Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Cards of the Game “Go-Stop” (Project: Localizing “Go-Stop” #4)

In the previous posts, I talked about the mechanics of the game of “Go-stop” popular in Korea. Now let’s go to the terrible cards.

Previous Post
The Game “Go-Stop” in Korean History (Project: Localizing “Go-Stop” #1)
The Game “Go-Stop” and its image in Korea (Project: Localizing “Go-Stop” #2)
The Mechanics of the Game “Go-Stop” (Project: Localizing “Go-Stop” #3)

The cards used in Go-stop are the Japanese “Flower cards”. If you look at these cards, they are the size of less than half of a business card. In the world of American board games, the “Flower cards” are close to the size of a Micro card. In other words, this is small!

I mean small!

Considering that the number of cards in a deck is basically the same as a poker deck’s, shuffling “Flower cards” are rather a pain even for a Korean with itty bitty hands. The fact that the cards are made with plastic does not help with the situation. The size of the Japanese “Flower cards” was determined by the Japanese who created it. And they are known for their small stature.

That was a little bit of a Racist but we, Koreans, have been telling size jokes in relation to the Japanese for a long time. Considering that the Japanese occupied Korea for 35 years, I think Koreans could get away with it. In any case, it is true that Koreans and Japanese have smaller hands compared to Europeans.

However, we have come a long way after eating a lot of imported U.S. beef.

Growth Hormones!

We are considerably larger in both general size and hand size. The size of the Flower cards is no longer really suited to our hands anymore. The only reason the “Flower cards” used in Go-stop are still micro size is tradition and the stubbornness of Korean society.

In regard to the game mechanics, there is no real reason for the cards to be that small. The only thing that may be an issue is the fact that every card that is removed from play is collected in each individual player space faced up.

In the traditional way of playing Go-Stop, this could be rather hectic with all of the cards on the table at the end of the game. Koreans used to play in a rather small play space since everything we used to do was small in scope. Imagine a few small Korean men huddled together playing Go-stop in a side area of a market.

However, this is only an issue when the table being used to play the game is small. Considering the usual game play tables in the U.S., playing Go-Stop with a poker card size cards has no real down side and only up sides.

While the size of the “Flower cards” is an issue, it is miniscule compared to how information is displayed on the Japanese “Flower cards”. The game of Go-Stop is an abstract game in which the illustrations on the cards have no thematic importance. The illustrations only need to clearly convey 3 types of information and any flavor provided is optional. If the flavor over powers the information that the cards need to covey, there is a problem. This is the case of the Japanese “Flower cards”.

I mentioned the 3 types of information on the Japanese “Flower cards” in the previous post.

The first is the number groupings. These groupings are used for matching cards in order to take the cards out of play for one’s point collection. With the Japanese “Flower cards”, these groupings are the 12 month of the year.

The next information type is the “Grades” of the cards. There are five different types of value categories among the Japanese “Flower cards”.    In order to score, you need to collect a number of cards with the same “grade”. With the Japanese “Flower cards”, these grades are…

1.      Bright cards (gwang)
2.      Animal cards (dongmul)
3.      Ribbon cards (tti)
4.      Junk cards (pi)
5.      Double Junk cards (ssang-pi)

The last type of information is the special attributes. These special attributes come into play during the scoring process. They provide bonus points to the player depending on whether specific requirements are met. Usually these are displayed as a variation of the card’s grade.

For example, among the Animal cards, there are birds and other animals. Cards with birds have special effects.

These 3 types of information can be displayed on the cards like they are done on poker cards. Poker cards use numbers/letters (Q) and symbols (©) to covey the two types of information required to play the game. The illustration that may be on the card, while it may have some relation to the information is just providing flavor.
The image of the card above is a Queen of hearts. The information is clearly conveyed to the player holding the card and to the other players who may see it face up on the table.
However, image if the prominent display of numbers/letters (Q) and symbols (©) were removed. The image of this is provided below.

 If you have memorized images, you could dig out the information by looking closely and deciphering the picture. The person on the card looks feminine and has hearts on her chest. Thus, the card is a Queen of hearts. While you can get the information out, this creates a huge barrier to entry into the game. In addition, if the game requires a lot of score tracking and calculation, it slows down the process of the game since you have to go through several unnecessary mental processes.  After significant training, these processes can be reduced. However, this still creates a barrier to entry into the game.

This is what the Japanese “Flower cards” do to the game of Go-Stop. A lot of the play time for less than advanced player is spent trying to track what cards you have. This is because the Japanese “Flower cards” uses the Chinese character approach to information display. If you examine a Chinese character, in many cases, it is a combination of other Chinese characters that are combined and altered to be artistic.

Think of the word “word”. Then, have an artist combine them in an artistic manner to create a picture.

While one can decrypt the meaning of a Chinese character by examination, it is easier to use memorization in the long haul.  At least with Korean, the elements that go into a word are never altered to look better. That is what the Japanese “Flower cards” do.

These are the cards of April which is one of the easier month for deciphering the  “Flower cards”. The black leafs indicate the number groupings which is 4 for April. The first two cards from the left are 4-Junk cards since they have no other graphical elements other than the black leafs.

The card next to them has a red ribbon which shows that the card has a grade of a ribbon. It is a 4- ribbon card. The card on the right has a bird on it. This means that, it is not only an animal card, but also is a bird card. Thus it is a 4-animal-bird card.

While April is an easy month for deciphering the “Flower cards”, none of the elements that the cards share are the same. The black leafs look different in every card for the month of April. For other month, these alterations of graphical elements are more drastic.

What I am trying to say, is that the cards create unnecessary brain processes that act as a barrier to getting into the game. Considering that we live in the age of icons that focus on conveying information concisely, why would be bother to go through the hassle.   I would just go play bridge instead.

Until now, I focused on why localization is required for the game of Go-stop.

In the following posts, I will go over the what I think should be done to localize the game.


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