Game Design Wk2 – Table top, Computer and Live action Games

31Jul09

I see the Differences between table top, Computer and Live action games as a compromise of two main factors, Simulation and Imagination.
Simulation is how well the game reproduces the real world, and Imagination is how well the game takes the player away from the real world, either the player using his/her own imagination and creating a new world in his/her mind or the game providing a new immersive world through the game’s interface and imagery.

Now, Table top games would be at the bottom of the Simulation ladder, live action at the top because live action is done in the real world and there cant be anything more real than the real world. Computer games are littered between the two.

On the flip side, Table top games and computer games would take the top for providing an escape to the player. Table top games rely on the player’s imagination to provide an escape, whereas with computer games, the game itself provides the interface and sensory material as an escape.

As an example I will look at Magic The Gathering card game for a table top game. The players have a deck of cards. Each card is either a resource, power or creature. Players battle each other using their decks of cards. When laid out on the table and in the middle of a game, the players have, essentially, an army of creatures on the field. Pictures on the playing cards and the feeling of controlling an army provide the Imagination part of the game. The players, well I do… some times, can visualise the game in full 3D in their mind.

I see that table top games allow the developer to concentrate on the game and story (if applicable) rather than spending tons of time and money on developing the game engine, interface, graphics and sounds. Table top games leave most of the world up to the player’s imagination.

However, there are limitations on what you can do with cards and figures, and games with long stories can become hard to fit on paper. Long stories eventually become just reading a book.

For computer games, the developer can do pretty much anything. The developer can make simple games such as mine sweeper and can also make huge epic games such as fallout 3. Computer games can have amazing graphics which are always getting closer to photo realism (crysis) and the interface is evolving to motion detection rather than the old keyboard/mouse/controller (Wii, Project Natal). Here we see a huge ability for computer games to simulate reality.
The developer is in full control of what he/she wants players to experience. The developer can create a huge immersive world and incorporate pretty graphics and sounds as well as motion based controls (Im thinking, the best graphics and sounds today in a VR helmet on a 2D tread mill with cameras pointed at the player) or most of the world can be left up to the player, essentially turning the computer game to something much like a table top game. Monopoly and Magic the gathering do have PC versions.

With live action games, simulation is at its peak, you cant get more real than the real world. Though there are problems with this, there are limitations to the real world we cant get over (yet) such as personal flight, and the ability to die and come back… and Quick save… I’d give anything for quick save/load in real life… anyway… Developers of a live action game would have trouble adding fantasy/scifi features to the game as reality cannot be re programmed to have elves and flight. Most of the fantasy/scifi part, like table top games is left up to the players imagination.

Ofcourse there are games that do not require simulation and imagination. Such as the card game Big2, Mine sweeper, Pretty much all live action games. Here the limitation for board games is what you can fit on paper, on a table, in a room. For Computer games, its pretty unlimited, well limited to the technology that is currently available. Live action, again technology that is currently available.



One Response to “Game Design Wk2 – Table top, Computer and Live action Games”

  1. Answer: As far as I am aware, Mojang does not have a problem with this website.
    (Notch even tells people to pirate Minecraft.)


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