We live in a world where technology is developing every day. And with technology developing the ways of entertaining have grown. But nothing ever quite beats some classic entertainment. Before I sat in front of my PlayStation, I used to sit at the dinning table with my siblings and we would play Monopoly. I never won of course, and I do not think I ever have won a proper game of Monopoly. But there is something that never goes wrong with a boardgame and the experiences that come with it.
For my class BCM300 (Game Experience Design) we get the opportunity to look into board games, the experience that we have when playing them and how we interact with them. This is something that I’ve never done in a BCM class before, but so far it has been really fun! My family have moved past board games and half the time we can barely finish before someone just walks off or forfeits. But getting to look into the technicalities of board games and the process that goes behind it has been incredibly interesting.
We have been learning some of the key factors that go into making and analysing a board game, some of these being, the play, the industry, themes, and the mechanics of gameplay. I hope to explore these key aspects of a board game and the experience you can have whilst playing, using my own examples of recent game play.
Something that really stuck to me when learning how to interpret gameplay differently, other than “oh no I need to mortgage my monopoly home”. The way to interpret it in a more educational way is to understand gameplay from a different angle and the way play was defined. In 1983, a Dutch Scholar Johan Huzinga wrote a book called Homo Ludens, where he argued that play is culture and visa versa. Huzinga was insistent that play experience was an integral part of the human need. He spoke that ‘play’ consisted of a few different things; a meaningful activity, it is unconcerned with materiality, play occurs in a place and a time and that play is something that lies out of the norm of our lives. Whilst some of these may not be exactly correct, for example, play is something that is in the normal part of our every day lives.
A few of the games I played are as below.
Codenames – Pictures
Codenames Pictures was the first game I played in BCM300 with the mindset of analysing my game play, more than actually just playing the game. Of course, I still got to enjoy the game and experience what anyone would whilst playing a game, I just kept note of the experiences I had and had to translate this into actual information about the details and features of the games.
Codenames Pictures is a rerelease of the original Codenames games. It is a simplistic layout and once you understand the rules, it was fun to play. You open the box and with any, you see the rules first. Rules are the first mechanic of a game you encounter. You need to learn how to play the game as the creator intended it to be. Codenames Pictures had a regular and advanced addition, and in all honesty, I found the rules a little confusing to start. Personally, it was like you were thrown into the deep end. As we have explored a little in our classes, this can be a common thing. They write the rules based off their own knowledge of the game; their mind already aware of the way they want the game to be played. There is a lot to take in when playing a game and going through the process of understanding is crucial. I’ve learnt to call this the “ahhh moment”, where you read the one line or you watch a gameplay, and everything clicks and makes sense.
Tokaido is a game which is so aesthetic, its hard to say much other than commending it for how beautiful it is. But it is another game that needs a lot of time to process and understand. It has a rich story; this is integral and is what the theme is. The Chinese have gifted the Japanese a panda and to feed it they need to grow bamboo, obviously there is a lot more to it (If I remember correctly it had about 16 pages of instructions, but this also includes the storyline to build the theme and engage the players). The theme of the game is incredibly rich and immerses the players into this alternate reality, where they need to grow bamboo to feed the panda.
Sheriff is another game that the mechanics are integral in order to play the game. In a medieval setting, you are to sneak illegal items and sell them on the black market, Players can lie, investigate and many other things in the game. It is interesting to note just how important the theme and mechanics. But the rules did a great job explaining the mechanics and the different scenarios that could happen. The visual imagery explains the different options of characters, the items you can steal and even sneak into the market. It was fun to try lie my way into winning, and I mean “try”, because I wasn’t successful by any means !
Overall, the way we play games is way more than just a simple “winner” & “loser”. Without even thinking about it there are many different things at play, the way you learn to understand, the way you play the game, the people you play with and so on. You never think about the technicalities and thought process that go into the way you play. Why do you find something confusing? Why do you enjoy the aesthetics? Why do you play in a certain way in one game compared to another player? These are all something we will be exploring in future blogs, but for now, think about the way you think when you play the next board game, are you playing this way for a certain reason?
Till next time,