The future of tabletop games

Borenstein, G. "The future of tabletop games"


Tabletop games and digital games offer designers divergent affordances and provide players with different kinds of pleasures. Tabletop games excel at creating rich and immediate social interactions. They require players to enact game mechanics themselves resulting in powerful internalization of a game's dynamics. Digital games, on the other hand, can perform complex simulations to let users interact with emergent systems. Where tabletop games require painstaking reading of convoluted written rules, digital games teach their rules through interactive play. They track and adapt dynamically to player actions to ensure competitiveness. And they can connect to the net, allowing remote play, constantly updated content, and even the dynamic integration of real world data. This thesis explores the novel game mechanics and play patterns made possible by including digital devices in a traditional tabletop game setting. It presents a new framework for designing hybrid digital-physical tabletop games based on four areas of focus in which existing digital and tabletop game design practices currently come into conflict: player perception of randomness, the cost of simulation, methods for employing hidden information, and the role of bookkeeping. To illustrate this framework, this thesis describes the design for a novel digital-physical hybrid game called "Sneak." Sneak is a tabletop stealth game for 2-4 players about deception, evasion, and social intuition. Sneak's development, playtesting process, and design decisions are used as a test case for validating the described design framework.

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