What prototypes prototype

Prototypes can answer a variety of important questions about our games, including:

Does the game inspire the right type of social behavior? This is an important question to answer because if we are designing a social game in which we want players to be standing and moving around in a space, then a board, on the ground, for instance, would likely not be the best physical instantiation to support this. This can be answered using a prototype centered around look, feel, and role. I predict we would find that some designs do not align well with the desired social interaction which may be accompanied by unwanted friction playing the game.

Are players engaged or bored playing the game? Observing interaction with a prototype focused mainly on role could tell us about any lulls in game play in which players get bored or areas of strength when players are most engaged. This could give us insight into where there is room for improvement in order to make the game maximally engaging.

Are we attracting the intended target audience? A prototype that looks and feels the way we want our game to can be used to find out who is attracted to the game and whether or not they are members of the desired target group. If the marketing is too childish for a game meant for adults, for instance, we may find that adults are not inclined to play it. I predict that this would be useful for fine tuning marketing after most of the other elements are sorted out.

Is the use of physical game pieces intuitive? This prototype might be more centered around implementation and role and would help us determine any areas of friction or difficulty that result from players not knowing which pieces to use in different situations. Roadblocks like this might slow game play and therefore create opportunities for boredom. We may find through this that some game pieces need to be entirely redesigned or fine tuned in different ways to ensure ergonomic and intuitive design.

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