This post serves as a review of my experience creating a board game for the first time as a required component for completion of the Digital Media major at The University of Wollongong.
My first experience creating a board game was a remarkably intense experience. I have never been a huge fan of board games, and as a result, I immediately felt out of my depth when attempting this task. I decided to use my maiden attempt at game design to modify the classic board game Risk. The primary reason for doing so is that Risk is one game that I have always thoroughly enjoyed playing.
The concept of game-modification can be described as being a process of making modifications, or “mods” to an existing game text. (Postigo, 2007) The process of modding can range from changing the physics of a virtual game experience to changing the in-game characteristics in order to create a new experience. (Postigo, 2007) In my case, I chose to modify Risk to attempt an ideological shift away from the pursuit of conquest that is a fundamental characteristic of the original game.
My goal was to try and retain as many characteristics of the original game as possible, while at the same time reimagining the text to portray an experience that depicts elements of global sustainability. In order to achieve this, I attempted to alter the rules of the original game in a way that shifts the objective away from conquering the map, and towards an objective of maintaining and sustaining a players chosen continent. The idea of defining an ideological frame within a game text is not my original concept. Rather, it has been comprehensively defined and explored by games scholar Hector Postigo (2006). I attempted to channel Postigo’s ideas a focus my attention solely on the ideological characteristics of the gaming experience.
I have written previously about my belief that the pursuit of conquest by western nations (and allies) has created untold pain for indigenous populations. Essentially my belief is that the pursuit of expansionism has previously resulted in a desire for global conquest at the expense of less wealthy nation-states. Perhaps coincidentally, the game Risk provides a relatable commentary on the concept of conquest, and for these reasons I wanted to use this opportunity make create a subtle commentary of my own about the value of global sustainable practices.
Maybe it is slightly ironic that my attempt at creating a sustainable alternative to Risk was not as convincing as the original game. Nevertheless, I found that reimagining Risk was an excellent opportunity for me to understand how board games can provide a commentary on real-world political issues. Another such example of board games mimicking a depressing real world situation is the wildly famous (and ever divisive) game of Monopoly. As much as it divides opinions and causes families to temporarily hate each other it does provide a simple, yet elegant, commentary on the real-world economic structures of which we are all held captive. A worthy analysis of this concept can be found here.
In summary, It was frustrating that I was unable to create a convincing rebuttal to Risk’s dystopian pursuit of conquest, but regardless my first attempt at creating a board game served as a valuable lesson in discovering the ways that games harness real-world situations and realities and recreate them in a seamless yet thought-provoking manner.
Bogost, I., 2006 ‘Videogames and Ideological Frames’, Popular Communication,4(3), pp. 165-183
Postigo, H (2007) “Of Mods and Modders: Chasing Down the Value of Fan-Based Digital Game Modification.” Games and Culture 2: 300-13