Analogue Game Development at IGM

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I first got interested in IGM and Game Design and Development, like most people, from a passion for video games. However, there’d been a type of experience that I’d forgotten about - board, card, and other analogue games. Everyone has stories about Monopoly and Risk, both good and bad, but for a lot of people, that’s where their experience with tabletop gaming ends. But when looking at the creation and design of games in general, I think it's important to have a background in the traditional.

We all know when a game is fun, and when one isn’t. You don’t have to know how to program or debug to find that out, it’s instinctive. Part of it comes from playing a ton of games - the more experiences you have, the more you can compare things. By branching out of digital spaces, game creators open themselves to a wealth of new options. Certain mechanics are more flexible or meaningful in a physical space, from negotiations in Munchkin or Sheriff of Nottingham, to the tension that comes from sitting across the person who is definitely a traitor in Shadows over Camelot. Social games, specifically like Apples to Apples, Cash and Guns, or Hexes!!!, haven’t found as much success in digital forms due to the nature of having players physically be at the same table. Other mechanics, like first person shooting or 2D fighting, work better in a fast paced digital environment, despite imitators like Frag. Playing not only a variety of games, but a variety of types, helps me, as a creator, to make more engaging experiences in whichever medium I’m working in.

Through IGM, I’ve been encourage to work on and learn more from tabletop games. Prototyping even digital projects on notecards and post-its is an important step, and an industry practice that students get hands-on experience with. Multiple classes feature board and card design, sometimes mixed with video games. Releases like Hexes!!! (also on sale as Hex Casters from Hasbro) have even come from these classes. The best thing is not to think of board games as a “lesser” type of game, but an equal space that can help make better developers in general. And if you want to make games before even coming to IGM at RIT, analogue designs are great, as they let you go through the development process of “making something fun” without requiring any knowledge of code.

Even with an increased programming base, I continue to work on and play board games in addition to my digital work. Balancing card games provides a practical, continuous usage of statistics and math that can translate to more computer-based projects. Just writing a rulebook presents a remarkable challenge, but leads to better communication between developers and players regardless of the medium. And the social aspect, of just sitting with a group over one shared experience, is much harder to emulate even over Skype calls or LAN parties. Seeing player dynamics shift firsthand as someone hoards sheep in Settlers of Catan or buys all the villages in Dominion is a unique and entertaining experience. Beyond the fun of playing them, physical games provide a fantastic kickstart for ideas. I’ve had multiple projects start from talking about mechanics over lunch, and ending up with a basic prototype in an hour. The best way to get better at making games is to just start (or keep) making them, and analogue games readily provide that opportunity. So if you want to make games or challenge your development skills in a new way, I encourage you to pick up a stack of index cards and a pen. It’s surprising what can come out.