Skip to Content

Creating a 'Gateway' Game

12 replies [Last post]
Anonymous

Have you ever noticed that you just have those friends who are impossible to get to enjoy playing board games? Or want to be able to create something with the potential of expanding the total number of gamers? The gateway game is your tool.

What goes into a gateway game exactly? This is a difficult question to answer, but I will make an attempt.

The gateway game has a number of attributes that appeal to the people who are used to scrabble, monopoly, clue, and various party games; and in the end will hopefully get these people into their seat long enough to finish a game.

First and arguably most importantly: Rules

A game with a large set of rules is a drag for anybody to try and get their minds around, especially people that are to be introduced to gaming. If the rules are very short, intuitive, and easy to learn after only one or two explanations, then the road to a gateway game has been travelled a long distance.

While the rules should be simple to learn and easy to remember, providing players with player-aids is also a good idea. This is best implemented in Settler's of Catan, where after learning the rules, an aid showing what it costs to buy each type of thing is provided. This allows for an easy way to remember the exact costs of each thing.

Intriguing Gameplay

Despite having a simple and short set of rules, the gameplay should still be intruiging. If the new players want to just get up and leave because they are bored, or find the game too simple, then the game has not only failed as a 'gateway' game, but as a game in general.

Depth of Gameplay

Depth of gameplay is reffering to how much 'meat' is there in a game. This can be defined in more ways than I can possibly imagine, and the depth of each game is certainly a personal experience for the players, and if a large amount of depth is a good thing. I think depth is a good thing here, otherwise gamer's are not as likely to introduce somebody to gaming through the particular game if there is not enough depth and challenge to keep a more experienced gamer interested in the game.

Replayability

I would say this is the second most important thing in creating a 'gateway' game. If the game instills a strong desire to play again this is a good thing. This will lead to more plays for the game in general and will also lead to a wider variety of people playing the game. It is surprising that Settlers of Catan has such a high replay value associated with it, despite what seems to me like a narrow theme if any, and a somewhat shallow gameplay (again in my opinion). But the replayability of Settlers is huge. I remember the first time I played the game, over the course of around 36 hours or more, the game was being played constantly between myself and my group of friends. People left and came back, but the game was being played throughout that period of time.

Theme

A strong and interesting theme can make for a higher level of replayability and interest in the game. Simple to see this, and seemingly intuitive, so I will not expound on this

Components/Visual Appeal

While this does not directly influence gameplay, it does help to keep people interested, or get them interested at all. Lets take some extreme examples... Kill Doctor Lucky, I have heard that it is a very good and fun game, but I myself have never come to the decision to play it, because it just looks boring. Ticket to Ride or Lord of the Rings (co-op by Reiner Knizia), both of these games have very stunning visual elements and components to them. The games just look 'cool'. Getting somebody to play either of these games based on the appearance would be quite easy.

This is all that I want to say about this right now, so peace out

zaiga
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Creating a 'Gateway' Game

I think you summed it up perfectly. I wanted to add that the things you listed are things I look for in any game I play as well as any game I design.

DrMayhem wrote:
It is surprising that Settlers of Catan has such a high replay value associated with it, despite what seems to me like a narrow theme if any, and a somewhat shallow gameplay (again in my opinion). But the replayability of Settlers is huge.

I think what greatly enhances the replayability of Settlers is that each game the board layout will be different, which means that a strategy that works one game, might fail in another game. Also, there's a significant random factor (dice rolls, card draw), as well as a signifcant amount of player interaction (trading, robber, blocking) which means that even someone who plays perfectly may not always win, which I think adds to the replayability of the game as well.

Kreitler
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Creating a 'Gateway' Game

Hi Doc,

Good points all, and well said.

I've been thinking about this too, lately. I think there's one more factor, related to rules complexity, depth and replability, which can make a difference: expandability.

You mentioned Settlers several times, and it serves as a great example here: the rules for the basic game are very short and easily grasped. The gameplay isn't very deep, so many game groups quickly introduce variations. That simultaneously deepends the game and adds to replayability.
You can also buy rules expansions. Seafarers is a pretty light but fun add-on, and helps draw non-hardcore gamers further in. Cities and Knights adds enough new rules and depth that Settlers ceases to be a "gateway" game by that point -- but in theory, you've already sucked everyone in by that time.

This "tiered" structure helps us as designers, too. I'm often tempted to throw in a bunch of rules to make my games more "accurate" or "fun". Lately, I've tried to stop this by using the Settlers model -- focus on making the primary mechanic as enjoyable as possible by itself. Only after you have a fun minimal rule set do you introduce sub-systems that dramatically increase the interactions in the game.
Chances are, if you can find a fun and expandable minimal rule set, you have the start of a gateway game.

K.

Anonymous
Creating a 'Gateway' Game

as a result of thinking about gateway games, and my recent purchase of an American Movie, Sky Captain and The World of Tommorow, I want to make a gateway type of game based on this movie.

Basedon the off chance somebody doesn't know naything about this movie... I will talk some about it.

Thematically, Sky Captain is like a comic book movie, where you are transported into a peculiar world (one which takes place seemingly around the 1950's based in the United States, while at the same time having futuristic notions like the Hindenburgh III which docks with the Empire State Building in the beginning, Huge Robots bent on stealing the world's resources, and propeller planes with cool special abilities.)

Visually, the movie is a stunning example of what CGI can be used to do. The entire movie was shot on a blue stage, and then everything except the main actors were added through CGI basically. Because of this, the feel of the movie is very 'film noir'. There is amazing lighting effects, and the movie provides for an opportunity to love it.

I would love to make a 'gateway' sort of game based on this film, and have the mechanics and game play also be tied into the theme. unfortunately, this is a tall order and I have only one idea of where to start.

phpbbadmin
Offline
Joined: 04/23/2013
Creating a 'Gateway' Game

Not to Hijack the thread, but I've had a similar idea with the animated movie/book classic Watership Down. However, as far as a game is concerned, it is very difficult to come up with any thing worth creating a game about. About the closest thing I could come up with is a war game where the different clans of rabbits duke it out. I'd rather not to do that because it just seems boring. Redwall would be a better setting for such a game. That leads me to my next point: Just because something is good in one form of media, doesn't mean it can/will/should be translated into a board game. How many times have you played a board game that was licensed from a book or movie only to discover that it sucked? From my experience most of these efforts have fallen very short. It could be the American tendency to release 'fluffed up' merchandise based upon whatever is the latest and greatest thing; I.E. the media companies don't care how a game plays as long as it's available on the shelf when the movie hits the theaters. The other option, and this is my main point, is that often times movies & books just don't have a story that wi ll translate nicely into a board game. Obviously there are exceptions (AH's Dune and Knizia's Lord of the Rings come immediately to mind). And of course one could say that a talented enough designer could pull it off, but then are we actually recieving a richly themed game based upon the representative media work, or are we seeing a mostly abstract game with a thinly pasted on theme?

So I guess my question is this: Just because Sky Captains was a good movie (haven't seen it yet, dying to though), what makes you think it will translate into a good game, and a gateway game at that?

-Darke (sorry, playing the devil's advocate)

Anonymous
Creating a 'Gateway' Game

Yes, I think of course that it can be done, however I am unsure of my own ability to do it. More to the point, I think it would be a shame not to try.

Like I would love to be able to play and/or create a game based on Ender's Game, or even a small portion of it, but I think I have even less skill when it would come to something like that.

DSfan
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Creating a 'Gateway' Game

Drakehorse wrote:
what makes you think it will translate into a good game...

Sry, if this sounds harsh but... what makes you think any design will come out a good one. It's just all a matter of improving error's, and anything could turn out to be a "good" game.

But a "great" game is a whole different story.

-Justin

jwarrend
Offline
Joined: 08/03/2008
Creating a 'Gateway' Game

DSfan wrote:
what makes you think any design will come out a good one. It's just all a matter of improving error's, and anything could turn out to be a "good" game.

I think Darkehorse's point was more that to create a game out of a prior work, you need to find an interesting source of tension around which interesting decisions can be made. The kinds of tension that make a good narrative aren't always the same things that lead to interesting decisions.

For example, in one of my favorite movies, "Chariots of Fire", there's a plot development where one of the characters won't compete in an Olympic trial on Sunday because of his religious beliefs. Now, this is a great plot element in the movie, but it's not clear how you'd make a mechanic out of it.

I think this was Darke's point; that just because a story is interesting, it doesn't mean that there will necessarily be a good set of mechanics that you'll be able to create that will both evoke the story AND be an interesting and fun game. But of course, it's worth a try!

As for making a gateway game about Sky Captain, while I've heard the movie was good, there's no question that it bombed at the box office. I wonder if you could really sell a game based on a box office failure. Of course, if you're just seeking to make an enjoyable game, it doesn't matter...

-Jeff

Anonymous
Creating a 'Gateway' Game

while I imagine the movie bombed at the box office, so did The Princess Bride, Titan AE, and The Wizard of Oz. All of which have become appreciated to certain degrees in due time. I just personally think that there is such a wealth of good imagery in the movie, that there could be something there.

Although I do agree that a Chariots of Fire game would most likely be very very very bad. And that possibly it would be difficult to make a game about Sky Captain that is directly relating to the movie, although the 'universe' in which the movie happens is certainly rich enough to provide something.

Bear in mind it took a very long time to get quality games set in the Lord of the Rings world.

sedjtroll
sedjtroll's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/21/2008
Creating a 'Gateway' Game

DrMayhem wrote:
while I imagine the movie bombed at the box office, so did The Princess Bride, Titan AE, and The Wizard of Oz. All of which have become appreciated to certain degrees in due time.

Your point is well taken with respect to Princess Bride and The Wizard of Oz. Titan AE doesn't seem to fit in that group.

Perhaps a better example than any of those is Star Wars. It's got the biggest following of just about anything, now. But when it came out it was 'no big deal'. Note also that there have been several games made in and about the Star Wars universe.

- Seth

Anonymous
Creating a 'Gateway' Game

sedjtroll wrote:
DrMayhem wrote:
while I imagine the movie bombed at the box office, so did The Princess Bride, Titan AE, and The Wizard of Oz. All of which have become appreciated to certain degrees in due time.

Your point is well taken with respect to Princess Bride and The Wizard of Oz. Titan AE doesn't seem to fit in that group.

Perhaps a better example than any of those is Star Wars. It's got the biggest following of just about anything, now. But when it came out it was 'no big deal'. Note also that there have been several games made in and about the Star Wars universe.

- Seth

And most of those games not all that great. Of course, George Lucas seems to let anybody license the material, so most of the stuff won't be that great.

Hedge-o-Matic
Hedge-o-Matic's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/30/2008
Creating a 'Gateway' Game

sedjtroll wrote:

Perhaps a better example than any of those is Star Wars. It's got the biggest following of just about anything, now. But when it came out it was 'no big deal'. Note also that there have been several games made in and about the Star Wars universe.

- Seth

Uh, Star Wars was huge. It accounted for 80% of 20th Century Fox's profits the year it was released, made more money than anything before it, had a full year first release, and got nominated for multiple awards. How, exactly was it no big deal?

That is in marked contrast to Sky Captain, which, for all its nifty visuals, was a terrible movie.

Back on the subject of gateway games, though, I'd say that quick play is important. This works especially well for abstracts, since a rapid "Again!" factor makes the game less intimidating. As the play deepens the games grow longer naturally, but the initial impression is a quick good time. Most non-gamers see it primarily as a waste of time, so a small time investment is a big deal.

Scurra
Scurra's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/11/2008
Creating a 'Gateway' Game

Sky Captain was a terrific movie. For about 1985... :-)

That's slightly unfair - I enjoyed it a lot, as did most of the people I know who happen to be into retro-40s SF. Although there are quite a few of us, there aren't nearly enough of us to have made it a big hit. This is in contrast to, say, Ocean's 12, which really is a terrible movie but had no pretensions to being anything else except a bunch of Hollywood cameos and therefore doomed to be a huge hit. Which is why, of course, I designed an Ocean's 12 game myself, rather than a Sky Captain one :-)

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut