Friday, June 30, 2017

The Importance of Themes in Board Games

As part of my continuing Blogumentary of the board game, Millennium, I'm now only days away from ordering my first prototype. It's funny how deadlines push you closer to your goals and the design of this box has already gone through about a half dozen different covers in a short six months.

As the game evolves, so does everything else along with it. Hopefully this will be the last design change before the game goes into full production mode in the coming months. It is a long process regardless of how you slice it.

First Prototype Design - Dark with a glimmer of hope.
The first box design was simple and way too dark. The mood I was trying to evoke was darkness and the end of something, End of Days.

As the game evolved I did an about-face and decided to focus on a new day and a bright future as opposed to a dark past and so all the colors and tones had to change accordingly.

As you can see with the latest design, it feels like something hopeful is on the horizon and that is by far a better outlook for the game.

The game went from a pessimistic POV to an optimistic one and I think that will give it the legs it needs to grow as quickly as possible.

Who can say what will be but I think it's a good bet to focus on the positive as opposed to lingering in darkness. This thought also led me to a stronger hook for the theme of the game and I was able to latch on to the new Millennium, being the year 2000 in this case because placing the game in the year 3000 is quite a stretch.

So in essence, the themes of the game build upon the year 2000 or Y2K as it was known at the time. For those of you who were too young at the turn of the new Millennium, there was some tension about everything digital and how computers, or more accurately, how certain processes governed by computers would adapt to this odd number.

Current Design - A hopeful future is already here.
Luckily, all the points of major crisis were successfully averted and the world went on functioning virtually without a hitch. Without a hitch until the year 2001 of September 11, that is. When 9/11 happened, the world and especially New York City, would never be the same.

It is on these themes of world destruction and world domination by ruthless and evil dictators and megalomaniacs that this board game hinges upon.

"You can't interest people in something they don't
give a damn about."

Quite a heavy topic but a most relevant one indeed. And that's hard to top. Global themes are here to stay for obvious reasons and apparently so are board games. That being said, it's my mission with Millennium to not only bring these themes to light but to shed some light into these dark and foreboding ideas and to provoke positive thought and hopefully positive change.

All that about a board game? Sure, why not? One of the most important checkboxes you need to check when it comes to product design is the product's relevancy and importance to consumers. Things have to matter so that people will care. It's just that simple.

You can't interest people in something they don't give a damn about. It won't work. Everyone is interested in global peace and a positive future so hence this game was born from that idea. Actually it's an old Hollywood trick. You build something around a name or a title not the other way around because certain titles or words have implicit themes built right into them.

It's known as a high concept in Hollywood

In this case I was searching for a word or name with a global theme and Millennium came to me instantly. Once I had the name, everything grew from there.

Certainly I'm not in favor of gratuitous violence in any way as so many video games or board games exploit this to every degree. Any acts of violence in this game are born strictly out of self defense and self preservation, survival.

When the Apocalypse comes in the Biblical sense of the word, it is literally every man, every woman and every child for themselves. Each of us must learn to survive however we can because those who have protected us in the past might not be around for us at the time.

So yes, themes are meaningful to stories and to board games just the same. They must be because without a strong central theme plus minor themes and subplots to support it, the spine of your story or game will not work.

Imagine something without a spine. An animal, a human, a story. Themes must act as strong yet flexible spines where you can attach everything so that it all makes sense.

A strong central theme is the most important structural element for your game.

Don't be caught dead with one.

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BTW, you'll notice a woman in Apocalyptic attire holding an Uzi on the cover and a train in the distance. A no-brainer. Pretty women with guns are a surefire bet.

Also, I forgot to mention that I put together a short teaser for Millennium. It only runs for about 40 seconds and this one comes with quite a kicker or should I say quite a blast at the ending. Still tweaking it but I'll post it soon.

Come on back for that because it's pretty funny.

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