Introduction....................... 1    
   Why Play the Glass Plate Game...... 4
   Playing the Game................... 7
   Sample Game........................ 13
Alternatives....................... 21  
   Making Cards....................... 26   

This Glass Plate Game Instruction Booklet is a draft copy only for limited
circulation to people who would understand this. Copyright (c), 1980,
Dunbar Aitkens.                  

INTRODUCTION Briefly stated, the Glass Plate Game acts as a catalyst to
stimulate conversation and provides a means for recording graphically the
movement of the conversation.  For those familiar with Hermann Hesse's
novel, *The Glass Bead Game* (also published as *Magister Ludi*) the name
Glass Plate Game immediately suggests a relationship to the novell.  The
Glass Plate Game evolved from the discussions of a class titled
"Photoessay of a Hermnn Hesse Novel", offered during 1976 - '77 through
the Experimental College at Oregon State University.  Although the novel
gave rise to the Glass Plate Game, the originators do not claim to have
duplicated Hesse's extremely cdomplex and abstract Glass Bead Game.

While knowledge of the book may enrich a player's appreciation, it is not
necessary to have read the novel to enjoy the game. Both the Glass Bead
Game and the Glass Plate Game are concerned with interrelationships
between concepts from all fields of knowledge, philosophy, and the arts.
A seeking of multidisciplinary understanding through the use of symbols is
the driving motivation for Hesse's corps of devoted Glass Bead Game
players.  For players of the Glass Plate Game the goal is sismilar, albeit
not so formalized or grandiose.  To be a successful Glass Bead Game player
requires years of study and meditation, and the game is taken seriously
only on the highest level.  On the other hand, the Glass Plate Game may be
played by people of almost any age, sophistication level and educational
achievement; symbols take on different significance according to the
orientation and technical training of the players, but are equally valid
for a range of interpretations.  (See the section on variations to adapt
the game for children.) The originators of the Glass Plate Game view it as
a means of deepening and enriching conversation, as well as reducing manay
of the common conversational pitfalls.  The use of symbols in an important
aspect of the Game, and serves to provide a basis structure for
conversation but a structure which remains fluid because of the varied
ways symbols can be interpreted and related to each other.

The Glass Plate Game achieved its present form after roughly 3 years of
modifications based on experimental playings and suggestions made by
different people, beginning with those in the photoessay class.  During
this time the game has gained a following if several hundred players, but
has been handicapped in its dissemination by the lack of a clear written
guide.  This booklet is an attempt to fill that lack.  It is hoped that
with the help of this guide, no teacher will be required for learning to
play the Glass Plate Game and that it will be simple to assemble one's own
game if that seems preferable to buying a manufactured set. Because the
Glass Plate Game has evolved through repeated playings,it has given rise
to many variations on technique and has been adapted to a number of uses,
ranging from solitaire to group brainstorming. 

Some of th most interesting of these alternatives are described briefly
under the heading "variations".  The basic game is presented in detail in
the following pages; in reading these directions the prospective player is
urged to maintain an open and flexible attitude.  Rules are intended as
guidlines and should not be allowed to inhibit or to impose excessive
linearity on a conversation.  Some constraining maya aoccure in the first
few games as players become familiar with the pieces and the moves.  If
feelings of constraint persist it may be due to players striving too hard
to make conversation fit the game rather than adapting the game to enhance


To most people the word "game" implies either a team sport or a
competitive, recreational activity.  Since the Glass Plate Game does not
involve teams or sides, is not competitive, and is incidentally rather tha
primarily recreationall, its function and purpose may not be clear on
first introduction.  Why call it a game at all if it bears little
resemblance to the familiar definition of the word?   The originators have
cnosen to use the word game for these reasons:  to indicate a relationship
to the Glass Bead Game; and because there is no other, more accurately
descriptive word in our language. 

The Glass Plate Game in its standard form is a social activity, not one to
be used at every gathering but intermittently, as the occasion seems
suitable.  Varied effects of the game have been experienced by players,
some of them striking and consistant. The game fulfills the role of
conductor, moderating a conversationn as though it were a musical
composition with defined movements and pauses.  The result is a more
balanced exchange of ideas than is often achieved in small social
gatherings.  Monologue is unlikely, as is domination of the conversationn
by one or two verbal individuals.  The game draws out quiet people and
encourages long-winded ones to express their thoughts more briefly and
pointedly.     Because the challenge move in the game is formalized, the
likelihood of disagreement becoming emotional and personal is reduced.
Although it is hard for most of us to admit error, to say "I was wrong--
that was an inaccurate statement,"  the Glass Plate Game makes this easier
by providing a mechanism so that challenge becomes routine rather than
threatening. Pictographs affect thought processes and the associations of
concepts. Even within the range of a written definationn symbolscan be
interpreted in very individual ways, and often spark the expression of
previously unverbalized thoughts.  This is not only revealing to others in
the group, but to oneself as well.  Half-formed ideas are drawn out for
clarification, and unexpected associations between concepts sometime seem
to leap out from the cards.  The associations are tested through the game
process and may stand as minor revelations or be picked apart by close
scrutiny of the group.  Whatever the outcome, the process is an absorbing
exchange among players seeking a clarity of ideas.        

*The pieces*  The game consists of 24 small wooden cubes, a set of cards,
and approximately 50 small plastic squares in 5 differentcolors.

*Cubes*  Each cube is labelled on two sides with a number, the numbers
running consecutively from 1 to 24d; these are used to mark each move as
it is made, hence according to the progress of the conversation from one
idea to another.  The remaining four faces of each cube are marked with
the folowing symbols: 
       P - Permit
       C - Challenge
       O - Okay
       blank - ssignifies the ending of a particular part of the

*Cards*  Idea Cards are the soul of the Glass Plate Game.  On one side of
each card is a pictograph symbolizing a concept.  On the reverse side is a
brief written explanation of the concept. 

*Plates*  The plates are 5/8 inch square transparent plastic. 

*Players* Although the game may be played by from one to many people, it
is most often played by groups containing 3 to 8. 

*Proceedure*  The idea cards should be examined by each player so that
symbols which are unclear, or of no interest, or objectional for any
reason, may be either clarified or removed from the game. All of the
accepted cards (or whatever number of cards the players choose to use) are
laid out, symbol side up, in the space between the players so that they
are clearly visible to all.  The cubes and plates are placed within reach
of the players. 

*To Begin*  The players sit looking at the cards.  When struck by a
particular image, for whatever reason, any player may open the game by
placing on the chosen card a colored plate and a cube positioned so that
the #1 faces up.  Because this is the first move in the game, no comment
on the meaning of the symbol is required from the player. 

*Responding to a Move*  Any *other* player may now make an association
between the symbol on the card just played and any other symbol which
seems to provide an interesting relation. To do this, a player places a
plate of the same color and the next sequential cube on the new card.
This marks the relationship of the two concepts and must be accompanied by
a verbal explanation of how and/or why the symbols are related to one
another.  A relationship between the cards can be any connection the
players find interesting.

*Response to the Relating of two Concepts*  Any player other than those
who marked one of the two cards being related, may now do one of several
things>  The player may turn the cube on the related card so that the P
faces upward, din which case the relationship has been accepted.  On the
other hand, a player may not understand the relationship made between two
card sysmbols, or may disagree with it, or for some other reason may want
to challenge the association of the two concepts.  In this case, the
player turns the cube so that the C faces upward.  The challenge move is
accompanied by a statement or question, asking for clarificationn of the
association just made.  It is always the cube on the *(last* card in a
relationship that is used to indicate the moves Permit, Challenge, and

*Responding to a challenge*  The player whose symbol association has been
challenged, responds by trying to clarify the relationship seen between
the two cards.  Sometimes, a brief elaboration is all that is required for
the challenger to understand and to feel comfortable with the association
of concepts.  Any player other than the one who made the association and
the one who issued the challenge can Okay the relation by turning the cube
from C to O. There are other possible results of a challenge as well.  A
player may be unable to explain a relationship, or may discover that what
had seemed a clear connection when the move was made is actually false,
superficial, or in other ways unacceptable.  An additional possibility at
this point is that any one of the players may consider the explanation for
the move trite, or for some other reason not of value to the conversation.
Such a rejection of the association, or the reasoning behind the
association is marked by a player turning the cube so that the blank faces
upward.  This is an important aspect of the game in that it forces players
to think carefully before marking a relationship, and discourages hasty
and superficial comments.

*No immediate response*  After a player relates two cards there may be no
immediate, direct response in the form of a Permit or a challenge.
Another player may choose to make a relationship or to start a different
line of thought by opening a new card without relating it to one that has
already been played.  At any subsequent point, players may return to the
relation which received no immediate response, and may Permit it but may
not challenge it.

*Continuing the Game*  Once a dard has been played, Permitted, orIkayed,
the field is clear for players to make new relationships. This can be done
by relating an unmarked card to anay card which has been Permitted or
Okayed, or to the first card in any lines of thought which have already
been developed, by placing the next sequential cube and a colored plate on
a marked card in one sequence and a colored plate of the same color on the
card in another series to which they are relating the card containing the
cube. The card on which the cube is placed is the last move.  To open a
new cad without relating it to any whichhave been played, a player places
the next sequential cube and a plate of a new color on the chosen card.
As in the first move of the game, no comment is necessary as no
relationship is being made. 

*Ending the Game*  The game ends when the players are ready to stop; in
the standard set of cards a player can suggest the game end by placing the
next sequential cube, without a plate, on the pictograph called Return.
If another player turns the cube to P, the game is over.  At the end of
the game, the numbered cubes and colored plates make a clear record of the
conversation, including unexpected relations between concepts, dead ends,
discoveries and all the other varied movements in an exchange of ideas.

                  SAMPLE GAME

Below is a condensed transcription of a two-hour Glass Plate Game, played
by 4 people, followed by a diagrammatic illustration of the final
arrangement of the pieces.  Because only the gist of each comment has been
given, transitions between thoughts seem more abrupt than during the
actual conversation, but it is hoped that this sample game will still
succeed in demonstrating how pieces are used in making associations.

#1. *Hidden talent* 

#2. *Metamorphosis* - An observer in each life stage of a frog's
development would not see the other stages; those would be hidden.
Similarly, people go through nonphysical metamorphoses often as extreme as
the physical ones of a frog or butterfly.  Because these other phases are
not known to an acquaintance they are like hidden talents or hidden
aspects of a personality. 

#3.  *Education* - Part of the role of education, formal or otherwise, is
to help people cope with the mental and emotional metamorphoses that they

*Challenge*:  I don't see that formal education in this country has such
an effect.  Most Americans view education as acquiring skills and learning

*Response*:  This may be what happens in many cases, but I believe
thoughtful educators try to make the process much deeper than mere
training.  Education should help us to learn and think clearly, and the
ability to think clearly helps us to keep our personal struggles in


#4. *Point perspective* - The word i want to emphasize in this card is
"perspective".  I think it is the key word in the discussion of education.
A person with broad knowledge of the world, is more likely to be able to
deal with changes in life, whether these are personal, or cultural, or
economic or whatever.  In other words, triumphs and disasters are both
kept in reasonable perspective.

*Challenge*:  But formal education isn't necessary for a broad knowledge
of the world. *Response*:  That's true, but it can really help, and I
believe it's a rare person who gets a truly broad view of things without
some guidance.  Now this doesn't have to be in school; it could be through
reading or associating with kwowledable or wise people. *Okayed* 

#5.  *The need not to judge* 

#6.  *Beautiful Illusion* -  I know there are people who try to get rid of
all critical and judgemental thoughts in themselves, and while it is
admirable, I think it's an idyllic illusion.  There are bad people in the
world and bad actions that should be judged.  In my mind it's not the
judging that's wrong, but hating others because of their differences from
oneself, and their faialing tmeet whatever standards of behavior we've set

*Challenge*:  The reason judging others is bad is because it implies that
our standard is right, and the only way to live. 

*Response*:  No, I disagree.  It's not possible for all humans to live by
the same standards; there are too manay cultural differences between
peoples.  I'm referring mainly to judging those in our own culture.

*No one Okayed this challenge*.

#7. *Unwanted friendship* -  It seems to me that a person who is in no way
critical of others and makes no judgements is going to end up with
unwanted friendships 

*Challenge*:  But if that person is truly nonjudgemental, then no
friendship would be unwanted because all companions would be equally

*Response*:  That's carrying the idea too far.  There are forms of
interaction between people other than judgement - for instance, having
common interests.  The reason I made this point is because when I was a
kid I couldn't stand to hurt anyone's feelings so I was nice to everyone
and always ended up with all the school outcasts for friends.

*Challenger again*:  That demonstrates my point.  You weren't
nonjudgementa, you were a goody-goody, or it wouldn't have bothered you to
have friends that were rejected by the other kids. 

*Response*.  I see your point and it makes me think I should almost
reverse my reason for associating these two cards.  Let me say this: for a
truly nonjudgemental person there are no unwanted friendships!

#8.  *Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny* 

#9. *Anthropomorphism* -  Humans often have an anthropomorphic approach in
our dealings with animals and even plants; this might be due to some
unconscous "memory" of our evolutionary relationship to other creatures.


#10. *Ambivallence* - It has often seemed to me that this tendency to
anthropomorphism is an expression of a basic ambivalence in our conception
of the human position in nature.  We like to view ourselves as superior to
other animals and totally different from  them.  But at the same time we
identify with other living things and know that our existence is entirely
dependent on them.

*Challenge*:  I would say anthropomorphism stems from lack of imagination.
We can't get far enough out of our own skins to imagine the inner workings
of other organisms so we fall back on thinking they're like people.

*Response*:  I would agree there's truth in what you're saying but I
believe the impulse goes deeper and has mainly to do with our own
uncertainty of self-conception.  We don't know how humans stand in
relation to other animals.

#11. *Struggle* - Ambivalence implies struggling, one feeling trying to
overpower another.  It seems to me that people are full of ambivalences
and it is this basically conflicting nature that Christianity is dealing
with in giving us Heaven and Hell.  People want to be good but are
attracted to evil and then sometimes can't really tell the difference
between them.  We struggle through life trying to rreconcile things such
as love and lust, friendship and ambition.*Permitted*. 

#12. *Union of opposites* -  The union of opposites in the Yin and Yang
symbol represents the happy end of struggle.  I believe good things often
result when people work at resolving their conflicting needs and impulses.
Someone said that without bad there could be no good, and that is the
tension between opposing forces that makes life interesting.

*Challenge*:  Then you're implying that war is alright because without it
there would be no peace. *Response*:  No, I'm saying war is useful or
effective, but not necessarily good.  I'm saying the existence of war
makes peace seem even sweeter.

*At this point a player turnee up the blank side on cube #12.*

#13. I'm relating *unwanted friendship* to *education* because it has
happened to me several times that people I've tried to avoid have
persisted in getting to know me.  And in the end I have learned from them
and even had my whole life radically changed.  Sometimes rejecting people
is like not going into a woods because it looks so dark, but if you are
forced to go inside you realize there is plenty of light and that in fact
the clearings now seem excessively bright.  So the moral is, don't be too
quick to reject a possible friendship! 


#14. Freedom.

#15.  *Death* - My interpretation of the dandelion is certainly not
"freedom".  That seed has no choice -- it is predestined to land wherever
the breeze takes it and then to sprout into a dandelion.  So I relate this
symbol to "death" because both are inevitabilities.


#16.  *Infinity* - The pictograph of the grave appears to represent the
death of the body, but what about the soul?  Many people believe souls
exist throughout infinity.

*Challeng*:  There is no proof of that possibility on either side, so it
can't really be used to make a point -- in other words, it'snot a
debatable questions because there's no data.

 *Response*;  I don't really know what to say to that.  I must be getting

#17.  *Return*.

*Permitted*. End of game.


     Briefly described below are adaptations of the basic Glass Plate
Game, many of which have been played sucessfully.  The list is not only
intended to give specific alternatives, but to illustrate the flexibility
of the game, and to stimulate players to develop a creative approach. 

*Solo*  There are several interesting possibilities for single playing.
Generally, only the cards are used, omitting the move Permit, Challenge,
Okay, and Blank.  Pictographs provide a springboard to aid in exploring
thought;  special cards may be made by a player to aid in exploring
particular subjects, developing the theme for a papeer, writing a story,
etc.  The very first "playing" of the Glass Plate Game consisted of a solo
version in which the player arranged the cards to make a mosaic of related
symbols in a patern showing relationships.

*Assigned topics*  Cards may be developed which represent aspects of one
topic.  There may be prepared beforehand by one person, contributed by all
the players, or created by the group just before a game.  Restriction of
the game to one topic intensifies the challenge and is often extremely
conducive since it  can lead to thorough and detailed discussion.

*Chain or Tree*  This version is played either solo or with a group and
utilizes the cards only.  All of the accepted cards are laid out to one
side of the playing area.  One card is chosen by a player to begin the
game.  As players make relationships, each additional card is placed
adjacient to the one to which it is being related, resulting in the
formation of a branching chain or tree of associations.   The moves Permit
Challenge, and Okay are indicated by the orientation of the card.

This is fun, and makes an interesting picture of a conversation but can
become conested with branching lines of associated concepts.

*Silent Game*  There is no verbalizing of concepts in this game, and the
Challenge, Permit and Okay moves are omitted.  The players use cubes and
colored plates to mark a silent associating of ideas.

*Cumulative Relationships*  In this version of the game each idea
presented must relate to the entire chain of ideas preceeding it, rather
than to the previous *card* only.

 *Playing with a Goal*  The Glass Plate Game can be used in many
situations where people have gathered to achive a purpose.  Examples of
such groups include academic seminars, personnel training sessions
(particularly those concerned with communication skills), brainstorming,
and therapy encounters.  The game has been used successfully in one group
geared toward helping participants to develop work skills.  The originator
of this approach reported that the game helped people see their individual
problems in a social context, thereby easing their feelings of isolation.
One technique used was to encourage two people to talk for 20 minutes or
so about their relationship, while third person listened and made
reprsentative cards.  Then the two speakers played, using the set of

*Adding Cards*  The spontaneous addition of new cards can expand the
possibilities of any game.  Blank cards and pens are placed within reach,
and if a player wants to make a relationship for which no card exists, a
suitable card can be made on the spot. 

*Controlled Game*  Limits may be set on the approximate number of words
used to explain a relationship, and comments may be restricted to moves
where associations are made or challenged. This approach makes the game
more like a standard game and less like a conversation. 

*Symbols only*  This version of the game uses only pictographs, and not
the accompanying written definitions.  Before the game, players assign
meanings to the symbols.  Such an approach allows great flexibility, and
ensures that the cards will be appropriate for a wide range of players.

                          MAKING CARDS

The range of new cards which an be made is as broad as the range of
concepts in human culture.  When first making cards it is possible to
confuse impressions, opinions and individual facts with concepts.  The
Random House Dictionary defines concept as "a general notion or idea" and
"an idea of something formed by mentally combining all its characteristics
or particulars."  Hence a concept represents more than the sum of its
parts and must remain distinct from its components.  For example, the
*fact* that every person inevitably dies is different from the *concept*
of death.  Death not only rpresents an ending but also suggests the ideas
of weakening, mortality, eternity, the equality of all organisms in the
face of death, etc.  The concept of birth or generation is also implied as
an opposite.

Conceptual symbols arise most readily when they are not being sought.
Once a player has it in mind to make cards, ideas are likely to be
suggested by everyday activities and thoughts.  Once a conept is
recognized and representative symbol is found, the concept must be defined
briefly and clearly enought for use on a card.  Definitions should be
understandable to others without further explanation, unless, of course, a
set is being made based on a specific subject.  In this case, cards should
be understandable to others knowledgeable in the particular field
Aside from established symbols associated with particular fields of
knowledge or widespread philosophies (for example, the symbol for yin and
yang), pictographs are more suibject to individual interpretation than are
written definitions.  Such personal yet closely related interpretations
often lead to interesting associations not foreseen by the creator of a
card. This is one of the delightful aspects of the Glass Plate Game, the
exposing of individuality in unexpected contexts.  As with many symbols
which imply opposing meanings, the Glas Plate Game is not only an exercise
in sythesis, but reveals tremendously varied ways in which human thought
can interpret and combine one set of concepts.

     The making of cards can be an absorbing group activity in itself.
Some players have indicated that, for them, creating cards is the most
satisfying aspect of the game.