mostly scholarly intentions. The game, in both analog and digital forms, serves as an exploration of Debord’s philosophy and his conception of strategy in an increasingly networked (and refracted) society. Kriegspiel is more of an art/history project than anything commercial; Galloway explained that there are only a few hundred players of the computer game and they’re mostly “a smattering of, like, black-wearing English graduate students and sixty-year-old military-reënactment nerds”.