Category Archives: Tabletop Games

That Jigsaw Game!

ThatJigsawGameBannerRough

A new idea

A few weeks ago I was struck with a simple idea for a board game that very quickly developed into what I hope is a viable product.

I had been reading about map-colouring games after taking one of my periodical looks into game theory a subject that I find fascinating. I think this created some connections in my mind about tile-laying and space claiming games which I had not thought of before.

So the idea is relatively simple, each player has a collection of jigsaw pieces that they take turn placing until there is not a suitable place for them to lay them anymore. The last player to play a piece would be the winner. The tactile and physical nature of a jigsaw piece would mean that it would be clear which pieces can neighbour each other and which can’t. Also, they would be familiar in most players’ hands, and the connections would hold the pieces together.

When creating games like this I usually like to explore all possibilities that make sense within the system. A normal jigsaw piece has four sides that are each either positive or negative, i.e. sticking out or going into the main body. Avoiding repetition due to rotational symmetry this gives six types of pieces, two sets can be seen in this picture.

PaperPrototype

As the initial idea was for a two-player abstract game, I would require a game board that could fit 12 pieces in total. A 3×4 size seemed as good as any.

I created a quick prototype of the game using cardboard and a marker pen. The dots represent positive connections and the blanks negative connections. This is an example of a two player game with the paper prototype.

PaperProtoExample

I played the game a few times by myself, I was interested to see how difficult it was to not play all the pieces in to the board. I then tested it with a colleague over lunch. My students were away (I often playtest with them) so I had to find some other ways to playtest the idea, if I didn’t want to wait weeks for them to return.

First paper playtests

I looked online and came across Playtest UK, a group that has open meet-ups across the UK for game designers to test their board and card games with other designers. It turned out there was a session the next day so I booked up straight away. (I later realised they had multiple playtests every week, so there’s nearly always one happening or about to happen).

Taking the original paper prototype I played a couple of games with the group. There seemed like there was potential but playing with cards with dots and blanks made it awkward.

Making it more real

I then started working in Adobe Illustrator to make jigsaw piece shapes ready to be laser cut. The most interesting thing for me to consider here is the shape of the piece. There is a risk when making a jigsaw piece that the surface area of the shapes vary considerably between pieces with all positive connections and those with negative connections. This is a basic example of a jigsaw piece, to me it doesn’t seem balanced.

bad_puzzle_piece

To overcome this you can shift the form of the sides, where the jigsaw is negative you can push the form of the piece outwards. This helps create a better balance of surface area across shapes, as seen in this shape I created for my jigsaw pieces.

22neat

Through doing this process I realised that I could use the notion of jigsaw pieces to form the frame for the game, this way it is possible to change the size of the frame for the number of players.

Open playtesting

I took this to the next Playtest session, and it went a lot better, the form was intuitive to play with and the rules simple to grasp. I was then invited to attend an open playtest session at Draughts a board gaming cafe in Hackney, London.

This session went really well. One group played multiple sessions with different player counts for over an hour, another played a few three player games. I played a few games with some of the other people showcasing their game, this time with four players and a different position player won each time (something I was concerned about and something that came back later).

Examples of two player and four player games.

A problem arises

I happened to be attending a colloquium in Athens, XXI Board Game Studies Colloquium 2018. This was my fifth time presenting at one of these events, and I often take new prototypes with me to play.

A few sessions in and something started to happen. The last player always seemed to win. It did not matter the number of players. The only way this seemed not to happen was if the final player made a glaringly bad play.

Athens IMG_4827

This was frustrating, I thought I’d cracked a game really quickly, but this appears not to be the case.

Despite this issue, the physical act of playing the game was pleasant. The pieces felt nice to hold, the colours work well together, placing the pieces felt nice and watching the board slowly fill all were enjoyable. The distinct problem being it didn’t work as a game.

Testing, adapting, testing, adapting

Continuing in the positive fortune of creating this game, straight after XXI BGSC I was heading to Berlin for A-Maze. A-Maze is a fantastic event, well worth attending. I started playing That Jigsaw Game with a friend discussing the problems I was having. A-Maze being a festival filled with games developers and designers, it wasn’t long before people started asking about the game and making suggestions on how to overcome the problem.

Things that were tried:

  • You can’t lay next to your own colour.
  • You have to create the largest area of your own colour pieces.
  • Changing the frame to a square.
  • Changing the number of negative and positive bits in the frame.
  • Changing the order of play based on the current number of positive bumps of each colour currently on the board
  • Using the frame pieces to block, in a completely freeform game.

Experiment IMG_4850

Nothing seemed to work, the games were either too complex, still had an obvious dominant starting position, or just ended in draws all the time.

The problem

The issue with the original rule set is that the last player in the round will win nearly all the time. The solution seems like it could be in changing the order of play. However, this need has to be balanced with the original simplicity of the game, something that I want to keep.

The play order shouldn’t be random either, the players should have control of it. It’s a matter of striking the balance between being easily deterministic who will win and being a game were players have control.

The next step

I have one next adaptation I want to try.

Giving each piece a value between 1 and 3. This value will determine who plays next, the turn moves to player who is that value of spaces away from the current player.

Hopefully this may solve the problem, without being overly complex for players to implement, by adding one additional rule.

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144 New Ways to Play Chess Without Wanting to Win

Chess is an old game with rules that have only changed very slightly throughout the centuries. Here I have created 12 different play styles to use while playing Chess. Using these play styles you will be able to experience chess in a new ways.

The focus of these play styles is not necessarily about winning in the usual sense, but creating different narratives and choices within the game. Each of the twelve options below are designed to embody characteristics of varied approaches to conflict.

As there are 12 new methods of playing and 2 players, there are 144 new potential ways to play. Whilst playing try to envision and understand the actions and choices that you are making and how they embody the style and methodologies of conflict. Remember the goal of these games is not necessarily to win but to experience Chess in a different light.

Play Styles: Each Player Pick One

Before starting the game of chess each player should select one of the following play styles (listed below) by either blindly drawing a chess piece from a bag, rolling a 12-sided dice or selecting one that takes your fancy. Once you have selected your play style play chess following the usual rules for movement and capture.

1. Pawn – White: The pawns serve one purpose, to sacrifice themselves for the noble houses represented in the army. They march gladly into war to protect your names, heritage and family lines. Avoid the death of the noble families who stand at the rear of the battle field commanding lesser folk as they should.

2. Pawn – Black: Your pawns are your most important pieces, they represent the people of your country, it is you duty to protect them at all costs.

3. Rook – White: Only cowards hide in the shadows, be bold and open place your army in the centre of the field boast of your upcoming moves, it shall make no difference as you are righteous.

4. Rook – Black: You are sly, you are cunning, stick to the edges of the board in the shadows until it is time to strike your enemy.

5. Knight – White: The enemy colour is so abhorrent in your eyes that you avoid to stand any of your own army on that colour, even if it would be tactically wise to so.

6. Knight – Black: The Knights are the most glorious combatants, do not upstage them by allowing other units to take a killing blow, do all you can to protect them. Their glory is your glory.

7. Bishop – White: For your previous actions in previous battles you seek penance, you deserve to be punished, place your army and yourself in harms way, but do not seek to harm others. You can be absolved of your sins.

8. Bishop – Black: War is cruel and there are no true winners, avoid doing harm or having harm done to you at all cost. Talking is the way forward, perhaps a truce can be struck if your enemy is also wise.

9. Queen – White: An eye-for-an-eye, those that do harm to you must be punished directly and immediately for their crimes, above all else. Only this way can we restore justice to the world.

10. Queen – Black: Defence is the best form of attack, make sure you and your army are strongly protected from any assault. It is better to be alive and thought of as cowardly, than in a grave.

11. King – White: You are strong, there is no stopping you, death or glory is the only way to act when in combat. When ever there is opportunity you must strike at any cost striking fear into your enemies heart.

12. King – Black: There is honour in combat, prove yourself by only attacking enemies with identical types of unit, this way we know the battle is fair even if our enemy does not play by the rules.

 

A Zine in Design Research

Restricted Parlour Games Zine PDF

I recently created a zine containing six games for part of the London Design Festival 2016. The zine forms part of the Design Research exhibition at London College of Communication.

The games explore specific rule types visible in parlour games, board games and card games. This rule types are choice, randomness and interaction which are found in varying combinations in most rule books.

Choices give players control over the navigation of a game’s possibility space. By selecting which state to move to next, the player governs play, they are in charge.

Randomness in games removes control from the players. By moving through the game’s probability space in unknown ways, unexpected situations can occur.

Interaction in games draws the players together into a shared experience. By interacting with each other the players navigate the possibility space together, pushing and pulling on each other changing the outcomes for everyone.

Each of these six games was designed to only use rules of one these three forms. The desire was to see what pure rule type games would look like and what the functions of these rule types are.

Each game is short both in rule length and play time and are presented with images of the components required to play the game.

Here is the conclusion drawn from the zine:

By isolating each of the three core aspects of parlour, board, and card games and creating short games it was possible to gain deeper understanding of choice, randomness and interaction and their potential uses when combined.

In the first two games, Race Track and Letter Spaghetti, only choice aspects were utilised. With the absence of randomness and interaction between players, it was only possible to create solitaire style experiences that functioned like puzzles. The weakness in this type of game is that once an optimal solution is found the game stops being engaging.

Both Lucky Chef and The Longest Cow utilised only randomness. Games like this take the control from the player but do provide a sense of surprise or mystery, which has potential to create interesting unforeseen events. The issue is the lack of agency given to the player that without careful foresight could create a shallow experience.

Finally two interaction only games are included, Hear Say and Tower. When interaction is used by itself there is no deviation occurring, creating a feeling of a well rehearsed theatrical play. There is a sense of action moving throughout the players, each player committing their own performance.

If you would like to read the zine in full you can download the PDF.

I would like to expand this process of creating games to explore specific themes found in rules to create a greater understanding of how it is that game rules functions and the effects that they can have on the player.

 

Restricted Parlour Games Zine PDF

Argh, Who am I?! – Playtests & Hiatus

I’ve had chance to playtest Argh, Who am I?! a couple more times and have decided to put it on hold for now, however it may come back in another form. Here are some of my reflections on the last two playtests.

Playtest with my MA students

The first of the two most recent playtests I learnt that players were quickly identifying who was telling the truth/lying and then narrowed down on who it was. I noticed that players were more likely to ask someone who was telling the truth, in order to avoid the mental anguish of dealing with untwisting lies.

ARGH1b

I decided to up the complexity and allow players both a chance to lie and tell the truth. To do this the players turn their cards upside down each time they’ve asked a question. This difference had an additional benefit of allowing for a mechanism for telling who had and had not being asked a question, meaning no player was left out from asking or answering a question.

Thanks to Hadeel, Tom, Sun, & Jai for playtesting.

Playtest with the Board Game Studies Colloquium

In the second of the two most recent playtests the upped complexity didn’t really add anything other than further confusion, which in this case isn’t really an interesting solution.

Players had fun, but I think the amusement came from coping with the mechanics rather than playing the game. This can be good in certain situations, like the weird mental block that occurs when matching pairs in Dobble, or racing against time trying to roll dice in Escape: Curse of the Temple. However, the connection did not feel right in this instance.

Thanks to Ralf, Jacob, Tom & Tiago for playtesting.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall the game had two parts that didn’t connect very well. First was working out who was telling the truth or lying and the second narrowing down to the card you’re holding. Players would start the game, in brain twisted confusion, then clarity, then finish with systematic logic. I think there perhaps needed to be a less linear relation between these two parts.

For some reason lying as an answer was difficult to do. First the question had to be assessed, then check for a yes/no answer and then potentially reversed. This process just seemed more tasking than it aught to be. There was a few times where players got confused and gave the wrong answer (including myself).

In the end the game play had very little interesting choice, much possibility for strategy or fun inherent in the game play. The players were told whether to lie or tell the truth. On reflection I think lying is more likely to be amusing when you can be caught out, and there’s a risk/reward tied to this.

An Observation

The most interesting thing that arose from the games was the possibility for ambiguous answers and questions, and the possibility of players disagreeing with each other about the answers.

For example:

  • Someone asked if they were alive or dead, when they were holding a robot card.
  • Someone asked if they were magical, when they were holding a zombie card.

Both these questions gained different responses within the groups. Perhaps there is something in this, an idea for another game. For now at least the game where you don’t know your own identify is on hold.

 

Argh, who am I?! – Revision and Playtest 2

I made some revisions to both the cards and rules for Argh, who am I?!

Previous Posts: Argh, who am I?! v1 rulesMaking of, Playtest 1.

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Changing the Card List

The card list has been expanded and changed from all Hollywood monsters:

  • Frankenstein’s Monster
  • Mummy
  • Skeleton
  • Vampire
  • Werewolf
  • Fish Person
  • Zombie
  • Ghost

To a range of people/things:

  • Alien
  • Robot
  • Pirate
  • Ninja
  • Cowboy
  • Demon
  • Angel
  • Zombie
  • Vampire
  • Werewolf
  • Santa Clause
  • Tooth Fairy
  • Easter Bunny

This should now allow the players to narrow down their potential character card in a larger range of ways, similar to 20 Questions.

Changing the Rules

The first set of rules I wanted to change from version 1 of the game, was the question and statement section. The answering back and forth was messy.

The main issue I was trying to avoid with the original rules was that as soon as the players realise that one player is telling the truth (or lies) they become the most reliable source and there is no reason to ever ask anyone else a question. By giving the player who is asked a question some power, it reduces the chance of this happening. In changing this aspect I did not want to lose the freedom of the players to ask whoever they wanted a question.

There were a number of possible work arounds which I considered:

  1. Every player must be asked at least one question before, players can be asked another question. This at first seems a fair method however it has a downside in terms of elegance. The players will require an additional token or card to remember who has and has not been asked a question. Additionally, the first player will get to ask their choice of all other players whilst the last player will not get a choice, every round. This could be solved by skipping the first player of the previous round to change the first player for the current round. Balancing out in the end. All this adds a lot of additional components and rules for a relatively small game.
  2. Players who are asked a question get to ask the next question, and must ask someone else. Players in this case have to balance asking someone who they know is telling truth/lies with giving them the power to ask another question about their own card. In this manner the game should self balance. One issue might be that players may realise the point at which someone has worked out their own card and therefore not ask them a question again, so they cannot declare. To get round this a player could declare at any point.

Of these I selected the second option.

Changing the Setup

Another issue that needed resolving was the length of the game, which for its type was possibly too long. Also there was difficulty in knowing what the cards were in the deck, so you could work out who are or are not. A problem exacerbated by the newly increased character list.

This was solved with a simple setup rule change.

  • The entire deck of cards is shuffled.
  • Cards are laid face up, one at a time, in a grid.
  • Any time a card matching an existing grid card is found it is added to the play-deck. Therefore, mixing the matching truth and lies cards between grid and play-deck randomly.
  • Once the grid and play-deck both contain one of each character type, the play-deck is shuffled again.
  • Each player takes one card from the play-deck.
  • Players help each other orientate their cards correctly.
  • The game begins.

So, although the list of characters is longer, the actual play-deck is smaller than the original version. Additionally there is no need for reference cards for the player as setting up the game creates a grid reference for all the players. There is also now no repeating of the same characters.

Playtest 2

I took the new cards and rules to my monthly board game meet-up and played a couple of games.

The first game went ok, but there was a weakness found in the system. Once someone had identified who they were once, and therefore had the most cards, they could keep randomly guessing to diminish the deck and win with their single card.

The second game we removed this issue, if you’re wrong when you declare you are removed from the game. However if you’re the first person to declare correctly you win. This added a nice layer of tension, do you risk guessing early without all the information but with good odds, or do you risk waiting and someone else guessing first. It also reduced the playtime to a nice length for the style of game.

I did however get confused with the truth and lies, and double negatives at one point, giving a player some incorrect information.I handled it in that moment with a friendly apology, however, this is something that needs consideration in the future.

We played with a relatively large group of people and at times I noticed that some were being left out more than others, so further testing is required for different group sizes.

Once the game was reduced to two/three players the game play changed. For two players it is impossible to have the don’t question back rule.

Thanks to the Playtesters: Ricky, Robin, Patrick, Jonathon, Jazz, David & Peter.

What’s next?

  • I am going to have another look at balancing the character list, so it doesn’t swing too heavy in any sub-genre’s favour.
  • I need to test it a lot more times with different group sizes, and different deck sizes.
  • I’m interested to see if I can expand the deck, but add an additional stage to the set-up which removes a number of cards depending on how many players and how difficult the players want the game to be. This might need a little bit of math to get to a nice starting point but will be ultimately balanced in playtesting.
  • Consider testing the other rules variation with the additional tokens, to see how it feels.

Can I get the new cards?

I’m going to hold off uploading the new cards for a little while until the game has settled and I have time to do some more placeholder art rather than just text titles.

Making: Argh, who am I?! – A game of truth, lies and deduction

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Argh Who Am?! Print and Play.pdf

I’ve had an idea floating round my head for a while, being a fan of Werewolf and other hidden role games, and having at that point recently played Hanabi by Antoine Bauza (@Toinito) I wanted to make a hidden role game but where the players are aware of everyone else’s role but not their own.

The only other game I’ve seen look at this is Pair of Ducks by Tuesday Knight Games (@TuesKnightGames), the creators behind the fantastic Two Rooms and Boom. In Pair of Ducks each role that the players can see changes how they play, whether they answer ‘yes or no’ questions silently, audibly, truthfully or with lies.

I wanted to avoid covering the same ground so I put the game on the back burner for a while. This was probably about a year or two a go.

Over the last couple of weeks, the idea bubbled up to the top of my mind again and I started mulling it over once more.

For a game like this it seemed to me that the players would need to deduce who they were. The major question in designing the game, is what mechanisms are in place for them to do this. I had a number of thoughts/concepts I was puzzling over.

  • Have pairs of roles, and they need to work out who their partner is.
  • You win if you are the only person who is alone, i.e. no one else has the same role card as you.
  • Certain roles can perform certain actions, other players can stop you from attempting actions that you cannot perform.
  • Having to ask players to perform actions that only they can do.

Taking some influence from Coup by Rikki Tahta I started to think about the passing of tokens, and certain roles being able to do certain things. Players would balance moving tokens around as they needed with giving other players information about their character. So, what could the players do with tokens:

  • Take a token from someone.
  • Give a token to someone.
  • Take a token from a shared pool.
  • Give a token to a shared pool.
  • Swap two piles of tokens.

The thought being at this point, that not only would you need to work out what role you are/if you’re alone/in a pair, you would also need to meet certain conditions, like have the more than/less than/equal number of tokens than another player.

The problem with all of this was the amount of complication and all the information the players would have to deal with, they would need to know which characters could do which actions, without actually knowing the character they currently are. It just all seemed too much. I needed to simplify things.

I still liked the idea of having two of each role, and felt this needed more exploring. Then I was hit with a thought, what if one of each of the pairs had to tell the truth and the other had to lie. Things then started coming together.

Players would ask questions about their character of another player and they would respond truthfully or not depending on the card they had, information that could be shown by text on the back of the playing cards like this:

The issue with this rule alone is that, as soon as you have determined that a player is telling the truth all players would ask that player question rather than anyone else. There needed to be some sort of price for asking a question, something that would stop this happening.

The solution was to have those players give the player they ask some information about their card. In this situation, if everyone keeps asking the same person questions they will get more and more information about their card, giving them a big advantage, which you would want to avoid.

After a little more work and thought, here it is:

arghbig

Argh Who Am?! Print and Play.pdf

How to Look at Your Card

In this game of truth, lies and deduction you do not see the Monster on your own card, but you can see the Monster on everyone else’s.

  • There is both a truth and a lies card for each of the eight Monsters. By orientating your Monster portrait correctly, the text on the back of your card will show you which of the two you have.
  • If your card is a truth card then you must tell the truth during the Exchange phase, if it is a lies card you must lie during the Exchange phase.

Setup

  • Shuffle all the Monster Cards together.
  • Deal one card to each player and one card face down into a discard pile.
  • Place the remaining cards face down where everyone can reach them, this is the stack.
  • Hold your card so everyone but you can see the Monster you are.
  • Help everyone orientate their Monster portrait correctly.

Play

Starting with the player explaining the rules, then continuing clockwise, players take turns to either Exchange or Declare.

Exchange has two stages, statement and query, both which must be done with players telling truth or lies depending on their current card.

  • Statement: Tell another player something about their Monster.
  • Query: Then ask the same player a question related to your Monster that they will answer with either a “yes” or a “no”. You cannot directly ask if you are a specific Monster.

– or –

Declare, state the Monster you believe yourself to be, then place the card face up in front of yourself:

  • If correct keep the card in a pile in front of you.
  • If wrong place the card in the discard pile.

Then take another card from the stack.

End of the Game

Continue taking turns until a player attempts to take a card from the stack but cannot because the stack is empty.

Count how many cards you have correctly identified, the player with the most cards wins.

At the moment the cards have classic monsters on them (and very basic art), but that may change with playtesting, in theory they could be any thing which gives a lot of options for making custom decks for different player preferences. Here are snapshots of the font and backs of some of the cards.

If the game goes well, I’ll look into producing some better art work for it. If you manage to play it or have any thoughts or suggestions please let me know.

I think the game will work with between 3-10 players, but this needs further testing to see if this is true.

Argh Who Am?! Print and Play.pdf

10 Questions to Consider when Exhibiting Games and Designing Games for Exhibitions

More spaces are showing games for many different reasons. It might be demos for games that are available to purchase, games that are in development or perhaps the game itself was specifically designed to be shown in an exhibition. Whatever the reason there are a few questions that I think we should start asking ourselves about showing games in these spaces. This is not a definitive list but a work in progress, the beginning of a wider conversation we as designers, exhibitors and curators should be having. Games are certainly worthy of a platform and space to be shown, and we can learn a lot from other mediums, art, design, performance and theatre, but there are somethings that games do differently. Therefore we must consider what is special about how people view and experience games and how we can make exhibitions and spaces for games better, for those that attend and those that are showing.

Here are ten questions to start that conversation:

  1. How easy is it for someone else to set-up, are there clear instructions, can you make it automatically load when turned on?

It might be that your game is going to be set-up or looked after by someone else, or you be looking after many different games. Make it as easy as possible to go from a crashed or broken state to ready to play. In the case of games on PCs and Macs put a little extra effort in so the game automatically loads up when you either turn on or reset the system. This will make your life and the life of others a whole lot easier.

  1. Is it simple and clear for a new player to restart the game, do you need a big red reset button?

I’ve seen it happen in a number of places. People play a game for a while and then leave it part way through. If a new player with no experience of the game comes to play at this point they may have missed the ‘tutorial’ or learning experience crucial to the overcoming the next obstacle. In fact people often put down the game when they get stuck, so someone picking up the game at this difficulty spike can stop them getting into the game completely. Your game may well have a menu and a restart option but this may not be clear on its own. Is there a way to have a big reset button so a new player can walk to the system and hit it knowing they’ll go back to the beginning? Something like a MakeyMakey could be used for doing this.

  1. How long does it take to learn to play the game, how long to get a good appreciation of the game?

When exhibiting a game, a player will not necessarily have a long time to play your game. There will hopefully be people waiting behind them to have a go, which will add pressure to them. Is the player going to get a suitable understanding of the games rules or controls and a reasonable impression of the game in the time given? If you are showing part of a larger game choose carefully which part it is you show. If you are creating a game specifically for exhibition take this consideration into account at the design phase.

  1. Does your game implicitly state to allow someone else to have a go, after a certain amount of time, after reaching a fixed point?

Again you are probably hoping that lots of people will want to play your game, but games generally are not designed with systems for allowing new players to enter and old players to leave. Consider changing your game to allow for this. At certain points in the game, controlled by time or achievement add an on screen prompt (or non-digital equivalent) that says, ‘You’ve been playing for a while, can you see someone else who would like to play.’ If there isn’t anyone they can keep playing but if there is someone else can have a go without having to ask.

  1. In multiplayer games, could those who have won be encourage through the game itself to look for someone else who might want a go?

In a similar way, multiplayer games should encourage you to share. After a round, match or turn, specifically consider having the winning player give up their spot. Again this can be an onscreen prompt. I have always disliked the often used ‘winner stays on’ rule for game all this does is give the best player more opportunity to get better rather than allowing less skilled players the opportunity to improve.

  1. Who can see your game being played, should it be private just the current player(s), or should it have an audience?

Depending on the type of game and the subject matter there should be some consideration to who can see the game being played. Should it just be the people playing, perhaps they are being asked personal questions or they need a safe space to fail and get better. Possibly showing someone the game before they play will spoil it for them. On the other hand is the game improved with a audience of spectators encouraging and reacting to the players playing. Either way the space and the way the game is set up should really consider that. You can put a curtain around a game, or hide it in a booth. You can put large screens high so others can see them. You can have secondary screens which show the action to the audience specifically.

  1. Are the controls intuitive and clear, do you need to have all those extra buttons accessible when they’re not going to be used?

The worst thing that can happen when learning to play a game is that there are not any clear instructions for the controls. This leads to bashing buttons and hoping things will happen. This is worse with keyboards as there are so many additional potential buttons to try. A simple way to reduce this complexity is by removing the buttons, or highlighting the buttons that are used with stickers or some other markings. A potentially better way is to make a bespoke controller, which through its design communicates intuitively how to use it.

  1. Can you reduce the potential embarrassment that someone may feel if they are not good, or do not understand how to use your game?

A lot of the time we play games in our own homes or with friends, this is somewhere we likely feel safe to fail and get things wrong, and can slowly learn how to play. Picking up a game in a public space and not being able to play can be embarrassing and frustrating. I am not sure what the best way is to solve this in general as it will very much depend on the exact nature of the game and the player, but it is certainly something to take into consideration. If your game is specifically hard maybe having multiple systems, some with an amount of privacy may eliminate the problem.

  1. Could your game disguise the computer and screen, can you hide the familiar technology in cabinets, tables or other bespoke creations?

It is a big challenge but sometimes it is just a little dull seeing rows of computers lined up showing games. I know it makes life and set-up easier but it lacks a little of the potential magic of games. There is potential, given enough budget, time and effort to make bespoke cabinets and tables to hide the hardware in. Instead of mounting screens on walls, they could be behind cutout windows in false walls, giving a flush neat appearance. Instead of keyboards and standard control pads their could be mounted and bespoke controllers. This I admit is a luxury but I think it would help people focus on the games and design rather than the technology used.

  1. What is the purpose of the game, is it advertising itself or is it something that only exists to be exhibited?

Whether the game you are exhibiting is a short demo of a larger game, a full demo for something you wish to sell or something designed specifically for that exhibition the above notions should be considered and potentially embedded into the game. You can design these elements into the fabric of the game itself or you can add a coat of exhibition veneer to an existing game. To make the games exhibition friendly will definitely require more work but it will give the player an experience greater than something they could achieve at home just downloading a demo.