Chess is quite a game. The game. Chess is so old and so esteemed it’s often used as a point of legitimacy for other things. If you have a lengthy discussion about Street Fighter, critical or not, you’ve started a countdown to an inevitable “like chess” comparison. It’s easy to pick up and yet so hard to master that becoming the best at it gets you called a prodigy. It’s dramatic, it’s intensive, and largely seen as balanced. “Why fix what isn’t broken?” says two percent of the world’s coffee mugs.
In any case, the video game XYQ4 is an attempt to break chess just to see what happens. The result is a glitched-out zombie version of a classic. But first—what’s with that name?
“Originally it was just a placeholder name,” says creator Damian Sommer. “But then it was more like a deliberate choice of characters that seemed random but aren’t. X and Y work together, Q is another odd letter, and 4 is just to throw people off. It doesn’t look random at all. I kind of grew to like it, because it works while being random, like how the game randomizes itself. It’s kind of randomized, but a lot of the elements are designed. The name represents that. It seems esoteric in a way, and it makes me happy.”
During a game jam, where developers collaborating along the theme "after you,” Sommer was chatting with Alex Droqen on the matter of first-turn advantages always being a detraction in boardgames. This is even true for chess, in all its glory, says Sommer.