A Study in Transparency

GDC is around the corner and, for the first time since 2010, I’m going to be giving an actual talk instead of just doing a panel. As followers of this blog know, I am a big fan of tabletop games and am very interested in how they overlap with digital games. My talk will be about why transparency defines board games and how that matters to video game developers. (Here is a link to my slides, which are still under construction.) Furthermore, I was on The Game Design Round Table recently talking about transparency in game design, as seen in both physical and digital games.

Here is the info on my talk. Hope to see many of you in San Francisco!

A Study in Transparency: How Board Games Matter

Soren Johnson, Founder, Mohawk Games
Location: Room 3007, West Hall
Date: Thursday, March 20
Time: 2:30pm-3:30pm
What defines a board game? If a video game is described as being “like a board game,” what does that mean exactly? Judging by the recent success of video games inspired by mobile ports of tabletop games, the defining trait of board games is not, in fact, their actual physical components. Instead, the key factor is the transparency necessitated by the physical design. This transparency fosters many positive traits, including deep engagement, player comfort and meaningful choice. This talk will go into extensive detail on how transparency works for successful tabletop games and what lessons apply to the design of digital games.

2 thoughts on “A Study in Transparency

  1. The slides make me wish I could be there for the talk. I haven’t seen transparency broken down so thoroughly before and I believe these ideas have direct implications on my current project, a strategy game where the player builds a gladiator school.

    My goal is for the game and it’s story to play out in a well-defined mechanical system. I believe system transparency is going to play a key role in tying the story to the mechanics (relatively) seamlessly. It’s tremendously important to me that the base game be “grokable” and fun so when I lay some story on top of it the player can both turn their full attention to the story and also intuitively understand the ways the story is changing the nature of the mechanics.

    Anyway, thanks much for sharing the slides.

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