Thursday, November 8, 2018

Real World Mechanic

The real world is fun. The real world contains a variety of ways to make strategic choices, dare I say game mechanics. These mechanics are games, but a lot of people do not realize they are games. If you sit a person down and try to teach them the concepts, they may think it’s too complicated, or get board and not pay attention.  But if I sit that person down at a board game, teach them some rules with a win condition, they'll pick it up quickly, and may even find their good at it.  Odds are decent, they already have developed skills to utilize the mechanic because they unknowing use it already in their everyday life.
What does a real world mechanic look like? Let’s say you wanted to make a game about building a treehouse using Real World Mechanics.  A real world mechanic would focus on the physical actions taken to build a treehouse, say hammering a nail in a 2x4. While building a treehouse is a wonderful theme, the mechanic of hammering a nail into wood does not excite me.  Notice that when talking about Real World Mechanics I focus on the experience of building a treehouse, not the excitement of having a treehouse.  I am bringing strategic decisions from the real world into a game, not necessarily the theme that goes with those decisions.
Inspiration for Real World Mechanics can come from any process. And there are fields of study devoted to translating human behavior in the world, like economics, and political science, which I conveniently like to steal from to make board games. The key thing I look for are processes in the real world where people make strategic choices with other people and porting that experience into a board game.
So what is an example of a real world mechanics I want in a board game. Here is one, mortgage backed securities.  Wait, stop running away and hear me out. I have strategic information telling me who will survive and who will be swept away. I want to use that information to ensure I am the one who survives and others are left holding the bag when things come tumbling down. That is a tense, exciting, and competitive situation, which also happens to be a mortgage back security.  As I said earlier, my goal is to provide players the experience of the real world mechanic, not necessarily the theme. I could have designed a game themed about mortgage backed securities, but instead I themed a game as life in the mob.

In New Jersey Syndicate you carefully place your goons in cities. Goons placed earlier in the city are less likely to be picked up by the FBI than goons played later in a city. Players are scouting the riskiness of each city while trying not to give away their inside knowledge on risk to their competitors in an effort to gain a competitive edge.  Eventually, the game comes to a climatic end where players learn if they made a sound strategic placement of their goons or if the FBI is sweeping up all their goons, blocking them from becoming the new Don of the New Jersey Syndicate.

No where do players think they are partaking in a game of mortgage back securities. New Jersey Syndicate lets the players experiencing the excitement that takes place within the mortgage back securities market without ever learning about the intricacies of the mortgage back security market.  More importantly, porting a real world mechanic into the game enables me to provide players with a fun new game experience they have not seen in other board games.

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