Whenever you play a game, you have to abide by a set of rules. These rules are important as they ensure a fair and fun experience for everyone involved. After all, a game of Monopoly usually ends in an argument and the board being flipped over when someone starts to do something they’re not supposed to.
Some games have really simple sets of rules that don’t require much effort to learn, while others are incredibly complicated and require a lot of time, patience, and energy for you to master.
But have you ever stopped to think about how those rules came into being? Who invents them and how do they decide?
The easiest answer to this question is the person (or company) that creates the game is generally the one who pens the rules.
There are some clear examples of this in practice. The recent viral phenomenon, Wordle, is a word puzzle with a simple set of rules. They were created by its creator, Josh Wardle, though it is believed that he borrowed the concept from a game from 1955 called Jotto.
Regardless, the rules of the game are coded into Wordle since it’s played online. They are simple, you get a new puzzle each day and you must try to guess a five-letter word in six (or fewer) attempts. A colour code will tell you whether you have the correct letters so you can adjust your next guess.
The same is true for Exploding Kittens, one of the most successful examples of a crowdfunded card game. Its designers Elan Lee and Shane Small devised the game themselves, creating rules that were codified for the finished product.
To ensure it was fun and engaging, the team engaged in testing both among themselves and others. You can even find photographs of it being tested online by Elite Team Kitten and other groups.
But It’s Not Quite That Simple…
While the easy answer is to say it is the manufacturer that creates the rules, the reality is they are only responsible for the first stage in the life of a game’s regulations.
Over time, the way people play the game will naturally force some of them to adapt the rules to their preferences. These can then be passed to people that they play with, such as their friends, who then pass it on to their friends.
While it may start off slowly, this can eventually result in an entirely new way of playing or force the manufacturer to revise their official documentation.
One of the most famous examples of this is Monopoly. While it remains very similar today, the original game had two modes — the one we know today and one that used a more socialist-style model. The idea was that players would run the game in both ways and learn about different economic systems.
Of course, it didn’t really work that way as people preferred to just play with the capitalist ruleset so the Parker Brothers dropped the second option.
Creating Forks, Variants, Entirely New Games
When a lot of different rule changes are made organically, they can create variants of the same game.
These are seen regularly in card games like blackjack as its age and international popularity have provided a lot of opportunities for players to experiment with new ways of playing.
This can be seen today from the fact that most online casinos offer a range of different variants, rather than just one. Common variants include classic, premium, and high roller blackjack games that all use the same basic set of rules but with tweaks to certain areas that change some of its mechanics.
The same has been seen in video gaming with games like Counter-Strike. Although it is a stand-alone game today that’s enjoyed by millions, it actually started out as a third-party mod for Half-Life. Some tech-savvy gamers didn’t like the multiplayer functionality of Valve’s game, so they essentially made their own.
The mod was such a success that Valve bought the rights to it and released Counter-Strike as a separate title.