Dice rolls and bits are an important part of the gameplay experience for tabletop games. Certainly it is not a surprising finding for anyone reading this blog. What interests me are the factors a team of researchers have identified as the “materiality of boardgames.”
The Four Aspects of Tabletop Board Games
These researchers coded their responses from players into the following aspects of gameplay.
Sharing the experience with like-minded individuals is one reason why we play games. I know that is what drew me to tabletop in the first place. I feel a certain freedom there because I can get my geek on with others who feel the same way I do. The people I game with are like family to me.
We play games to stimulate our mind. Seeking out mental challenges and opportunities to match wits with our fellow players. We actively strategize to achieve the winning condition.
I read a recent article about a man who played 365 games in one year. It is true. We never just have one game, but carry a large collection of old favorites. Check out this collection of analog games from Jaime Hale.
Kind of a big word for saying game components. We need that tactile sensation. Bits that we move around the board, dice rolls, and victory points.
The researchers were studying Human-Computer interaction. They wanted to understand why tabletop players engaged in person, but also played the online versions of their favorite game. Two different social environments which may offer different benefits to players.
The most interesting finding is that of materiality. The virtual tabletop often fuels sales of its real life counterpart. The researchers suggest that in the future we may see more hybrid games. One of my favorite examples of this is the game Fabulous Beasts. The game pieces are gorgeous. You have gameplay which occurs in person and is facilitated by a device.
3 Reasons Why We Love Game Pieces
1. Ritual Unboxing of Components
Admit it. We enjoy the preparation of playing a new game for the first time. Punching out all the bits. Looking at the tokens. Reading the cards. Learning the rules. The understanding of the work that lovingly goes into getting the game ready for play.
Setup time is not emulated on a device whose primary purpose is automation of these steps.
There is a rich tradition of upgrading game components. This is an important aspect of owning a game. Getting things just the way you like it for the best play experience.
While you might upgrade the look of your virtual game this rarely feels as personal. You are offered the same choices as anyone else on the service.
3. The Game Room
Where you play is just as important as what you play. The environment has an impact on your mood and that of your players. It is great when we surround ourselves with decor which suits our gameplay.
The way we organize our collection is another way to personalize our experiences. You can’t stack your game on a virtual shelf with such personal meaning.