Androids vs Mutants: My Individual Contribution

Bcm300

In the last couple of weeks Ben, Sean, Leo and I have prototyped a tabletop war-game for our class BCM300; Game Experience Design. Each of us contributed to the assessment by formulating ideas, presenting background research and experiencing playtesting.

Here is our video:

Designing:

The design process was a tricky one to get around in my opinion. I missed out on the first week where the class was put into groups. When I came back, the boys had an idea of creating a war-based game starring America vs Japan. There were no characters in mind just yet, but there was the idea of a tabletop war-game that involved two sides. Upon further reflection I felt that the America vs Japan idea may not be the best route as we thought of the complications that came with this which may include lack of cultural understanding, cultural appropriation and bias character traits.

Initial Ideas in Week 5

With the help of our tutor, we as a group came up with the idea of incorporating some futuristic elements that will deter us away from making any politically incorrect decisions. Initial character inspiration by the boys was the total warfare videos games franchise. I had no idea what they were talking about initially as I do not regularly play video games, so I thought of the sci-fi films that we have been watching in another class, and took inspiration from The Matrix, Blade Runner and Westworld. I thought of the idea of a futuristic setting, so we eventually agreed Androids vs Mutants; with a futuristic dystopian society where the two battle against each other to win. I am a very visual person who loves to be aesthetically creative. I found it was a lot easier for me to draw everything out as we discussed the potential for our game. All the drawing and prototypes were (messily) created by me and it really helped to feed out any ideas I had.

Character development was always in the forefront of our minds but I think that made us struggle a bit when it came to figuring out how the game was actually played. We paid this price when designing the board.

We first started with the idea that the board would be split into two sections, and within the two there would be multiple bases that would have an effect on how the game was played. I thought of the idea to have 3 players on each side of the board with the goal to dismantle their side and remove players from the board, kind of like chess. Our game, despite being on teams, is individualist – and the players are able to move their characters to wherever they please. This would make the player feel in control of his character and his side of the board.

America vs Japan idea that we ended up changing. The board placement however was still inspiration with some adjustments.

Background Research:

My main contribution to the groups video was to explore background research and argue our games potential in the marketplace. I thoroughly investigated our lectures and reading materials that we were given to give our game proper depth with an understanding on what our game is and why people would choose to play it.

I mentioned the idea that our game was a gateway game. I thought that this would be an interesting perspective to introduce as we knew we wanted this game to be simple to set up, appealing enough to hold the attention of the players and brief enough not to feel as if they have dragged on (Small, M. 2018). I should have elaborated on this by saying that we could look at it not as a general gateway game; but a gateway game to other warfare games. That’s because this project has technical character elements that people can invest in yet the game itself is not complex.

Another point that I took from our lectures was the idea of the magic circle first theorised by Johan Huizinga. Because our world was based in a science fiction fantasy, I knew that theme, setting and characters were so important. When someone plays a game they are “surrendering to a system that has no effect on anything which lies beyond the circle.” (Simon Egenfeldt-Nielson et. al. 2008) and when “Earth’s cultures dominate, the game will be over; the fantasy will be punctured; the illusion will be ended for good” (Simon Egenfeldt-Nielson et. al. 2008). This however defeats the idea of our project being a gateway game, as it allows for a lot more complex character growth and the ability for the players to be immersed in the new world that we created.  

Prototyping

When creating a prototype for our game our biggest struggle was to figure out how the characters would move and how they would attack. I suggested to the group that our characters should have different traits and abilities represented through item cards. I was initially thinking of Pokémon cards and how each character has their own unique capabilities and wanted to incorporate that somehow into our project. The picture below shows our initial basic model of the strengths and weaknesses our characters have. Our components included the use of paper, cards and character pieces (we use poker chips).

Android Characters and Abilities

Playtesting:

Our initial idea before we play tested was to move freely on the board where each character, just like in chess, had their own special way of moving. For example, Nok could only move forwards and backwards but the Exterminator could move one stop only in any direction. Upon playtesting we decided to simplify this by only allowing the characters to move one spot each round anywhere. Before playtesting, I gave each character a star rating in defence, attack and movement. Post-playtesting we had to adjust this in order for it to be more fair for some characters that were at a disadvantage. Additionally, the item cards that were used for specific characters in the beginning were now randomised as to allow for a different gameplay experience each time. After all these changes we were quite satisfied with the final product and am happy to say that we all made an amazing collaborative effort.

Play testing with notes for revisions

I also made this pretty cool logo design, hope you like it!

Ben’s Blog – Click Here

Leo’s Blog – Click Here

Sean’s Blog – Click Here

References:

Barbara, J., 2015. Measuring User Experience in Multiplayer Board Games. Games and Culture. Volume: 12 issue: 7-8, 623-649. Available at: https://journals-sagepub-com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/doi/10.1177/1555412015593419 [Accessed 12 May 2021].

Big Boss Battles. 2018. HomeLatestTabletopTabletop FeaturesIntroducing your friends to tabletop — Which games are best for new players? TABLETOP FEATURES Introducing Your Friends To Tabletop — Which Games Are Best For New Players?. Available at: https://bigbossbattle.com/introducing-your-friends-to-tabletop-which-games-are-best-for-new-players/. [Accessed 6 May 2021].

Peterson, J., 2016. A Game Out Of All Proportions. Zones Of Control Perspectives On Wargaming. 1, 1-29. Available at: https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/2643927/course/section/389574/Peterson%20Zones%20Of%20Control%20Perspectives%20On%20Wargaming%20by%20Pat%20Harrigan%2C%20Matthew%20G.%20Kirschenbaum%20%28z-lib.org%29.pdf?time=1614678155523 [Accessed 12 May 2021].

Simon Egenfeldt-Nielson, Jonas Heide Smith, Susana Pajarest Tosca 2008. Chapter 3 “What is a Game?” Taylor and Francis. 22-40. Available at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8o6njz7xzbpnrkj/What%20is%20a%20game.pdf?dl=0 . [Accessed 10 May 2021].

Can conversations be a game?

Bcm300

The thought of me playing a board game has always initially started with a disgusting feeling of dread. I can recall the feeling of my stomach dropping and my breath suddenly rapidly increasing. Don’t get me wrong with this – I actually love games. When I am actually playing I am so excited and don’t want to stop. I can never tell if my fear stems from my deep-down intense competitive personality, or if it is the fear of the unknown if it is something I have never played before. However, this game that I am analysing was especially interesting to me because I had no fear of playing it. Maybe it was because I was comfortable with the participant involved or maybe because this is a different kind of ‘game’ that I had never consider to be under the game category before.

The game I would like to share my experience on was created by Lillian Ahenkan or ‘Flex Mami’ which is her DJ/Creator name. She is a TV host, author, DJ and podcaster who is also the owner of Flex Factory Store. Their game ReFlex is a conversation card game that was made to show people everywhere the power of intimacy and deep connection through conversation. The game consists of a deck of cards. Each card has a different question on it that you would ask the other player – for example – “would you rather waste your time or money?.” From there, if you choose, you can have a deep conversation surrounding the card where you share your different perspectives with the other player.  

According to Cailloi’s 4 categories to describe a game, I would put ReFlex under the category of Alea (chance). The reason for this is because you don’t know what kind of question you will receive until you pick up the card. It is also a Paidic game according to Caillois as it is not bound by rules. You can answer the questions in the way that you want to play the game. For example, you could be at a birthday party and there is a group of people answering the questions. There may be a host asking the questions and participants are throwing answers at you. In another setting, you could be with a close friend and use the cards to think deep and to have a meaningful conversation with one another. Additionally, this game is a perfect form of Gregory Baterson’s frame of meta-communication, as communication is at the forefront of playing this game by engaging in theoretical ideas and answering your opinions based on these ideas. For example with the question; “How would you feel if you found out life had no purpose.” It is little dark, but is also a reflection of the reality that we could possibly live in, or not.

I chose this game to play as it is not your typical board game. It is considered a game as it requires time, a space to play, materials (the cards itself and speech) and it affects our psychology by instigating conversation on things we may not have understood about the person we are playing with. This whole game is based upon good communication and making us behave in a different way. I say this because you can play this game upon multiple spaces, for example, on a date. If you were playing this game on a date you would be removing the small talk and instead replacing it with critical thought as you answer the questions on the cards.

Although the game is said to not be played by the rules, there were still some that we could abide by if we chose:

  1. STEP ONE: Pick a card at random. Answer the question quickly, honestly and on reflex (see what we did there).
  2. STEP TWO: Analyse WHY you’ve answered the way you have. Take your time and dig deep.
  3. STEP THREE: Interrogate what has informed this opinion? Did you adopt it from close friends and family? Has social media or pop culture influenced you? Have you ever thought about this at length?
  4. STEP FOUR: Read the question again and pick it apart. What is the phrasing suggesting? Is there a way to answer the question more objectively or with a different perspective?

Onto the game:

For this game, I felt nothing but excitement when looking at the packaging which is bright and colourful and incredibly is inviting to me. I sat down with a friend of mine on the floor with a glass of wine. Because I have been friends with this person for a while, I knew I could feel comfortable asking her questions that allow you to think critically as I already thought I knew her very well. I thought about what this would feel like in a different setting if I did not know the person I was playing the game with. I personally struggle with opening up to strangers and so perhaps this game would be useful for this. I felt at ease when I remembered that the space I was in was safe and inviting. We open the box. As you open it, a message is on the front says “open the box, then your mind.” On the side of the box it reads “I’d rather not talk about the weather.” These messages got me prepared for the questions that were inside, as I knew then what I was getting myself into. On the bottom of the box reads “no wrong answers no right answers.” The thought of absolutely no rules had me feeling hesitant but I was excited to see the kinds of questions I would be asked. There was no need to shuffle the cards as each card would have something different on it. My first question: “in your opinion, what will the apocalypse look like?” My mind immediately thought of a scene from the Walking Dead, or better yet I Am Legend. Would I be alive? Would I be able to survive a world undone? This is such an interesting for of gameplay because your mind just wanders as if you are in another reality. Once a few more questions were asked we both equally felt incredibly comfortable and felt as if this was a safe space.

This game is incredibly effective in its purpose as its game mechanics allows you to sit down relax and enjoy conversation with the person you are participating with. Even if you play by the rules or not, the game takes you on a journey to discover not only yourself but the perspectives of others around you, as if you were in a different reality your mind created. Not only do the cards set a story for us by asking us these questions, they give us the opportunity to turn that question into an existential one where you discover different points of views and therefore different realities.

I enjoyed this game and hope to discover more like it soon.

Check out Reflex conversation cards here: https://flexfactory.store/collections/reflex/products/reflex-conversation-card-game#how-do-i-play