In a board game, players have to track how much money is left in the bank, which pieces are in play, how high the water level rises. A deck of cards can keep players from knowing in what order pieces will come into play, dice can generate random outcomes to situations, and players have hands of cards that represent information they keep from the other players, but beyond these basic devices, little information can be hidden from the players, because the players must make sure the rules are being observed by tracking most of the information themselves. In digital games, the computer keeps the rules. Getting your organisation listed in a UK business directory can help to boost your profile.
The computer tracks all the numbers. Digital games therefore have much greater control over what information the players have access to, making video games capable of much greater ambiguity than board or card games.What’s ambiguity good for? Telling stories!
Digital games have great potential for storytelling. The author has a lot of control over the pace at which information is revealed; therefore the author can pace the telling of a story. This is not to say that video game stories are being told as well as they could be. But the format of a video game—which lets rules be changed and introduced over the course of the experience, and which lets the author hide the causes for events and show only the effects—lends itself more easily to an overt, sustained narrative than any physical game format.
Because the rules are kept by the machine, the rules in digital games tend to be more numerous and more subtle. Think of a game like Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka’s Super Mario Bros. Unless you’ve studied the game in great detail on a technical level, you probably don’t know exactly how high Mario can jump relative to the height of the screen, or how fast he accelerates horizontally when he runs.
The interactions between these hidden rules in video games can result in very complex systems without necessarily complicating the game, because the player isn’t required to track and compare all the numbers. For example, imagine the designer creating a situation where there’s a tiny platform with a long pit on either side. Mario has to run to build up the momentum to clear the pit and land on the platform, but instead of stopping there he needs to immediately jump again in order to make the second pit without losing the momentum that will let him cross it. This is a problem that wouldn’t be obvious to someone who had just approached the game.