What Is the Game Core?

It’s always a pleasure to help someone on a board game project. There will always be new stuffs to learn, and challenges to overcome.  A few months ago, a friend who was a student majoring on graphic design at a local university, showed up at Kummara. He was working on his final assignment, a board game project, based on a very interesting theme – badminton, and I agreed to assist him in the design process.

The most intriguing phase in board game design is gameplay concepting, especially on certain themes, and this particular project turned out to be more challenging than expected.

At the moment, I thought it would be easy to make a gameplay based on sport, considering that the real thing has already have a set of rules. But, it turned out to be the other way around! What we thought could help us actually became the main problem. The rules, the mechanic, and the feeling of the real game became boundaries in making a new game play.

The problem with ‘making a board game based on sport’, is that we have experienced the real one and so we have this tendency to try and mimic it, which is almost impossible, since the real game has its own requirements and elements that cannot be directly implemented in a board game. Understanding that we wouldn’t be able to accommodate all the dynamics of the real game, we tried to approach the project in another way.

Strip the rules, ignore the system, and try to understand the core of the game. These are the few steps that we tried to do, and in this case we finally realize that badminton game is simply about returning the shuttlecock to the opponents in a way that makes it most difficult for them to intercept it. This is the whole idea of badminton, and so we started to work on the board game starting from this simple concept.

We finally finished the board game with a simple mechanic, focusing on motoric activity of returning the shuttlecock token. Even though the board game wasn’t perfect yet, we actually overcome the problem, the final assignment was done and got an A (congrats to Mizan – the friend I mentioned earlier), and we especially learned something useful from the project.

Games, in each and any forms (sport, digital game, board game, card game, traditional game, etc), have their own characteristics according to the medium being used.  But these mediums are merely tools to deliver a message, while the core of the game itself is ‘the message’, and once we grab the core, then hopefully we will be able to utilize it in any form.

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