Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Playing alone together, board game version

Many years ago I cited on this a scientific paper about playing "alone together", by Nick Yee from Stanford et al., which was studying the social interaction of people playing World of Warcraft, and discovered that most people were just soloing. WoW is massively multiplayer, but often this is just a large number of people playing solo parallel to each other, with little or no interaction. With "playing alone together" having become a meme about MMORPGs, I automatically thought of the expression when I experienced a number of recent board games this year.

One example is Wyrmspan, aka "Wingspan with dragons". While it changed and arguably improved on some of Wingspan game mechanics, it also removed much of the already sparse player interaction. It is still possible to be affected by the player before you taking the card you wanted, but other interactions, like the food dice or effects that trigger when another player does something, are gone.

Today I played an even more extreme example, Imperial Miners. There is absolutely zero interaction between players. Playing the game alone is exactly the same experience as playing it with up to 5 players, and all players can do their turns simultaneously and in parallel without needing to watch the others. There is zero competition for resources, and zero player interaction.

The board games with "tableau building" / "engine building" game mechanics are the ones that most often fall into this trap. As the players are engaged in solving the puzzle of how to put the different pieces together into an optimized engine, they might not even enjoy a player interaction that messes up their puzzle. Alone together board games thus provide a third option, besides competitive and cooperative games.

I still think this evolution isn't great. I can always play certain board games solo, and I am playing most computer games solo. If I make the extra effort it takes to get several people around a table to play something, I very much would like to interact with these people through the game we are playing.


I understand this post, as I prefer game with high interaction.
On the other hand I also love engine building game, that are often on the low side of interaction and would never play them solo.

I guess what is missing in your explanation is the social interaction created by the game : if you are all competing for the same goal, the simple fact that you are competing is creating a strong interaction. Like any Race sports : there are very few direct interaction between the competitors, nevertheless, we are not simply running one after the other. They are running at the same time, and this totally change the sport.
So if the game is well built, even a low gameplay interaction can build a lot a social interaction.

PS : I have also played a game ( Disney Villainous) with direct gameplay interaction creating no social interaction. This game is boring as hell.
I can see a game like Imperial Miners working better than most for 'alone together' play, because it's about constructing a mine tableau that presumably is visible on the board, and other players can take an interest in (maybe you can only see properly those of players next to you, but that might be fine.)
Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool