Chicken Ghost

I did something… unreasonable the other day. You see, back in the days when I was 10 or so and moved from Poland and Germany, I had a board game. This was a big deal because as you might think, I was quite upset about losing ALL my Friends and ALL my Family and being in a Country where I can’t speak to anybody. To lift my spirits, my parents bought me an awesome game. A kind of game I wouldn’t be able to play in Poland. It was The Real Ghostbusters from MB.

Pretty much all MB ever did was for bringing out those really shallow games but just smother them with plastic gimmicks and colorful artwork. This game was a typical example. In fact, doing some research on this I realized that it was just a Ghostbusters re-branding of an earlier game called Which Witch? or Ghost Castle.

Gameplay-wise, the game was not much better than Snakes and Ladders. But instead of snakes you had this very elaborate plastic tower. You would throw a small plastic skull into a Ghostbusters ghost trap on top it. The skull would then come out in one of 4 openings and trigger some gimmicky traps. You would also spin a wheel of fortune, collect cards, get slimed and other things.

So of course, it was AWESOME. I loved it a lot and played it until all the playing cards wore down. One card in particular got worn down really badly. You see, in order to progress in the game, you had to collects ghosts. Each ghost was a card. Everytime you got a ghost you wound randomly draw a card from the pile of ghost cards. There were different ghosts on the ghost cards but it was all just fluff and eyecandy. The ghost cards didn’t have any hidden features. They were just points. Some illustrations on the ghost cards repeated throughout the deck. Other illustrations were unique. They were all really creative. But the one that struck my fancy was the CHICKEN GHOST. The Chicken Ghost was one of the unique ones and in each game, every time I got a my first ghost, I would go through the deck to pick the Chicken Ghost. I would mob other players if they they accidentally got the Chicken Ghost before me. It was MY ghost.

Years later I moved out from my parent’s house and sold the game on eBay. It wasn’t in a good condition anyway. But recently, for some reason I remembered the Chicken Ghost. I wanted to see how it looks like but didn’t find any illustrations online. I even asked some people selling the game on eBay but they weren’t cooperative. Finally, I decided to buy the entire, vintage board game, just to get my precious Chicken Ghost. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the elusive hero of this story.

Chicken Ghost

It’s the The Maltese Falcon of my childhood, alright?

I kept my precious and gave the game away to my parents. They are running a children day care business now. A new generation will certainly appreciate some good old fluff from the 80ies/90ies.

There is a game design lesson in this. As game designers we are often focused on fancy game design ideas – rules, systems, dynamics, mechanics. When I look back on my own gaming biography, it’s rarely those things I formed an emotional attachment to. It’s rather the illustrations, animations, dialogs, music and sound effects – the superficial fluff. But that doesn’t mean you can make a game with fluff alone. The interactive, dynamic structure needs to be there in order to help players infuse the fluff with meaning. I wouldn’t pay attention to the Chicken Ghost as much if I saw it in a comic book. So I think there is a mutual relationship here. But the surprising thing for me is how easy players will form those emotional bonds. Neither the game nor the chicken ghost are exceptional pieces of art or craftsmanship. But for a few precious moments in my life, that silly card meant a lot to me.


P.S.: Aw what the hell, you know what? The chicken ghost IS actually quite well-made. I take it all back. I guess I had good taste even back then. ;)

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

3 responses to “Chicken Ghost”

  1. John Krajewski

    I had that game! I dont remember the chicken ghost but I remember the skull you had to drop down. Ah the days when ‘fluff’ was enough to keep you happy.

  2. Michael

    We had this in elementary school! Loved it.

  3. Yu-Chung Chen

    Sweet! :)
    Nice lesson too. I went from creating fluffs to idolizing fancy game design ideas but have to admit: I’m not necessarily happier. Guess it’s time to swing back for a more balanced approach.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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