Games as a manipulation of virtual space: Active Space 1

Verboten defined some terms regarding types of manipulable space in games. Here we shall begin to explore active space.

In video games, this is the space that a player’s avatar has command over in-the-instant. That is, a controller press will feasibly take them there. However, this can easily be applied to board games on a by-piece basis as the space that a given piece will be able to command in a turn. We shall explore the active space available to pieces from Chess.

pawnmovePawns famously do not have much active space available to them. Unless in the starting point, able to take out an opponent piece or en passant, they only move one space ahead of them. However, their role is often greater than the sum of its capabilities in a larger strategic scale; we shall explore this at a later time.

rookmoveRooks can move any amount of spaces horizontally or vertically. This means that their active space is a very narrow band that ‘splits’ the rest into quadrants.

bishopmoveBishops are the same, but rotated to the diagonal. However in game terms this means more than this as the bishop may only occupy a space of the same colour as the one in which it sits.

knightmoveKnights are famed for their esoteric movements. Note the gap between the space in which the knight sits and the space it is able to command; its active space.

queenmoveThe Queen is the most powerful piece in terms of active space. The rook and the bishop combined, active space consists of any straight path horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.

kingmoveThe King can move to any adjacent space. There is very little active space available to this pivotal piece.

Active space in Chess however, is far more fluid than the potential movements of individual pieces. As an example, a rook and a bishop may have access to a similar amount of space as the Queen – though not identical since they cannot occupy the same square on the board. Combinations of pieces may not always be beneficial.

rookpawnIn this example, the rook’s movement up the board is actually blocked by the pawn, limiting its active space. However, to the player the active space comprises that of both the rook and pawn (highlighted in blue). In chess, understanding of this space is paramount; considering both the player and opponent’s active space can be crucial to strong play. Video games are often not too different.

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