We want to be at the frontier of Hybrid board games! The space between analog- and digital entertainment is not realized and taken as serious as we want it to be. We strive to design novel play experiences seen nowhere else, by searching and prototyping in this unmapped design space. Just Imagine a hybrid board game-MMORPG. Or a physical idle-clicker board game system hooked up to the internet of things. We have the ideas and the skills to execute them – our challenge is convincing the world they have yet to experience the unique and exhilarating experiences co-located hybrid board games has to offer.
Depth without complexity
The key benefit of digital games is the computer. Aside from engaging the player by rendering beautiful scenery or glorious battles, it does one specific thing perfectly; it follows and mediates rules. For instance, the player does not need to know all the physic rules of their 3D game, but can just give the computer input and orders to move around. Furthermore, digital game designers can choose which rules they want to reveal to the player and when in the game they should be revealed, but also which rules they want to keep “black boxed”. The overall result of the computer as a part of the play experience is that rules can be much more complex than analog board games, yet mediated in a way which helps the player understand what to do.
Furthermore, digital games allow us to start and stop playing on our terms. The ability to save game progress is arguably the most important design element in the success of the casual mobile gaming wave.
While some board games do achieve real-time gameplay, digital games just do it better. Having the computer judge who shot first in competitive e-sports is more precise and reliable than having a referee or the players themselves decide.
Co-located Play Experiences
With the board game renaissance, it became clear that people still want to stay physically connected and play together. Similarly, couch games have recently been making a comeback, pleasing our hunger for that “scream with/at your friends” play experience. There simply is just something different about being co-located with your friends and foes that has yet to be sufficiently mediated by (VR) technology.
Tangible and Tactile
Although many moons ago, the rise of Steam and digital distribution have given players games on demand, but with no physical box or element to display on their shelf. If you ask us, board game boxes decorate shelves just as good as books and lexicons. Furthermore, opening a game, revealing all of its components, looking, holding, and feeling them, is all parts of the thrill. A part of playing board games resembles that of playing with toys or admiring artworks, which is one of the strengths of recent successful miniature board games.
So why do we believe hybrid boardgames a part of the future? There is no reason the analog and digital elements cannot be married in a nice cocktail drawing on the strengths of both. The challenge is to design and control each digital or analog element so that they compliment each other rather than predominate one making the other seem gimmicky or obsolete. But if executed correctly – combining the best of both worlds and exploring the design space between – it yields new and very exciting play experiences that have never been seen before.
©2019 – Mathias Munk Ulrich & Carl Johan Hanberg – All rights reserved