Updated 24 Nov 11 at 19:33 by Michael Dorosh
Games do not exist in a vacuum. So it's probably fair to say that all game designs and genres are affected, at least a little, by other games. Game designers borrow ideas from other designers and sometimes improve upon the original idea.
It's also obvious that electronic games are rapidly evolving due to the huge number of games being developed and their relatively rapid life cycle compared to tabletop games. Whether tabletop designs will fall far behind, somehow benefit from from advances in electronic game designs, or morph into hybrids remains an open question.
That's an interesting subject all on its own, now that you mention it - shelf life. I don't know that game designers necessarily consider it when they sit down to create a board game (or do they??) But I think you pretty much now have to figure that desktop PC rigs are going to turnover every five years at a maximum, as far as horsepower goes, so you rush to get what you can into the game, and know that five years from now, no one will likely still be playing full bore. It's an interesting situation.
I have no idea what the situation is in the console world as far as the development stream for hardware - my sense is that new machines come out regularly but less often.
I do think that the "experiential" allure is making itself known in the ASL world, though. While the hardcore tournament guys definitely are a vocal subset of the forum population here, you can't tell me that the number of guys jumping at every new historical module and scenario pack are doing it because they're math whizzes. The comments on the GS forum make it clear they want to imagine new locales, and immerse themselves in new vignettes - "narratives" as the blogger I quoted above called them. They even snapped up a second Stalingrad module. It couldn't have been because the map artwork was so wonderful. It fired the imagination, with well written scenario briefings, and invoking Enemy at the Gates and War of the Rats and half a dozen Eastern Front films.
I think that is the biggest impact PC and console games have had on boardgaming. Games now have more random events, less structure, more "narrative" - from subtle examples like Combat Commander with its card draw system to the cut-screen story lines of Medal of Honor. It may also be the real reason that decent wargaming magazines have declined. While it is true that content is easy to create and distribute online, I don't know that there are a lot of serious "analysis" articles for wargames available via that medium, either. I stand to be corrected. I think perhaps the emphasis has just genuinely shifted towards experiencing games rather than playing or, more accurately, competing. And the new dearth of writing reflects that.
What do others think?
The traditional period for a console 'generation' is about five years. The last couple generations have shown that that number is lengthening, however.
Given a broad enough definition of 'experiential', I'd say that's part of what all wargaming, in fact, every game published by Avalon Hill, apart from the 3M ones, are about.
The standard tag line seen on games such as War at Sea (a high-level, highly-abstract game) was "Now YOU can take command...". Wargames have competitive aspects, and wars are competitive endeavors. But any wargame has an ability to fire the imagination. WWII East Front games do not enjoy a wide popularity in the hobby because you know that a game on such a subject will be a good competitive/analytical/whatever exercise, but because it fires the imaginations of a lot of people.
So, I'm not convinced that console or computer games have caused much shift towards being more experiential. I will say that as consoles and computers try to top each other, they have raised the bar in other respects, and put pressure on the board games to be more immediately experiential. This means making the games easier to get into, providing better visuals to provoke the imagination directly, etc.
Rindis, good comments as usual. We obviously agree on your response that a broad definition of "experiential" could be applied to any game, since I mention that aspect in the article. I think we can usefully ask how broad that definition should be, then. I do like your distinction between "directly experiential" and, by extension, indirectly.
I think you also make a great point about the trend towards more immediate feedback, and we have all seen this trend in any form of media and our world of instant communication.