Between cardboard and computer: the hobbyist experience of modern boardgames
AuthorRogerson, Melissa Jane
AffiliationComputing and Information Systems
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2021-02-22.
© 2018 Dr. Melissa Jane Rogerson
Boardgames date back to at least 3500 BCE, yet little attention has been paid to the experience of playing them. Today, boardgames are increasingly popular, with increasing visibility in popular culture as well as significant increases in sales. Although they are sometimes dismissed as an activity for children, boardgames have attracted dedicated hobbyists who have accrued significant knowledge of the practices, mores, history and culture of boardgaming. The aim of this thesis is to understand how hobbyists experience and practice boardgaming. In particular, the thesis seeks to understand how serious leisure hobbyists describe and define their hobby and how this guides and informs their practices. Further, I explore the effects of digitisation on the hobby, and the role of the boardgame’s materiality not only in hobbyists’ descriptions of their practices but also during play. I achieve this aim through a mixed-methods, constructionist, qualitative, approach which privileges the opinions and behaviours of hobbyist boardgamers and intentionally examines gaming from the different perspectives of games, gamers and gaming. In doing so, I address a significant gap in the understanding of boardgames as playable, played artefacts and as a site of interaction. Study 1 focuses on digitisation of boardgames. In this study I identified three key tensions around the conversion of boardgames to digital format, where boardgamers’ and developers’ priorities and wishes conflict. I argue that these tensions can inform not only the digitisation of boardgames but also the development of natively digital games. Study 2 focuses on hobbyist boardgamers. I found that hobbyist boardgamers enjoy sociality, intellectual challenge, variety, and materiality in boardgaming, and identified a range of specialist practices that create and reflect hobbyist expertise. This study examines some of the differences between hobbyist and casual boardgamers. It shows that the values that hobbyist boardgamers espouse are reflected and embedded in their hobbyist practices. Study 3 focuses on the experience of play. This study examined and observed the play of boardgames. It shows that the materiality that hobbyist boardgamers value so highly plays an important role in the overall cognitive system of the game. Moreover, it shows that even competitive play is a deeply and fundamentally cooperative activity. Through these three studies, I highlight that materiality plays an important role not only in the physicality of a boardgame, but in hobbyist boardgamers’ enjoyment of and enthusiasm for their hobby and in the play of a boardgame. I broaden the focus of boardgame research to see the game as more than an artefact but also an assemblage of play. The thesis contributes a deep understanding and rich description of the experience of play as a site of distributed cognition, and of cooperation, as game rules and components, players, and situated activities and interactions are combined and negotiated. It demonstrates that cooperation is a necessary enabler of competitive play, and that it permeates the spectrum of play activities. This has ramifications not only for the design of boardgames but for the design of digital games and of other collaborative activities.
Keywordsboardgames; materiality; human computer interaction; cooperation; competition; games; digitisation; hobbyists; serious leisure
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