Hearken ye game designers! HEEEEARE MEEEEE!
I originally published this tirade onto Facebook with videogame devs as the target audience. However, I believe that some (but not nearly as many) tabletop games are suffering from the issues I label below... just in different ways. For instance, I ruminate a great deal over how games are starting to play themselves via "interactive" cut-scenes, hand-holding tutorials, and more. Well, we've all heard about those accidental solitaire games out there, and I for one, have felt like I was playing myself in a few card games out there. *ahem! Card Fight! Vanguard*.
Before we begin, I implore you to read this opinion piece on good and "bleh" videogame design by Arne Niklas Jansson (Android Arts). I promise that you will not only expand your vocabulary (he creates words on the fly) but you will also leave with some interesting design philosophy to consider when sitting down at the computer to work on your next game. And, truly, I do feel that videogames and tabletop games go hand-in-hand. After all, the Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior games that appeared on the Nintendo Entertainment System were heavily inspired by AD&D.
I'm gonna start with a hard left hook. We need more games like The Legend of Zelda (part 1 on the NES), Blaster Master, and Star Tropics that force us to think outside of the box and don't hold our hand along the way. Too many games today are reliant on theme and appeasing casual sensibilities (and using it as an excuse for easy, mediocre gameplay). Theme is important, but it shouldn't be what sells a game... even though despite all my effort to make N30N City RUMBLE a water-tight, fun-as-hell game, I'm 95% positive that Rudy's art and my chosen theme sold that sucker. Still, we ought to strive to create games for players to play, not games that play themselves (e.g. the later MGS games started becoming movies over videogames).
Now for a solid 1-2 combo.
I dislike Zombicide. There, I said it (Sorry, Angel and Mike!). While I love the theme, the highly detailed and bombastic minis, stunning art, and amazing presentation for its modular board, I just can't stand playing this game. Not to suggest that Zombicide is utter garbage, because it does have some really innovative ideas under the hood, such as the implementation of dog assistants and pimp cars. But where the game fails for me begins in it's infectious "community" mentality. Unlike Vanguard which has me looking at my own cards more than my opponents' and thinking up strategies for what I am going to do next turn (shouldn't I be conjuring up situations that I think my opponent might muster up?), my experience with Zombicide has quite literally been the opposite.
By the time my turn comes up, my teammates have already decided what actions I should be taking. There's a lot of "for the greater good" ethos at work in this game (i.e., players sacrificing themselves so that their tribe may live on), that, as a villain appreciator, I simply cannot stand to deal with. I'm a game designer. I work best alone in the confines of my mind where it's only my voice debating the possibilities of a turn. It's not just boring to have my turn projected to me by "leaders" and "strategists" at the table, it's very socially awkward for me. Sometimes, I feel the urge to just shoot that last fucking zombie to gain a level and piss of Leonidus and Ivan the Terrible to my left and right. There are so many moments where I wanted to flip the table and go home to play some Demon's Crest.
The negativity that spurns from group think, as well as the Peter Jackson movie-length game length, made Zombicide a bust for me. Anyway, I've put myself on the couch long enough, so rather than prattle on about the things I don't like about tabletop games (the love of my life), I will instead talk some shmak about videogames (my mistress).
Opinion: Sorry, but I don't even need to rent Arkham Knight (a game I was somewhat excited about at first) to know that it's a game that pours story into a theme/graphics cup and then splashes you in the face with it. I have no doubt that by the end of the game, players are more excited to see the final cut scene than praising themselves for defeating a hair-grabbingly (I make up words, too) difficult final boss.
This isn't to suggest that I don't like modern videogames. I just don't care for many of these AAA-list titles that come out on Tuesdays every week. They have a disparaging habit of being hyped about for months leading up to their release, get a week in the spotlight, and then they are promptly traded (or thrown away) for next week's new game. How often do you buy a new game and place it on your bookshelf within view, because you're just that proud of the box art and the beautiful game sitting inside it? When was the last time you broke out an instruction manual just to look at the pictures of the items, read character bios, or learn about the backstory?
Chances are, not in a couple decades.
Videogames these days come with a sheet of paper with warranty info and legal mumbo jumbo. Not to worry, for they will tell you how to play the game through a tutorial, and also show you the story. But really, shouldn't it be that you are shown how to play the game in an instruction booklet that you can read at your own leisure, and shouldn't you be playing the story (i.e. the videogame)?
But you know what game fans do shelve their beauties to marvel at on a daily basis? Tabletop gamers! Now why do you think that is?
No, really, that wasn't a rhetorical question.
Why do you think tabletop gamers feel that analog games are "collectible" while many other mainstream videogames are traded back for credit or tossed into a shoe box?
▽▽▽ Comment below! ▽▽▽
About the Author: Davy Wagnarok is the game designer for N30N City RUMBLE, the world’s first “beat-em-up” tabletop game. Go to the Shop to order your copy today!