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On Thanksgiving Day, NSKN’s blog brought us some solid food for thought: how should game designers and publishers, not to mention gamers in general, consider the impact of thematic content in the games they design and play?  In this entry, NSKN presents the conflict that can sometimes arise due to various elements of theme in games.

It’s quite likely that every gamer has become involved in a game where some aspect of the theme struck a nerve with someone at the table.  A solid theme brings the mechanics of a game to life, allowing us as gamers to make connections that suck us in and immerse us in the experience of the game.  There are, however, elements of life, philosophy, morality, and the human experience, that we find unpleasant, disturbing, and sometimes quite revolting.  Whether the subject matter is as “in your face” as playing on a sheet of human skin in Chaos in the Old World, or something deeper and more subtle like the “colonists” in Puerto Rico, it’s difficult to be callous to others when a particular aspect of a game’s theme strikes that nerve.

A mature response in this area is to make one’s own decisions about a theme and to be careful to avoid pressuring others to play games with themes that are difficult for them.  However, even in this light, designers and publishers should carefully consider the impressions that will be left on others by the delivery of theme in their games, and be prepared for any negative reactions from thematic elements that come close to established social and moral boundaries.

The article makes observations about how a person can find one edgy theme acceptable yet be very bothered by another theme that could be considered controversial.  To read the article in full, visit the NSKN blog page.

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In this installment from our friends at the League of GameMakers they take us on the first part of a journey looking at the retheming of a game.  This post is written with input from both the publisher and the designer.  One of the most interesting things about what is said in here, or not said, is that theming can take a game from being wrong to right without the underlying mechanics necessarily changing at all.  That being said in any game going through development your always going to be seeing tweaks made.  Otherwise the only value of a publisher would be fronting money for printing and that can be done through a bank if the idea is good enough.

This is a very insightful look into the process by which a theme is chosen and in turn accepted or rejected by the game designer.  Theme matters a lot and so often we hear about people not liking the game as much because the theme just feels pasted on.  Some games can have a theme tacked on to them, some the theme is integral to the game running effectively (Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne), and yet others have a theme that while not necessary to the game itself melds well with what the game provides to be the chocolate to the games proverbial peanut butter.

To read the full post head on over the League of GameMakers site here.

settlers of catan

This blog post, over at Tiny Wooden Pieces, looks at the Settlers of Catan and the dynamics which make it such an evergreen.  It’s discussed how it is not necessarily the most modern game containing the fancier new mechanics we have seen.

Head over to their site to see this very interesting blog post here.