Thursday, August 27, 2015

Transparency in Video Game Design

As any longtime reader of my blog knows, I am a devoted gamer of both the digital and physical media. And one of the fascinating effects of the ubiquity of the tablet is how the distinction between a video game and a board game is beginning to shrink. Indeed, many of my favorite board games are available as video games!

So when a link came across my Twitter feed to a presentation by Soren Johnson (former lead designer for Civilization IV and current lead for Offworld Trading Company), about what video games can learn from board games, I was immediately intrigued. I've linked the entire presentation below:

Okay, I'm guessing most of you didn't actually watch the whole video. It's pretty long and geeky, so I can't blame you if you didn't. You really should watch it. But if not, here's the gist of it:

What defines a board game is not the fact that you play with physical components. Instead, what makes a board game unique is the level of transparency in the game. All of the mechanics, by necessity, must be fully explainable to the end user; otherwise they don't work. And it is this transparency that creates such great games, fostering deep engagement, player comfort, and meaningful choice.

Now I'm a major fan of Johnson's Offworld Trading Company, and I can definitely see how he has applied these concepts to that game. So if you want to see these concepts in action, I would definitely encourage you to check it out.

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