The gamer as mentat

“Playing strategic tabletop games requires that individuals think like
a computer. It requires that players follow a set of relatively
uncomplicated rules with a few (relatively circumscribed) decision
points for which players have voluminous data…

These parallels suggest that players of boardgames are engaged in
computational thinking, without ever touching a computer. I therefore
posit that strategic tabletop games are a productive way for humans to
learn the basic elements of computational thinking—that tabletop games
can be computational-thinking training machines…

I would suggest that the spread of the modern strategic boardgame in
the US became possible only after the spread of broadband access and
computer use. All material technology for these games has existed for
upwards of two hundred years at a relatively low cost; it is the form
of cognition that was not immediately available. These games only
became fun to Americans when they became better prepared to “think
like computers,” if only at a surface level.”

–Matthew Berland, “The Study of Tabletop Games: Understanding
Strategic Boardgames as Computational-Thinking Training Machines” in
_Tabletop: Analog Game Design_, Greg Costikyan and Drew Davidson et
al., 2011


One thought on “The gamer as mentat

  1. I have a problem with this. 1) Chess and Go have been quite popular world wide for a long time. 2) Both of these games have simple rule sets. 3) Both of these games include all players in the game until its conclusion. 4) Games such as Risk and Monopoly have not been unpopular in America, and they both predate people having exposure to computers. 5) They both have much more complicated rules, and can eliminate some players hours before the conclusion of the game. 6) It wasn’t until the German/Euro/Designer board game revolution happened that board gaming started to gain mass popularity. German/Euro/Designer board games are typically: playable in an hour or two, include all players until the games conclusion (which means that often there is not a focus on destroying the achievements of other players in the game, but rather slowing their progress). I believe these two factors are the biggest reasons why there has been a spread of modern strategic boardgames; that we have learned how to make them fun to play.


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