Augmented Board Games - Using Electronics to Enhance Gameplay in Board Games

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This paper examines how computer technology and sensors and actuators controlled by computers can enhance traditional board games and allow for novel game mechanics. Categorizing these games as Augmented Board Games, board games where electronics are used to expand functionality and gameplay, we argue that these provide an unexplored and under-considered area for game design and that exploration of this area can provide insight for pervasive and mobile games as well as gameplay in general. In the paper we explore the design space of augmented board games through three different perspectives: game design, technology, and users. We describe the design process and the implementation of several prototype games to chart the design space through examples and concretely illustrate how electronics can enhance the gameplay of board games. The research goal was to understand how electronics and information technology can enhance the social interaction and gameplay in board games. The underlying goal was to gain understanding of the potential of mobile and ubiquitous computer technology regarding game design in general. Besides electronic chess boards and a few exceptions such as ‘Stop Thief’ and ‘Dark Tower’, the field of augmented board games has had few commercial examples. Noting augmented board games not as a basically void subspace of the greater game design space due to inherent gameplay problem but rather an area requiring a joint technology and gameplay focus, an experimental design approach was adopted to research the design space. This lead the research goal to be requirements for design work and the creation of three design goals; minimize those activities that are not perceived as empowering or emotionally captivating for players; show the inherent value of this subspace of game design by showing game mechanics that without technology would have been impossible, required an umpire, or ruined gameplay due to the effort required by the players; and to create augmented board games that provide at least the same social environment as non-augmented versions. The design goals were addressed by a number of methods that resulted in the creations of several prototypes. For the first design goal this consisted of examining existing games to reduce activities in them to common atomic actions in a fashion similar to task analysis within interaction design. This allowed all aspects of player interaction to be considered individually for the merits of empowerment and emotional captivity as well as identifying specific technologies that were feasible for automating those actions. For example the technically easy challenge of replacing die rolling by random number generator is deemed affecting gameplay negatively. The second design goal was explored by using game design patterns as a design tool to create game design in a structured fashion with focus upon gameplay mechanics. The third design goal was ensured by making play testing events to involving both augmented and non-augmented board games, with one of the augmented board games being an augmentation of an already existing commercial game, the Settlers of Catan.

Contact: Johan Peitz, Interactive Institute,
Document type: 
Conference presentation
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