Chores Are Fun: Understanding Social Play in Board Games for Digital Tabletop Game Design
Conference of the Digital Games Research Association
When designing tabletop digital games, designers often draw inspiration from board games because of their similarities (e.g., spatial structure, social setting, and physical interaction). As part of our tabletop handheld augmented reality (THAR) games research, in which computer graphics content is rendered and registered on top of the players' view of the physical world, we are motivated to understand how social play unfolds in board games with the purpose of informing design decisions for
... games. In this paper we report an empirical study of recorded video from a series of board game play sessions. We present five categories of social interactions based on how each interaction is initiated, among which we believe that the category of "chores" (interactions arising from the bookkeeping activities required to maintain and update game state) provides opportunities and support for four other kinds of social interaction, namely, "Reflection on Gameplay" (reacting to and reflecting on gameplay after a move); "Strategies" (deciding how to play before a move); "Out-of-game" (reacting to and talking about out-of-game subjects); and "Game itself" (commenting on and reacting to the game as an artifact of interest). We note that "chores" in board games (e.g. waiting for a turn, rule learning and enforcement, maneuvering physical objects), which at first appear to be merely functional, are critical for supporting players' engagement with each other. Although most of these chores can be automated using technology, we argue that this is often not the best choice when designing social interactions with digital media. Based on our experience with THAR games, we discuss several design choices related to "chores". To understand the connection between game design elements and social experience, we apply Interaction Ritual (IR) theory from micro-sociology to interpret our data.