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What Board Games Have Learned From Video Games...

When gaming was in its infancy, it borrowed from tabletop gaming extensively. RPGs especially, with their dice rolls and such like, really looked to games like Dungeons & Dragons for inspiration. Now things have come full circle and video games are beginning to inspire design decisions made in new board games.

It was this topic that was explored in a panel titled, ‘The Impact of Video Game Design Techniques on Boardgames’, which played host to multiple different discussion points surrounding the parallels between board games and video games. The general consensus was that, as a result of video games, board games have had to develop a new level of depth without having machines do calculations on the fly in the way games can manage. This has resulted in board games having fewer choices, but more meaningful choices.

But perhaps the most interesting point was made by Geoff Engelstein, the codesigner of Space Cadets. He believes that video games have shifted the expectations of the board game audience dramatically.

“I think that one of the key things is that we expect, because of video games, that ease of entry,” he explained. “Back in the day video games used to come with these thick manuals. That was part of what it was. The first Civilization game had a lot of literature.

“With Board games you have this stuff you have to learn but now the expectation is, because of video games, that the game will walk you through that initial stuff. You look at XCOM, that is a very complex game but it takes you through that process. People don’t have the patience anymore in a board game setting.”

Geoff also mentioned that the popularity of games like Magic: The Gathering, which use cards as a primary mode of communication between players are part of that move to make things easier to explain on the fly, forcing players to make decisions as they come without necessarily having a full and complete understanding of the game to begin with.

It’s an interesting topic. I play very few board games but the one I play most — Settlers of Catan — does fall into that definition of a game that has very few choices, but makes those choices meaningful. I’d be keen to hear from some of the enthusiast board game players among you — do you think video games have changed board games and, if so, has it been a positive change?

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