This blog post is an update of the games that I have critically engaged in the past weeks which has been documented on how the gaming experience has been communicated effectively to me. I am not much of a gamer when it comes to the traditional style of gameplay, such as board-game style of play. However, much of my teenage years was made up of playing Call of Duty titles. The game mechanics in these first person shooters consisted of obtaining XP the more you played and ranking up your level which you could subtlety flex online. This subsequently became addictive and worked well together in the form of a combat situation.
These recent classes have broadened my perspective on how different and complex any type of game can be. Although the easy thing to say when thinking about playing a new game is to just read the rules to learn how the game functions. However, experiencing the game is sometimes easiest to go in with the mindset of being able to adapt to the first mistakes you make through the gameplay and build a mindset up of trial and error. In this blog post, I want to focus on the games that I experienced in-class at UOW.
In Week 1 of Class, I played a few various types of card games that were completely new to me. The first thing that I understood from my experience playing the tabletop game, ‘Codenames’, is enabling a lusory attitude towards the fundamental structure of the game. This means to ‘accept the arbitrary rules of the game and fall inside the limits and boundaries on the actions, challenges and consequences of the user experience’. Bernard Suits first introduced this philosophy in the book ‘The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia’, which was first first published in 1978.
An interesting turn of events happened when I had the realisation that Codenames was similar to Battleships and Guess Who, however, the games theme and setting had been altered and the addition of a time length was also interesting, making players be bounded to think quicker and on their feet! This theme choice was a very niche ‘spy’ aesthetic which was followed up with the different card abilities and actions that provided different mechanics on the board. It took our table of people a while to understand the rules and frustration creeped in a little as we were unsure about what some rules were implying. The game mechanics include two spy teams, red and blue, and these teams were opposing each other to see who can find out the codenames before the other team. There was also random civilians placed around the grid which acted as NPCs, below is a photo of what the Codenames grid may look like.
A lot of trial and error was evident in the beginning of the game of Codenames, reading back and forth from the rules and stumbling around to try and get a grasp of what this was really about. However, we came to the agreement that we must just enter the playing atmosphere and get a grasp of what the style of playing experience was like to further be able to understand the game mechanics.
However, after about 20 minutes my team and I’s understanding became stronger about the rules which brought more flow and enjoyment to the playing experiences. We were becoming more confident in our play styles and that made us more ambitious and therefore more interested to play. Momentum felt like a very important mechanic in the action of play in this game. Codenames got you thinking positively and critically in a non-threatening, competitive environment.
Correctly guessing the description your teammate gives you for the card gets you momentum, and therefore my stakes were heightened whether I wanted to continue playing and risk being assassinated. This happened to me twice…I didn’t learn my lesson. Game mechanics such as this one mentioned really enabled me to think critically about whether it was best for my team to play it safe or go on a roll and try and go for the win. This concept was perfectly quoted by Christopher Moore in Week 4’s lecture, where he states, ‘he loves games that give a small number of actions, where each one of those actions has real meaningful consequences.
“The Botch” created by Richard Hall was the second card game our crew played. This game out of the two was more entertaining, the stakes where higher and the visual design and gameplay experience had more of an impact on me when I completely understood how to play. Each player got a role card and a item card which had certain abilities that were unique to the illustration on the card. The goal was to obtain as many diamonds as possible while other players are able to take your loot depending on the action card they had. What made this game a better experience than Codenames was Richards presence keeping an eye on us and making sure we were doing the right thing, this made my confidence in playing so much higher and I could tell everyone was benefiting from having him watching us!
I had the “heavy” role card and essentially “the gun” item card the whole game, which made me extremely over-powered as a player. I could dictate essentially who gave me their diamonds and as the role card does no fluctuate throughout the game, you get a sense of what your job is to win the game very quickly. However, this made me a target and the further on the game went the more experience my other opponents had and I was quickly eliminated and lost all my diamonds.
Having these bright colourful cards and easy to understand commands through the theme and aesthetic really effectively communicated to me early on about the gameplay style and increased the flow and pace of the game.
These gaming experiences were something very interesting and now that us BCM students have been taught to look deep into WHY games are fun, and how they are effectively communicated, it’s a very different experience.