Taking the Video Out of the Game

Looking through the historical progression of games, there seems to be a fairly smooth path that points towards video games being the current end point. This makes sense considering that video games and VR are the peak of gaming technology, but what about the games that go back in time? As an avid board game player, I wanted to take a look at some of the great video games that have expanded their reach into the realm of tabletop play. Are the games any good and why are they made?

Let’s start off with what is arguably the most popular video game-board game transition, which is Dark Souls The Board Game. Initially a Kickstarter project, the game hit its target in 3 minutes and ultimately raised over $4,000,000. For those of you who don’t know much about Dark Souls (the actual video game) it was released in 2011 to much critical acclaim and commercial success. While it could be frustratingly difficult for players, there is an intricate lore, great mechanics, and an open world platform that allows for so many different strategic maneuvers. Turning back to the board game, it actually held up pretty well against the original video game. There were interestingly layered game mechanics, high end design, and of course mercilessly unforgiving combat.

dark souls memeWhere things get interesting is how this game helps Dark Souls make the transition from spiteful multiplayer video game to a collaborative and hopefully fun for all video game. In the video game the player-relationship is complex as everyone has similar common goals, but they can also take over another player’s human form by killing them. By changing the board game to be completely collaborative Dark Souls developers FromSoftware are potentially trying to take away some of the negative impressions players are left with after playing Dark Souls. The board game serves as an avenue to build a stronger community around Dark Souls, which would ultimately lead to more players and game play.

dark souls board gameWhile it’s nice to think about a lot of the community and “for the sake of the game” aspects of expansion into board games, the bottomline is of course going to be money. Particularly with games that achieve massive success, a board game is a quick way to make some easy cash. For this we turn to the lamest of all video game iterations, the Monopoly edition. Don’t take this as a sign of me bashing Monopoly, it’s probably the first game I really loved playing and I still playing with some regularity even today. The point I am trying to make is that some game companies simply opt to get lazy when making the transition to board games and that’s not at all exciting for fans of the game. Just to name a few there is Zelda Monopoly, Fallout Monopoly, and Mass Effect Monopoly. While I am sure that these all sold a few copies, none brought another dimension to the original video game, doing little if anything to make the experience worthwhile for fans of the original game.

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At the end of the day it’s easy to tell, which game companies are really looking to provide something new and exciting for their fan base. Some video games such as BioShock, Assassin’s Creed, and Dark Souls have provided an opportunity to expand upon gameplay and grow the fandom and community. On the other hand countless video game makers have come out with board games that provide little other than funding, or just simply aren’t good games. So before making that transition from the screen to your kitchen table be sure to do a little bit of research as a great video game doesn’t always translate to a great board game.

  • Sam Grossman
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8 thoughts on “Taking the Video Out of the Game”

  1. The video game – board game transition is a fascinating subject I had not previously considered. I always thought of the two — video games and board games — as two separate entities, instead of two complementary mediums to enhance gameplay. To me, this discussion evoked similarities to the new games that incorporate action figures and video games, and furthermore the virtual reality games that use real world objects to augment reality. I would like to see your viewpoint of how these implementations have enhanced the gameplay experience or if it currently is just a gimmick.

  2. This was a really interesting topic. When I think of this topic, I generally think of it in the other direction. For example, Konami is making there hit card game Yu-gi-oh more like the tv show and adding virtual aspects to it to where you can actually see the monsters do battle. There are also plenty of video games that have sprouted out from table top games such as online card games like Hearthstone. There are many ways to go about this subject, but I really enjoyed this one as it made me think the reverse of what I usually do.

  3. I really like the creative twist you took on this topic. You make a valid point in stating how the traditional line of thinking lends itself to board games being outdated and the trajectory is pointed towards further digital adaptation. While companies have been making creative moves to implement card games or board games or other fleshed out versions of their narrative outside of the video game, you did focus heavily in on just the board games. I think it is interesting how companies have begun pushing towards other “money-makers” like movies (e.g. Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed) and am curious to see how much board games become a major focus for franchises in the future.

  4. I love how you pointed to both the branding/PR motivations of developers and the monetary ones. As an avid lover and hoarder of various of these branded Monopoly games, I totally agree with frustrations about lazy game development. I think it’s interesting to consider how these versions of board games based off video games are almost purely sentimental for players– they love and buy the board game based on their existing attachment to the world of the video game. I would love to see the opposite happen (it’s high time for a Settlers of Catan video game, right?).

  5. This topic peaked my interest as it’s something I’ve never really thought of before. I often see the themed Monopoly board games and think something along the lines of “how cute” “how novel” or “how fun”; but I always think it is solely motivated by increased revenue. Of course, who doesn’t love a Star Wars themed Monopoly set, but perhaps, especially based off of your thoughts in this blog, some video game to board game transitions are more based on profit than gaming. I really liked the idea that in order to really do a more successful crossover the board game, even if it were to merge with a staple such as Monopoly, there should be some unique addition. I am also curious about whether the sense of connection and community you noted was created in the board game translates back into the video game, where violence and killing are still crucial.

  6. As someone who is more familiar with board games than video games, I found this topic very interesting. I am especially fascinated by the overlap in both games’ audience. As you touched on briefly, the two different forms of the game seem to require different skills of the gamer. I am curious as to how this may invite a broader audience to the world of Dark Souls; how do you think the demographics of this audience shift? I am also interested in how the different games impact player interactions. Is there much of an overlap between the way Dark Souls video game teams and Dark Souls board game teams interact? I think it is worth comparing the transition of video games to board games to that of movies to books (or vice versa).

  7. I really like your point about the way that a video game’s board game iteration redefines its style of competition. The switch from dog-eat-dog to collaboration styles can make all the difference for someone like myself, as I love the spirit of gaming but not the cutthroat nature of many player vs. player games. However, I am not sure that I agree that video games or board game remakes are the terminus of gaming’s trajectory. Technologies like VR and AR were unfathomable outside of science fiction novels twenty years ago, and with the pace of technological advancement (particularly in processing power according to Moore’s Law), I do not think it is unreasonable to bet that we will experience a technological innovation on the scale of the internet, or at the very least AR and VR. Such a creation would doubtlessly lead to new modes of gaming.

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