BCM300 – Blog 1: Game Experience

BCM300 – Blog 1: Game Experience

Up until this semester, I’ve had very limited knowledge about boardgames. I’ve had my fair share of playing them however this has consisted of games like uno, monopoly and connect 4. Drawing from traditional games like this I am excited to learn about the analytical framework that goes into creating/ formulating a game.

I was astounded to learn about the numerous types of board games available. You’d think it’s all the same thing, but the differing complexities from game to game completely changed my viewpoint, which is shocking given that I’m well-versed in the various styles of video game genres.

Since I will only be on campus every second week, I decided to reach into our game collection at home and found a game called Codenames. My experience with this game was exhilarating and exciting. Throughout this blog I will be breaking down the game and my experience with it.

Codenames was developed by Vlaada Chvátil and released by Czech Games in 2015, and the artists for the game are Stéphane Gantiez, Tomáš Kučerovský, Filip Murmak.

I brought my family together to play this game to get the full experience, ther  (the game suggests 2-8 players and we had 4) but it was fascinating to see how, once the game started and everybody felt more relaxed, the game became easier to understand and more fun to play, particularly when you’re solving a problem.

Codenames is a contemporary analog board game also known as a board game that tells stories. By bringing a narratological methodology to analog board games, Chvátil develops both an understanding of how games can tell stories as well as why storytelling matters in gaming. The style of the game is an asymmetrical cooperative board game, which means multiple players have various skills. The game is divided into 2 teams (red and blue) and one member on each team has to be the guesser and the other member can give the hints and, after the round is over, they rotate. The goal of the game is to locate all the terms that are connected with your squad. While also attempting to avoid providing the wrong clues otherwise the guesser may guess a term that ends up being the “black” card. If anyone says a phrase about a black card, the team will forfeit. (Displayed below) This reminds me of the “Battleship” game, where players have to try to guess where your opponents are on the map.

The main demographic as recommended by the game is people 14+. This is important because the game needs you to learn the language in a multi-modal way, which ensures that you might utter one word and that would mean another. (e.g. the term ‘fly’ may mean a bug or be in the sky). You also need to try and group terms together. I assume that if the age limit was much lower, it would be difficult for children to understand how to use one word to describe several cards. For example, if the three cards were “orange, apple and pineapple,” the person giving the clues may answer, “fruit.” It’s more effective to group the terms together, so it ensures a quicker win.

I would say that the story of a game entertains you, while the game mechanics involve you as a player. It was perhaps most obvious in the fact that, while the assumption of being secret agents in Codenames: Pictures provided context and meaning to the game, it had little impact on how the game was played. Instead, the intentionally ambiguous images on the cards allowed several unconventional and abstract strategies to emerge as the game progressed.

I assume that because of the dynamics of the game, such as rivalry and teamwork, it helps to develop the mechanics of the game. Without these elements, factors such as the rules and the style of the game may not have been as successful. The fact that the game mechanics allowed for quick comebacks was one such aspect that I felt was effective in engaging and developing a convincing arc of gameplay. When Bodhi and I thought we had the game won because we were 6 cards ahead of Sam and Jordan, the opposing team decided to make a ‘Hail Mary’ play and won the game on the final round. This gameplay mechanic, in addition to being a lot of fun, made it impossible to predict what the game’s final outcome would be because last-ditch attempts were just as legitimate a tactic as incremental progress towards completion. It should come as no surprise that I plan to add this type of mechanic into my own game in the hopes of providing a more immersive and enthralling experience for my players.

An academic analysis by Kim, Ruzmaykin, Truong and Summerville (2019), called Cooperation and Codenames: Understanding Natural Language Processing by Codenames, which explores how the board game was influenced and is the inspiration for the Codenames AI Competition. Codenames is a competition test ground in which rivals must build a bot that can defeat any of the other bots.

Initially it was played with Chess, but now it’s done with Codenames. The thesis discusses the two conditions of the game:

  1. Deep Multimodal Language  
  2. Asymmetrical Collaboration

Understand the deep multi-modal vocabulary in this rivalry, the deeper elements that Codenames can be used for, which I didn’t realise, are apparent.

By playing the game, it was fun to see how unique it was to the games that I used to play growing up like one. The game requires a certain level of talent and language skills for you to play it sufficiently.

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