- First Iteration: Guess Who
- Second Iteration: Boggle
- Third Iteration: Mastermind
- Fourth Iteration: Scrabble
- Additional References
At the conclusion of each of Dr Chris Moore’s lectures this semester we are left with one enduring piece of advice: “Play More Games”. And this semester, for my final digital artefact in my Bachelor of Communications and Media degree, I did just that. Upon commencement of this subject a mere 13 weeks ago, my experience with tabletop gaming was absolutely minimal. But as the weeks progressed and the content for this course unfolded, I learnt that my lack of experience was by no means a disadvantage, but in fact, gave me an even clearer playing field with which to approach this subject, something I tried to use to my advantage, and learn from as best as I could.
For my final digital artefact, I produced a collection of blog posts and accompanying short podcast episodes which documented the experience of re-playing games from my childhood with my younger sister. At face value, this project was pitched as being an investigation of media archaeology, which as Huhtamo and Parika write, is an innovative way examining our contemporary “media culture” (2011). They write that “the advent of new media has challenged many scholars to investigate the media culture of late modernity… Efforts have been made to pinpoint where the ‘newness’ of social networking… or interactive gaming lies and to lay the foundations for philosophies and languages of new media” (Huhtamo & Parika, 2011). In my project pitch, I wrote that I was inspired by similar videos such as Some Lovely Board Games, and that I hoped to recreate this same sense of nostalgia through weekly playing sessions recorded via Zoom, due to social distancing.
2. First Iteration: Guess Who
Upon receiving feedback on my project pitch, I made the decision to push these blog posts back to fortnightly, which ended up being an essential decision due to the challenges associated with time available as well as the ability to lock in my sister once a week with her own extremely busy schedule. In my first iteration, it also became apparent that a recorded playing session over Zoom made for incredibly boring viewing, and as such decided to take the approach of a fortnightly blog accompanied by a short podcast episode, which unpacked the playing experience further.
In this first week I decided to engage with my audience on twitter via the BCM300 hashtag, asking them which game they would be interested in seeing us play first. I did this to begin generating interest in my project, with the hope that getting my classmates somewhat involved in the process would encourage them to provide feedback at a later date.
The importance of themes and settings was discussed in the week 5 lecture, which very briefly touched on the theme of Guess Who? Richard Hall recounted that the original game was an attempt to get kids to learn about an identi-kit.
“So basically, it’s about narcing”(Hall, 2020)
Playing Guess Who? again gave me a very interesting insight into the importance of theme when considering the playing experience. As I reflected upon in the blog, whilst the theme of Guess Who? has remained relatively consistent, the different iterations throughout history and evolving setting have evidently influenced the experience of gameplay, and further, the reception of the game by different audiences. Vitto (2013) wrote that “the original version of Guess Who? seriously lacked diversity… the original version of this childhood favourite featured only one black character, Anne, in a sea of white characters”.
When it came time to give feedback in the playtesting document, my additional research into the importance of theme in this blog post meant that I was able to comment on Nathan Sullivan’s game theme, giving my words and advice more authenticity due to this further background research I had done.
3. Second Iteration: Boggle
In the second iteration of my digital artefact, I sat down with my mum and sister on Zoom to play Boggle. The decision came as this was one of my favourite games to play as a child, and I was curious to see whether 10 years and hopefully a much larger vocabulary would enhance my ability to play the game.
After finishing my Guess Who? Blog post, I shared it on twitter to ask for feedback from my peers, hoping to take this feedback into the next iteration. Unfortunately I did not receive any responses, so instead I decided to add my DA to the Playtesting Participation document for some kind of critique.
This week, I found myself researching the very interesting significance of materiality in board games. We hadn’t really touched on this in class yet, but I found the 2016 study from The University of Melbourne absolutely fascinating. Rogerson (2016) writes that “valuing components leads to a desire for completeness. Players do not wish to lose that which they consider valuable, particularly when the loss of a piece, card or tile can effectively prevent successful play of the game. Packing a game away is seen as an important part of the experience of play”.
My further research led me to examine the importance of materiality when designing our group project, which in the final presentation we made note of, explaining how this was something to consider in the game experience design for specific audiences (in this case, children). This research also allowed me to provide further comments on the Playtesting Document, suggesting to Nathan Sullivan that bringing some element of origami or tactile interaction into the game might enhance the playing experience for a younger audience.
This week I did not post an accompanying podcast, but upon reflection I feel as though it would have been better to, to add depth to the post.
4. Third Iteration: Mastermind
After again not receiving any feedback in the playtesting document, I decided to go ahead and select Mastermind for my third game as it was also a favourite of mine from many years ago. In the week prior I submitted my halfway point BETA update, and in this blog post I quoted the way that “the project has encouraged me to research different elements of games which might be considered in our group project design (such as theme, mechanics and materials), but has also given me a greater scope for feedback on the playtesting experience through my additional research endeavours.”
It was becoming apparent as this DA unfolded that there was so much more to it than just re-playing and reminiscing on old games from my childhood. When ratified in conjunction with the BCM300 course content, I found myself drawing new links between these old games and the new concepts I was learning about in class, which helped to solidify these course concepts and deepen my knowledge.
Mastermind was no exception to this, with an interesting examination of the interaction between mechanics and narrative. I was completely oblivious to the fascinating history of Mastermind (Fyfe, 2020), and would probably never have found out about it if it weren’t for this additional background research. I returned to posting a short podcast episode this week after receiving feedback on my BETA update, and believe that this helped flesh out the ideas presented in the blog even further.
5. Fourth Iteration: Scrabble
By the time my final post came around, I was feeling very excited about this project and the way it had enabled and encouraged me to take the concepts learnt in class, and unpack them even more deeply. Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive at the lack of feedback received from my peers, but upon reflection I think I could have better promoted the DA on Discord, and asked more copiously for feedback on each of the iterations.
The fourth iteration was by far our best experience of re-playing a game from our childhood in an online context. Playing Scrabble in the form of Words With Friends was a streamlined, enjoyable and addictive experience for both of us, and certainly re-confirmed Rogerson’s idea that “the environment where a board game is played is critical to the players enjoyment of the game- and even their ability to play the game at all” (2016). In this case, Scrabble translated seamlessly online, with the playing experience enhanced by graphics and rewarding sounds.
As we discussed in our podcast episode, these elements make for a very engaging gameplay, which is another element of game experience design which I hadn’t previously considered. While it’s not in direct relation to the physical tabletop games that this subject tackled, I did some brief research into the importance of audio design in computer games. Scarrat (2020) writes that “sound design and music play an important role in the overall experience of modern videogames. Game audio can help designers to create tension, add emotion, build immersion in the game world and even solve design problems.” This research moved past the course content for BCM300, however I found it interesting when considering experience design, and considered how this might be applied to many other design experiences outside of tabletop games.
In conclusion, the evolution of this project over the past 8 or so weeks has been both insightful and percipient. Upon commencement, I saw this DA as an exercise in looking at the changed gameplay experience over time with specific focus on nostalgic games from my childhood. I also set out with the intention of examining the ability of technology to influence the gaming experience, especially in times of isolation. Zoom could be both a blessing and a hindrance when it came to re-living the experience of games. While Boggle and Words With Friends were quite effective, Guess Who was a total flop.
However ultimately, this project became an opportunity for me to go further into the concepts and ideas which were discussed in class, undertaking my own research and using this to flesh out the ideas examined in course work on an even deeper level. Not only was this useful when designing our group game, this additional research and subsequent literacy helped me to then make more coherent comments and feedback on other people’s work in lieu of playtesting.
Play more games!(Moore, 2020)
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(Taken from the individual blog posts as part of this Digital Artefact)
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