I'm perhaps the weirdest kind of fanboy out there, i really love board games, and i think that there are a lot of things that videogames will never accomplish as well as those boards, and here's a small list of things that developers should start taking notice about.
So, let's start with a history lesson
Games are a social entertainment medium at its core, and tracing back to the roots of gaming we can see what's behind the "new social revolution" (not related to socialism) that is Xbox live, PSN and new gaming networks.
first i'll just say it for those of you who forgot: gaming started with stones and holes
, and there was no single player. Eventually, during the 30's we started having games with boards and new scenarios, starting the industry of board games, which got revitalized in 1985+ after the German invasion of board games
During this 60 year period videogaming was born, mainly because computer scientists wanted to make games they could: 1 - slack off, after all, playing a game of asteroids beats work any day. and mainly because of number 2 - they wanted to develop new technologies for gaming as they knew it. Again, the concept of not playing against a human opponent and instead playing against only a set of rules (long for AI) was pretty undeveloped. But if now we have single player games, why should we look back whole 60 years to find the future of gaming?
well, i can't really
answer that, but seeing the recent trend in casual gaming, multiplayer games and gaming networks, and seeing how these things were well devoloped then, i'd say we went back in some aspects, but please, feel free to disagree with me, and if so, read this post fully and then comment it, i'll surely reply it
and now, as for the post title and Why i think videogames should be a little more like board games
1. The social factor
Humans are social by nature, our whole culture is based on building societies and humans feel good among others of their species, and as Darwin once said, if it feels good, it is biologically good (warning: Darwin might not have said that, if so, ignore this last line)
Sociability has found it's way on every other entertainment medium we have, if you go to the movies, do you often go alone? Do you rather listen to your favorite CD of all time or go to a concert of a band you mildly like? If this is true, then why do most of the time we play alone?
I'm gonna write to little anecdotes to demonstrate this, the first one happened about a year ago, when a new roommate moved in, he then plugged his 360 in, and entered live to play a bit of Uno. "It's so cool, playing this game and be able to chat with everybody online" he said. Later that evening, some friends came over, and since they had beer, i let them in (reminder: if you're ever gonna visit me, have some beer), seeing him played the game made us want to play it too, so we grabbed a deck of cards and started playing and the following play happened: 5 +2 cards thrown in a row. One of my friends had to draw 10 cards, going from first to hopeless last, all in one round, his face was priceless. My new roomate then pointed out that no matter how much fun he had with Uno(Live), he couldn't ever see the outcome of his decisions on other people, and how much it is.
Think about it: The bragging after winning a round of street fighter, the look of despair on your friends face after zerg rushing him, beating that friend who can get a headshot every single shot and finally be able to tease him. All those interactions are lost on an online medium, and some games even tried to give you this kind of satisfaction (the mugshots in Burnout Paradise, the ears in Diablo), but it all comes down to this line,
games should integrate more, and not alienate
and now for the second (and shorter) anecdote, yesterday, a few friends came by, and they had beer. My roommate(other one) was downloading Fat Princess, and i was specially hyped with the game because of its focus on multilayer. As soon as the game finished downloading, we all grabbed controllers and started looking for an option that would allow us to play against each other, even if it meant offline, and well... we couldn't find it. We then proceeded to playing bomberman, bummed that a game that has a multiplayer focus, requires you to play alone. So let me just say it: Multiplayer and Online are different things, and they both should be supported.
2. Advanced Multiplayer
The difficulty in multiplayer games is always dictated by other players, there's no difficulty setting. If you're playing with experienced guys, you're gonna take beating. Playing a noob? Headshot! But in board games, there's real fun to be had when you're outnumbered and outmatched: people tend to gang up on the "better player", and this means that no matter how good you are, the better you get, the more people will try and take you down, making for a increasing difficulty curve for all players alike. Of course part of this comes from the part that board games are normally multilateral systems (everybody vs. everybody), and i can't see how this could come up in a team game (normally we choose teams already based on player skill, just as a matchmaking system), but i don't see six lv. 7 guys trying to take that lv. 55 one on a modern warfare death match without killing themselves first.
3. Simple and engaging rules
Since you don't have a giant calculator sitting around capable of performing millions of operations per second(kinda like a PC) on your brain, then well, those rules are better be easy to understand then!
videogames often suffer with a lot of rules, and sometimes they're not even transparent to the player. If i'm playing WoW, i want to understand exactly why right now i'm not worth any honor points to the opponent, and what are those points, if i'm playing GTA4, i don't to spend the first third of the game watching pop-ups explaining the mechanics, if i'm playing Gears, and i'm in cover, exactly how protected am i? does every cover act the same way?
Board games since the german invasion have focused on creating rules systems that have very few rules, and they all interact in a really transparent way, see Catan for instance (and please, play it on a table): you have 2 parts on your turn, one of which you don't have any decision to make (you roll the die), the other one you have 2 available actions: building and trading, and only 4 kinds of building to make, on total you have 5 available actions, and the game is claimed as one of the deepest games in history. Don't wanna have my word for it? well, have his
Now, i don't wanna say not to take advantage of the giant computer consoles are becoming, only to make it easily understandable. A good example of this is Civilization 4, which has one of the most elegant mechanics i've ever seen, let me explain it to you:
you have a town, which has workers. If they are in a hammer tile, they produce hammers, if they are on bread tiles, etc. with more breads, you get more workers(after X breads, the system always tells you how much), if you wanna build something, it will cost you Y hammers, if you wanna research a tech, it's gonna cost you Z moneys. Soon you will build more towns, which will have more people, which will be building different things and it doesn't take long until things escalate to absurd values, making the large calculator a necessity to play this game. The rules are indeed simple, but they interact in such an elegant way that it feels like this game belongs on the videogame medium, and i think more designers should try and achieve the simplicity and deepness that games such as Civilization, Street Fighter and Go have.
4. More tactile, please!
I really don't know how to make this without adding peripherals, such as plastic guitars and fake drums, but i really rather push 7 miniatures into enemy territory than tell 10.000 3d models to seize that position, it just doesn't feel the same way. All i can say i'm keeping my eye on any RUSE
video to come out.
however i do want to say that although not quite like it, Boom Blox did quite good in making me believe i was holding a ball and throwing it. Gosh i hope the solution isn't MORE WAGGLE!
So, this are the main reasons that board games are something to be studied by video game producers, and really, i don't see why not some of them started being implemented right now, but then again, this is just a rant, and perhaps it's my time to start doing something about it.
to finish it off, here are a few board games you should consider playing ASAP:
Settlers of Catan
Shadows Over Camelot
Princes of Florence
also you guys should check Board Game Geek
and since you endured this long post, Free candy!
Thanks for listening people read