The Effects of Digitization and Automation on Board Games for Digital Tabletops
Pape, Joseph A.
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Digital tabletop computers are an ideal platform for games with the social advantages of traditional tabletop games, such as board games and card games, combined with the more streamlined and automated gameplay of video games. Implementing a board game digitally allows for aspects of the game, such as routine in-game activities, rule enforcement and game progression, to be automated. However, the effect of this automation on the players’ social experience and enjoyment is poorly understood. To explore this question, a mixed-method study was carried out in which 24 groups of participants played either the abstract strategy board game Checkers or the cooperative board game Pandemic using three different interfaces: the original physical game; a digital tabletop interface which provided minimal automation in an attempt to replicate play of the original game; and a digital tabletop interface which automated many in-game activities, enforced the rules and managed the progression of the game. The study revealed that while automation does have the potential to reduce the overhead to play the game, it can lead to player frustration in several ways. Automating routine in-game activities and game progression can lead to severe awareness deficits. Automation of rule enforcement and management of the game state can streamline gameplay, but can lead to scenarios where players would prefer more control over the game. The negative space around the active game area is important to consider for storage of digital artifacts and physical objects above the table. Finally the digitization and automation of the games did not reduce social interaction, making digital tabletops a promising platform for social games.