Will Kickstarter and New Tech Change Playing Card Design?

Will Kickstarter and New Tech Changing Playing Card Design?

Is it not incredible how about two decades ago a typical computer monitor was a large slab of white plastic and houses buzzed with the tune of dial-up modems trying to connect to the World Wide Web? Before then the concepts of global connectivity, touch-screen mobile phones or snapchatting only existed in Sci-fi daydreams. Now, friends and strangers can come together across seas and continents to talk or support the things they care about.

A modern benefit of this is crowdfunding. The public now has the power to turn proposed projects and products into reality by collectively funding them. From books to businesses, the range of active campaigns is wide indeed, but one particular category of items appears to be a favorite in the crowdfunding market: playing cards.

As a leading crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter lists a number of unique playing card designs in need of financial aid, including a custom deck of Jane Austen Playing Cards, which has amassed $16,787 thanks to its backers, surpassing its goal by over $2,000. Considering the enduring love for card games, the continued sale of sets, but also accessories and novelty merchandise, is hardly a surprise.

But how is it that a pastime consisting of an unassuming pack of rectangular, painted pasteboards has thrived for centuries, riding the tides of change in fashion and technology with such grace and flair?

Creative & Functional

It is true that for certain games, like poker and bridge, especially at a competitive level, the design of the cards is quite important. Factors like the size, font, black or blue core, matte or glossy finish affect the legibility, handling and durability of the cards, as explained in the long page of guidelines offered by simple printing services.

With more and more digital innovations surfacing on the card gaming scene, further requirements involve effective transitions to virtual platforms. We’ve all seen digital versions of playing cards, of course; they are just digital representations of real-life cards. But in terms of live casino games, things get more complicated: the cards used by the dealer must be clearly readable by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, which must then translate the images into data for the software to use to be able to give information to the player and enable them to play the game.

Let us not forget that, since the inception of stage magic in Ancient Egypt, playing cards have been an illusionist’s main attraction, their sleight-of-hand effectiveness determined by the cards’ handy and malleable design. They are also the predecessors of tarot cards, bestowing mystical traits to the already intricate cultural and historical journey from China to Europe, evident in the diversity of suits and imagery depicted in early card decks.

On that note, playing cards are as much a medium of art and expression as they are a source of entertainment. In fact, the back of a card starts off as a blank canvas, waiting to be filled with geometric, abstract or themed artwork. Trademark brands like Bicycle have flourished in part because of their designs that are constantly being reinvented to please and captivate the public, while catering to the business aspects of their industry – retail, casinos and so on.

Physical to Digital

Hinted above was the development of games’ virtual forms, which has contributed to maintaining the public’s interest in card-playing. Video games have been known to incorporate, if not entirely feature, turn-based and collectible card action, crowdfunding having supported a number of them. Partially backed through Kickstarter, CounterPlay Games’ Duelyst (2016) is one such appreciated title with Metacritic generating a score of 82% from critics and 8.0 from users for the collectable card/strategy game hybrid that was released in 2016.

Of the more traditional types, casino games have been the most successful to make the leap to computers and mobile devices. Blackjack is a prime example. Its numerous types can all be found online without having to leave the comforts of home, including Classic Blackjack, European Blackjack and Atlantic City Blackjack, all of which casino operators calls “subtle variations” although, in the case of live blackjack, we’d argue that it’s not a variant as much as a different setting for the game which also gives a more realistic feel. Incidentally, the variety of ways to play here demonstrates via their hosts of supporters that a game is loved for its composition – rules, stimulations, social relations – not its setting or props.

On the other hand, virtual cards need to be discernible on any given screen, the interaction as quick as playing for real. Imagine a game of solitaire where the cards are difficult to move around or the suits and numbers in each row a blur, restricting proper visibility to small portions of the board. Glasses and a new pack of cards would normally be the solution, but, with technology soaring as it is, one would expect such technical difficulties to be a thing of the past. And so they are, judging by solitaire’s status as a top choice among procrastinators or merely leisure-seekers.

Playing cards have evolved alongside mankind from their humble paper beginnings to the electronic wonders of today, a compact yet pleasurable companion that has adapted to the accomplishments, tastes and needs of its benefactors. People have been endorsing the continued existence of card games – 2016 seeing $122.6 million made in US sales – and they in turn have unfailingly served as a source of amusement and a conduit for the human imagination. Like a painting or a piece of writing, a pack of cards contains a little of the individual or societal character it was forged by.

Will the digital era bring with it a change to the look and feel of our favourite accessory? Leave your comments and thoughts!


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