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What is the Glass Bead Game?

The Glass Bead Game ("GBG") is a kind of artform invented by Hermann_Hesse?.

Perhaps the best way to learn about the GBG is to look over our directory of PlayableVariants.

In short, the basic ideas are:

  1. Analogy -- (relate ideas by likeness)
  2. Connection? -- (connect ideas)
  3. Contemplation? -- (contemplate ideas)
  4. Formalism? -- (rules of play)
  5. Iconicity? -- (compress ideas)
  6. Objectivation? -- (or depth, permanance, syncrotism)

For more on these basic ideas, read PillarsOfTheGbg.


The Glass Bead Game was originally a completely fictional artform described by Hermann_Hesse?. He wrote a book, with the same name, where he described it.

"Under the shifting hegemony of now this, now that science or art, the Game of games had developed into a kind of universal language through which the players could express values and set these in relation to one another. Throughout its history the Game was closely allied with music, and usually proceeded according to musical and mathematical rules. One theme, two themes, or three themes were stated, elaborated, varied, and underwent a development quite similar to that of the theme in a Bach fugue or a concerto movement. A Game, for example, might start from a given astronomical configuration, or from the actual theme of a Bach fugue, or from a sentence out of Leibniz or the Upanishads, and from this theme, depending on the intentions and talents of the player, it could either further explore and elaborate the initial motif or else enrich its expressiveness by allusions to kindred concepts. Beginners learned how to establish parallels, by means of the Game's symbols, between a piece of classical music and the formula for some law of nature. Experts and Masters of the Game freely wove the initial theme into unlimited combinations." -- Hermann_Hesse?, more quotes found on FortuneCookies

Some people think the Glass Bead Game is an unattainable ideal that could only exist in fiction, and that could never exist in the "real world".

We disagree. We work to make real versions of the game. At the very least, PlayableVariants.

See also GbgTalk.