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Saló del Prestigi

Hall of fame

Saló del Prestigi

Alfons X el Savi (1221-1284)
Gerolamo Cardano (1501-1576)
Stewart Culin (1858-1929)
Lizzie J. Magie (1866-1948)

 

 

Alfons X the Wise, Gerolamo Cardano, Stewart Culin, and Lizzie J. Magie are the first to be inducted into the Dau Barcelona Hall of Fame. For the first time, the Dau Barcelona Awards will grant this posthumous recognition to historical figures that significantly contributed to the promotion and development of games, especially board games, in past centuries.

King Alfonso X of Castile (1221-1284), also known as the Wise, at the end of his reign, commissioned different learned men and oversaw the writing of the Book of chess, dice, and tables. This masterpiece is the oldest account of chess and other board games, some of which originated in Islamic kingdoms. It is one of the most important documents for research on board games, and it is considered the world's first encyclopaedia of board games.

Gerolamo Cardano (1501-1576), an Italian, was a learned man who specialised in different disciplines, including mathematics, astronomy, physics, and medicine. He was also a great fan of games of chance, often betting money. In addition to various publications on algebra, philosophy, and medicine, he wrote the first treatise on probability and games of chance, entitled Liber de ludo aleae.

American ethnographer Stewart Culin (1858-1929) was a specialist in the world of games. He founded the American Anthropological Association and the American Folklore Society and directed various museums and cultural institutions. After authoring various pieces of literature about games in different parts of the world, such as Korea, China, Hawaii, and the Philippines, in 1907, he published his crowning achievement, Games of the North American Indians, which is still a reference work today.

Another American, Lizzie J. Magie (1866-1948), was a writer, actress, and journalist. She was a Quaker and she created The Landlord’s Game, which thirty years later, was the inspiration for the game Monopoly. She patented the first version in 1904 as a game to show how negative and unfair the hoarding of land could become. This is a far cry from the Monopoly we know today!

The figures inducted into the Dau Barcelona Hall of Fame are selected by the winners of the Dau Barcelona "award for a life dedicated to games" from previous years. Each year, two new historical figures will be added, creating a hall of fame for the most important people in the history of games and board games, an important part of the history of culture.

In the award ceremony of the Dau Barcelona Prizes of November 23, 2019, the winners of the Special Award to a Life dedicated to games Tom Werneck, David Parlett and Dan Glimne, and the director of the festival Dau Barcelona, Oriol Comas, have read these speech about the first four personalities of the Dau Barcelona Hall of Fame.

 

 

Dau Barcelona
Hall of Fame

By Dan Glimne

We have witnessed awards being handed out this evening; awards for clever game designing, as well as for another professional life dedicated to the wonderful, vast, fascinating subject of games.

I like to think that we are actually – right now, historically speaking – experiencing a golden age of games: with boards and pieces, with cards and dice, with tiles and electronics and many other things. Never before has the intellectual variety been so great in games, and never before has their artwork, and their physical design, been so exquisite and appealing.

But this enjoyable state of things has of course not come about by itself. All of us here, award-winners and game designers and players alike, are standing on the shoulders of other men and women who went before us – and who once imagined and created new ideas and things in the world of games, some of which today even seem so self-evident to us that we often fail to think of them as inventions.

Somewhere on the African savannah, perhaps a hundred thousand years ago or so, an ancestor of ours threw a piece of bone or stone on the ground and considered it important which side would fall upward – and thus the concept of dice was born. About twelve-hundred years ago, some noble or lady-in-waiting at the Chinese court took a closer peek at paper money and was suddenly struck by the thought that it was possible to create a game using these notes in various denominations – and so the first playing-cards were born. And some nine-hundred years ago, most likely in Persia or India, a third person saw these early playing cards in action – and came up with the concept of trick-taking.

And this is just to pick three single moments in the long, winding, rich history of games. But who were the men and women behind these three particular momentous insights that I just mentioned? Unfortunately, their names have long been lost in the mists of history. That is truly regrettable.

But there have, over the centuries, been many other such insights, inventions, concepts and creative steps, one after the other – and by persons we DO know the name of, and whose work we who have come afterwards have drawn upon, expanded, improved further, and incorporated into our modern games. It is only right and fair that these historical persons deserve – belatedly – recognition for their intellectual creations and significant contributions to the ongoing, never-ending process of thinking up and enjoying better games.

And thus, for this purpose, we have instituted the Dau Barcelona Hall of Fame, which we inaugurate tonight. The purpose of this Hall of Fame is to honour those persons who in the history of humankind took important steps towards our enjoyment and understanding of what games are, how they function, why we play... and thus they have enriched the cultural heritage that is ours.

After many discussions among those of us who have previously been awarded the Dau Premi Especial trophy, for this inauguration we have eventually chosen four inductees into the Dau Barcelona Hall of Fame: four persons from different epochs and places in history, but all of whom ultimately shared a love of games, and whose contributions in many ways underlie the games that we play and enjoy today. Over the coming years, they shall be followed by others.

 

 

Alfons X.
of Castile,
called
El Sabio

AlfonsX

By Tom Werneck

Alfonso X, called El Sabio, was born on 23 November 1221 in Toledo. He earned his epithe ‘the wise’ not for his political skills but for his life’s achievements in the field of legislature, science and culture. Politically, however, he was as unsuccessful as he was ambitious.

In 1252, at the age of 31, Alfonso became king of Castile and León. First, he scored some minor successes when he was able to recapture main centers of Andalusia from the Moors. But he failed in his attempt to gain the Roman-German kingship for the prestigious imperial crown, although he was a grandson of the Staufer king Philip of Swabia.

An electoral stalemate led to an interregnum. In 1273, after the death of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, the electors chose Rudolf I of Habsburg as Roman-German king. Alfons' way of rigorously exploiting the economy, clumsy treatment of the nobility and, last but not least, even disputes over the throne meant that he was disempowered in 1282. Only his royal title was he allowed to keep. He died alone on April 4, 1284 in Seville.

The list of scientific and cultural institutions he had established is as long as the list of works he either wrote himself or commissioned. However, at the end of the list the Libro de los juegos: acedrez, dados e tablas is often paid little attention - if it is mentioned at all.

However, this wonderful book, an original of which is in the library of the monastic residence Real Sitio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial, documents the rules of many board games and is considered the first and most important collection of chess problems of the Middle Ages. At least, no other book is known that collected together the board and dice games popular at that time.

At first sight it seems to be an exercise book for chess, because it contains 103 chess problems. Almost all are Arabic mansubat, or endgame problems – the forerunners of checkmating and other study problems still common today.

To transfer precious Arabic and Jewish knowledge into Christian Europe, Alfons founded a translator school in Toledo and established Jewish, Muslim and Christian scholars. His admiration for Arabic precision of thought is shown by the extent to which he had concentrated on chess in the book of games.

Following the basic idea of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, Alfons divided games into three categories. For him the book of chess games represented the area of the mind. The book of dice games, on the other hand, related to chance. And last but not least, the book of Tricktrack games linked these two basic human orientations through the medium of reason.

Chess occupies the dominant part of this book of games with 64 in a total of 100 sheets. He dedicated seven pages to a dozen dice games and nine to 15 Tricktrack games. The remaining 20 pages, of which only 18 are still available, illustrate a rich and playful range, as they explain Great Chess, eight-sided dice, 8-man Tricktrack, 10x10 Chess (of these two games both pages are missing), 7-sided dice, 7-man Tricktrack, Four-season-Chess, "The World" Tricktrack, Alquerque and, last but not least, Sphere Chess and Planet Tricktrack.

An emperor who showed an open mind through his tolerance of other religions and cultures, who advanced legislation, the development of the national language and many different scientific developments, and who left us a comprehensive documentation of medieval culture, deserves a place in the Hall of Fame!

 

 

Lizzie
Magie

Lizzie Magie

By David Parlett

Elizabeth Magie Phillips, known better as Lizzie Magie, invented Monopoly – “the world’s most famous game”, as it is rightly called in Phil Orbanes’s book of that title. This fact alone gives her a rightful place in any game-players Hall of Fame. 

Everybody knows Monopoly, but not everybody knows the story behind it or how old it really is. For many years its publishers, Parker Bros, claimed it was invented in 1933 by Charles Darrow, an out-of-work heating engineer. But it has recently become clear that Darrow’s game grew out of a game patented by Lizzie Magie in 1904 under the title The Landlords Game, or just Landlords

Landlords was not designed as an amusing game for children. In fact it was a political game for adults, designed as propaganda for the single-tax theory of economist Henry George, who maintained that in a just society taxes were unnecessary and all Government revenue should come from rent. The land belongs to the people and the holders should pay for its use. Landlords was an anti-capitalist game, quite the reverse of what we now know as Monopoly

But Lizzie was a clever and inventive woman who had already had one game published, and the essential playing elements of Landlords were entirely original. We can see that it is an advanced type of race game, of the same family as the traditional European game of Goose, but greatly altered. Instead of aiming to be the first to reach home, you keep racing round a continuous circuit until all but one player have exhausted their resources (money) and have to drop out. The one remaining is the winner. Until Lizzie’s day the only traditional games of recirculation were varieties of Mancala. But Mancala games are entirely abstract, whereas Landlords/Monopoly begins to approach the modern concept of role-playing in board games. 

Her other innovation was that of purchasing individual spaces of the board, owning and developing properties on them, from which you could earn revenue to enable you to continue the race. I think no one had ever done before. 

Lizzie invented and published several other games during her life, but spent most of her time developing and refining the one closest to her heart. Its basic mechanisms have been borrowed time and time again in board games published throughout the 20th century. Monopoly itself has developed into many other varieties around the world. Only recently I went to London’s Natural History Museum and there purchased a version of Monopoly based on unearthing, buying and selling fossils of dinosaurs! 

 

 

Stewart
Culin

Stewart Culin

By Oriol Comas i Coma

Stewart Culin was born in Philadelphia in 1858. He was appointed director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology at the age of 34. Ten years later, he became Curator of Ethnology at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, a post he would remain in up to his death in April 1929.

Despite never having formally studied anthropology, he was always a remarkable scientist and had enormous expertise in this field. He was also interested, among other disciplines, in Chinese culture and in art and fashion. Notable aspects of his personality, according to the gaming historian Robert Charles Bell, were his frankness and unorthodox way of doing things and speaking. He wrote books on the medicine, religion, art, and popular culture of numerous countries, especially those in Asia, where he often travelled.

Above all, and hence his inclusion in the Dau Barcelona’s Hall of Fame, he conducted considerable research which led him to write about games.

His extensive bibliography features studies on the games of Korea, Japan, Syria, the Philippines, China, Hawaii, and India, and on mancala, chess, card games, and dominoes. His major work was the monumental Games of the North American Indians, published by the Smithsonian Institution in 1907. In fact, this book was part of the Bureau of American Ethnology's annual report of activities, in other words, it was an administrative document. Well, it would have been an administrative document had it not been accompanied by an “extended memoir”, namely, Stewart Culin's study.

Now, we were saying that this work was “monumental”. The volume consists of a 30-page report and a 846-page study on the games of the native North Americans. Eight hundred and forty-six 20x29 cm pages, with 1,112 illustrations by the author himself and 22 photographs and unpaginated engravings, one of which is a coloured frontispiece. The book was the result of a systematic collection of documents of every piece and item relating to the games of native North Americans found in museums in the United States and in private collections, and from the numerous expeditions he had made to Native American reserves, through which he built his own (enormous) collection.

The book on the games of native North Americans remains a reference work for researchers. To put it in the words of the head of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Stewart Culin's book “not only affords an understanding of the technology of the games and of their distribution, not only contributes in a remarkable manner to an appreciation of native modes of thought, but this paper practically creates the science of games and for the first time gives this branch its proper place in the science of man”.

 

 

Gerolamo
Cardano

Gerolamo Cardano

By Dan Glimne

Of Gerolamo Cardano, it may be said that he was the first-ever gambler in history who knew what he was doing, and why.

Cardano was born in 1501 in Pavia, near Milano in present-day Italy, and went on to become a physicist, inventor, astronomer and mathematician. Among the things he invented are the Cardan shaft, still used in the drive train of many automobiles, and the combination lock. But it is in his works in the field of mathematics that we find the chief reason for Cardano’s induction into the Dau Barcelona Hall of Fame.

Gerolamo Cardano, for all his brilliance, had a few disputable character traits; and one of them was gambling. In fact, from about the age of 25 he had an irregular side income from chess, cards and dice. But unlike just about any other gambler of his day, he at the same time systematically collected facts about the games, and started to work out the mathematics inherent in a variety of situations occurring in them. And, he considered the role of luck and randomness in gambling.

The concept of randomness was at the time, in the mid-1500’s, a revolutionary concept. If you had asked the average person then about why the dice and the cards fell the way they did at the tables, the answer would have been that God had a hand in it, or perhaps some other powers that be. To even think that something could occur by chance, without any interaction initiated by gods, demons or magic, was at that time almost unheard of. But Gerolamo Cardano not only dared think that very thought, but also to put it in writing and analyze its ramifications, in his book Liber de Ludo Aleae which was finished around the year 1564 – the title being in Latin and meaning “the book on games of chance”. For reasons which are unclear to us, that book did however not appear in print until 1663, long after Cardano’s death in 1576.

And thus we have what can be said to be the very first analytical book on games in the Western world, describing them in terms of consistent rules, and discussing how games work from a mathematical standpoint. In fact, one particular thing Cardano did in that book was to come up with the novel concepts of odds and probability, defined as the proportions between good and bad and total possible outcomes in a situation. To be fair, Cardano did not get every fact right – but he may be forgiven for that, as he was a pioneer. And in the process, Cardano in his book also addressed the concept of justice and fairness in gambling, even from philosophical, legal and religious viewpoints; and warned against cheating, describing a variety of methods used in his day.

Since then, tens of thousands of books on gambling and other games have seen the light of day – but Cardano’s Liber de Ludo Aleae was the very first scientific one, daring to venture into the unexplored realms of randomness, and providing a cornerstone for modern probability theory. For this, Gerolamo Cardano earns the distinction of having a place in the Dau Barcelona Hall of Fame.