This is the sixth entry in a multi-part essay covering board game “Player Experience” or “PX”. We’ll reference a few earlier installments below, so maybe peek back at them before coming back here!
During early research of this topic (the Player Experience / PX) I discovered an earlier research paper by a group out of northern Europe. Their paper was focused on video games, and in general mobile, but included a great deal of interesting inquiry.
One of the concepts which struck me first, was how their concept of the “Experience” of a game extended well beyond the literal time boundaries of the session. A player begins experiencing your game from the moment it’s brought to their attention, and will continue well on into the future after the game is put away.
Everyone’s favorite time box. (Photo Credit: Flickr user rooners)
In Agile development and workflow, there’s a precept while running meetings to “respect the time box” — if meeting is scheduled from 2–3, end at 3. Don’t let it drag it out. (There are likely volumes to be written about board game “play time” estimates, but this article is not that.) Here, we’ll focus on developing the context of experience reaching beyond the time before the moment the first die is rolled, and beyond when the components are packed away in the box and returned to the shelf. “Outside the time box.”
Clearly the core of the player experience is the time while the game is on the table, but let’s run through some examples of experience outside this ‘time box’:
How does someone hear about your game? Through a website like BoardGameGeek, an excited friend, a board game group? The way a thing is introduced to us becomes a powerful part of our memory of it, our willingness to try it, and how we view it when we do.
When I’m planning a session of Battlestar, while everyone coordinates their schedules, I’m reliving stories (both in my mind and in the email thread) from all previous tablings of that game — because for me, the shit talk and the paranoia begins the minute the invite goes out. In fact, I’ll sign off “—not a Cylon, Jonathan”.
All the buzz surrounding a regular poker night. The experience of that game includes the morning-of when your buddy texts you: “Can u believe Nate took all our money last week? I’m totally getting him back this time”. And the one the day after: “Shit, why did I fold on my pocket fours, I should have known that jerk was bluffing!”
The experience a Player has with your game is going to vary based on a lot of factors. Imagine someone brand new to your game. Thay have no familiarity with any aspect of it, though perhaps they have seen the box. Maybe they have read the rules, but there’s no way to know. At the other extreme, lies you, the designer. You’re not only familiar with all the aspects, but also the history of each component, and the full evolution of each mechanic and each system. Anyone who sits down to experience your game is going to fall somewhere along this spectrum of familiarity. Continue reading →
This is an installment in a multi-part essay covering board game “Player Experience” or “PX” feel free to start at the beginning, or just jump right in!
To begin our exploration of Player Experience (PX), I feel it’s important to take a step back, and understand some underlying concepts. Luckily, there have been decades of research on human-centered design (and, turns out, board games are intended for consumption by humans). So to set down some vocabulary around fundamentals, we’ll begin with an analysis of board games from a raw “User Experience” or “UX” perspective.
No discussion of User Experience or Human-Centered design is possible without a peek at the research of Don Norman. In his seminal work, The Design (‘Psychology’, in some printings) of Everyday Things, he lays out a series of terms for describing an experience a user can have with a system. He’s gone on to clarify many of these topics through successive editions of the book, and a great online presence. Continue reading →
After jotting a note in my Catch Sheet to write a blog post about the Five Thirty Eight/Twilight Struggle article, it took a while to get it put together, which, as already noted in my post, gave time for the WSJ to drop the Green Bay Packers/Catan bombshell before it was even completely written.
And then I dropped it into the posting calendar… which gave time for internet superhero The Oatmeal to drive his kitten-shaped juggernaut through not only Kickstarter, but the table top game community, and the internet at large. So yeah, there’s that. 120,000 Oatmeal fans who will now own a card game that isn’t traditional playing cards, and who are now in the Kickstarter ecosystem and may well go looking for other games and projects to back. Kinda makes my post yesterday feel almost quaint in scope.
Damn. Pretty exciting time for table top games when an article can feel timely one week and like ancient history the next.
 Why schedule it, you ask? I wanted to make sure the play-testing tips post made it up before the Feb. 2 Valour update went out so I could include it.
At the end of last year, this morsel came across my radar several times… (shout-outs to Andy Stone, Eric Budd, and Mitch Hulse for passing it along! I love that so many of you thought of me when you saw this). You should go take a moment to read it now.
Andrea got caught behind a Berthoud Pass closure today on her way back from the mountains, and cotrip.org was a little vague on the situation and options, so she called me, and I pulled up a map to try and help out. While on the phone, she said she was going to stop in Winter Park and wait it out, so I zoomed in a little bit on Google Maps since my familiarity with the area is zero, and suddenly I was presented with this:
Winter Park detail on Google Maps
I thought it was pretty cool — they have not only the chairlifts, but also all the runs, and (I assume) they’re color-coordinated with their difficulty. I peeked at Vail, Copper, and just to confirm it wasn’t an Epic/Vail/Colorado thing… Nubs Nob in Michigan, which was NOT mapped, but nearby Boyne Mountain was. I was duly impressed. And then I dragged the yellow “Street View” guy onto the map…
Update: I did a little digging and I guess this got rolled out last Feb/March, so I’m a little late to the party. Still rad though.