To an outside observer it seems that the game of Azad, from the empire of the same name featured heavily in The Player of Games, bears strong similarities to the Glass Bead Game from Hesse's 1943 novel; also titled The Glass Bead Game or Glasperlenspiel in the original German.

Both are overwhelmingly intricate games which can be used to express ideas and concepts about life, politics, economics, music and much more. And the societies they exist in, Azad and Castalia respectively, are built almost entirely around the central events where games are demonstrated to a wider audience. To comprehend the games is to comprehend the society that fosters them.

Now the idea of a game standing in for and representing events in the real world is unlikely to be unique to these works, but I was hoping to find out whether Banks had ever stated that he was inspired by Hesse's work, or even just acknowledged the similarities between the two.

So; was Iain Banks inspired by Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game, or did he ever discuss the similarities?

  • I know that Iain Banks played Sid Meier's Civilization II heavily when he was younger, and I have always assumed that Azad is an advanced version of that. Aug 9, 2018 at 8:25
  • @KlausÆ.Mogensen That is a fantastic insight that I wasn't aware of! However, The Player Of Games was published in 1988, whereas the first Civ game came out in 1991. Related searches led me to a few interviews where he's stated that elements of Excession were indeed influenced by Civ games, which is interesting. It also led me to this interview where he lists a fairly comprehensive number of influential authors. The notable omission of Hesse suggests the answer to my question is likely 'no' sffworld.com/1997/01/interview-with-iain-m-banks Aug 9, 2018 at 9:35
  • I didn't think of the time of publishing. You are absolutely right, and you should expand the latter part of your comment as an answer. Aug 9, 2018 at 13:13
  • Will leave it a few days, still optimistic that someone will have a more relevant quote (or that I'll still find something). Aug 9, 2018 at 15:00
  • I had not made this connection before. It might be of interest to note that the Glass Bead Game went under another title as well: Magister Ludi, which is Latin for "Master (or Teacher) of Games." Player of Games may have been a quiet tip of the hat to Hesse in the title. Sep 28, 2018 at 1:39


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