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The Relationship Between Video Games and Board Games

In Above the Table we will cover discussions of all things gaming related. This column also gives the Meeple bloggers a thinly veiled excuse to occasionally wax philosophical and indulge in some hopefully entertaining navel gazing.

Video games are big business! According to Fortune, video game revenue in 2015 reached $23.5 billion. Video games are so big that their sphere of influence seems never ceasing. Even the board gaming community is being affected by video games. The influence comes as no surprise considering there is a good chance someone who likes to play board games will also enjoy playing video games. Although that may not always be the case, many companies are betting on it to be true. One example of such influence is a game called Dark Souls.

Dark Souls is in my opinion one of the greatest video game series released in the past decade. It is a unique and punishing action RPG experience, known for causing its players to shed sweat and tears over its daunting challenges. Recently a UK based publisher, Steamforged Games, submitted a board game version of Dark Souls to Kickstarter and it was an enormous success. Over 31,000 backers pledged £3,771,474 (nearly $5,000,000) to the project’s campaign; successfully funding the project.

People who have played the test copy of Dark Souls remark on how well it ports from the video game universe to the board game universe. In the board game version, the player must learn the behavior of the enemies  they encounter. This allows them to reduce damage from the enemy’s attack, and also to recognize opportunities to defeat the boss. As in the video game version, players must also manage their health and stamina resources. This resource management component should be very familiar to the board game community.

One of the observations of the video to board relationship is the degree of translation in the relationship. While creating the game the developer can pursue completely original mechanics and only embrace the theme of the game, or they can attempt to place some of the mechanics from the video game into the board game. With Dark Souls, the creators took the mechanic of requiring players to learn enemy behavior and made it a major part of their game. Other board games based on video games have been created without any common systems or mechanics, and focused entirely on the lore of the source game.

Dark Souls is an example of the influence of video games on board games, but what about the reverse? One example of such a relationship is a game called Hearthstone.

Hearthstone is developed by Blizzard Entertainment, and takes the lore of Warcraft and turns that into a card game – but in a digital environment. Once upon a time a card gaming hobbyist would travel to their local shop and buy packs of cards and compile them into a deck to play against their friends. This “collectible card gaming” system has been seen in products such as: Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, Star Wars, Yu-gi-oh, and numerous others. In Hearthstone, this hobby is turned upside down, with an added measure of convenience.

Hearthstone remains an entirely card based game, and even allows for one to purchase packs just as in physical card games. But Hearthstone now adds bonuses such as leveling, and allows players to acquire cards simply by playing the game. It must be assumed that Blizzard Entertainment witnessed the success of the many collectible card games and decided to evolve the idea into a mainstream digital outlet. It is amazing how a strong idea can develop into something as profitable and popular as Hearthstone.

At the Malted Meeple, we offer the Professor Meeple’s Game Lab program, which provides board game creators a venue to test their games in the cafe. If the next video game you play should inspire you to translate it into the board game environment, be sure to bring it into the Game Lab for testing. We’d love to see more video game to board game creations!

Meeple Dana Miller

Dana Miller has embraced the nerd culture his whole life. Starting from a passion for collectible X-Men cards to feverishly saving the princess from Bowser on his NES. He has managed game rooms, blockbusters and restaurants. He loves cooperative and team based activities, learning new board games, comic book films, League of Legends, and trying different craft beers.

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