Digitising Boardgames: Issues and Tensions

Digitising board games isn’t as straightforward or easy as it sounds, because when media changes, so does the game to an extent. #Digitising #boardgames


Article ’Digitising Boardgames: Issues and Tensios” by Melissa J. Rogerson, Martin Gibbs and Wally Smith from Microsoft Research Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces in The University of Melbourne was released by DiGRA in May 2015. Researchers in this article discuss different ways in which modern European board games have been converted for digital play. They used three different games examples because of their different ways of digitising them. Games are Puerto Rico, Agricola and Ascension.

Using these games they attempt to demonstrate the different metaphors between mediums, here original analogue and of a digital game. Rogerson et al. find that when digitising a board game it changes how game is played, in the form of how experience is created and how it “feels”. Functions of the game are same, such as a unit of farmer, will still be a farmer in digitised version. However, the metaphor of the board game itself changes because it is not physically present, but it is shown in-game to create this illusion of board game. This alters the way and how the play itself happens.

This leads to another problem. Because there is an illusion of a board game, the game itself has to be changed as the media changes, and so do players’ expectations change. Some information about the game can be shown that is not visible in physical version, for example slots where a player could put tiles in Carcassonne or summary of points. Also some of the game mechanics are automated, thus reducing the amount of information player needs to know in order to fully play the game. Examples given are how turns are ended and points are counted. In many digitized versions of the games, program in the background does all that for a player. One of the developers even said that: “– – [players] still have to know how a game scores, whereas on the iOS implementations, I find that you don’t need to know as much”.

This article was made to point out that straight out digitising a board game doesn’t usually work and it forces developers back to the table thinking how to bring the experience back to players.


Source: DiGRA, 2015. http://www.digra.org/digital-library/publications/digitising-boardgames-issues-and-tensions/

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.