IMA Capstone Documentation Martyr: An Exploration of Hybrid Board Game Systems

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Writing Assignment:

My project explores ways that technological computation can enhance the experience of playing a board game and aims to push the genre of hybrid digital board games forward. In my vision, hybrid board games will integrate sensors into the board to track player actions and movement. This information is relayed to a small computer which can then output relevant information to the players via a built in screen and/or speakers. This technology should be unobtrusive, allowing players to interact with the game almost exactly as they would any other board game.

The advantage of a system like this is that it allows players to focus on the gameplay and social experience rather than getting caught up in the minutiae of calculations. One of the defining traits of board games over video games is their ability to enable social interaction, and I believe this framework accentuates that strength. This is particularly true in co-operative games, where players discussing strategic plans in depth and negotiating with one another to decide what to do is the core of the game.

To demonstrate how hybridization can work in practice, I created a co-operative game called Martyr. The game board has 12 squares that players can occupy, and each square has a photoresistor built into it to track the movements of the players. Each square’s content is also procedurally generated, and when the computer detects that a player has landed on a specific square and wants to perform an action, it triggers the appropriate audio for that square’s content. The computer also keeps track of how many actions players have left in a turn, allowing them to focus more on planning out a strategy together instead of just trying to figure out what moves are valid. This also has the advantage of simplifying the written rules, one of board games’ largest barriers to entry. Video game rules are managed by programmable logic hidden from players, but understable through intuition. This intuitive understanding is also present in hybrid games, allowing for more complex games without overwhelming the player with as many written rules.


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