The depiction of women on reality dating shows inspired A Game of Thorns. In popular culture, women are frequently cast in roles that are either sweet and delicate with little depth or character, or nasty, egotistical and “bitchy.” Our game takes this concept and employs trope subversion to examine socioeconomic inequities via the lens of cultural memory studies. I played a key role within the development of this artefact, alongside Charlea, Emma and Matt. Together, we followed a process of ideating, making, rapid prototyping and iteration to develop a meaningful text. This blog post analyses the key learning moments from our journey as well as provides insight into my individual contributions to the overall experience.
Throughout the process of designing, playtesting, and presenting our group game experience I developed my knowledge of key concepts and theories while growing my skills in a collaborative environment.
I took on responsibilities both individually, and as a part of the larger group. My individual roles included many key areas. I was responsible for organization and time management. I scheduled meetings and decided due dates for different stages of our project development. I further dedicated who would use their skills in key areas, as well as providing points of research for each member of our group. I was also responsible for creating the physical content of our game for our initial playtest. I then took charge of our second instance of playtesting, whereby I organised a games night with my personal friends and had them playtest the final version of our game. Finally, I took on the responsibility of creating our collective blog post with regards to our presentation.
As a group, Charlea, Emma, Matt and I worked effectively to develop our game design. Initially, we struggled to decide on a single concept and idea. Through brainstorming as a collective over multiple sessions we came to the conclusion that one idea we had thought of was the strongest: A game of Thorns.
Our core concept was to take the portrayal of women in reality dating shows and subvert this narrative through game play. We based this on the idea of villainous women being the best written or portrayed female characters, because they are the only ones who aren’t one dimensional. This concept was brought to our attention by Margaret Atwood and her analysis of ‘spotty handed villainesses’ (1994). Bareket et al (2018) argue that this trope enforces unequal gender roles, as well as limits women’s’ self expression, agency and freedom by defining their sexual identities as fitting one of two rigid social scripts. We believe that there is evidence to suggest that this niche, coupled with our key game mechanics as discussed, will perform well in the current market.
Our initial brainstorming sessions took place through meeting in the UOW library as a group to develop our core idea. We were initially inspired by the mechanics of Sherriff of Nottingham (2014) and other popular games with sabotage elements. In this session we discussed and evaluated as well as prototyped ideas, concepts and rules.
The next stage was in playtesting our game. I did this alongside Matt within the class environment with a rough draft of our mechanics. The feedback from this was that our game needed more development and clearer rules, but that the concept was strong.
The next step in the development of the game occurred when I met with Charlea for several hours to create the polished versions of our game on Canva. Together, we maintained a process of iteration based on feedback loops and workshopped our content with remote support from other team members.
I was then able to playtest the game again with my personal friends who found it an engaging and fun experience!
I then began to consider my role in the presentation of our game as responsible for the ‘background research and arguments about our works potential in the marketplace’. This section meant that I needed to develop our formal frameworks and insight marketplace research. To do this, I analysed key points of reference with regards to industry, niche and analytical theories. Especially significant here, was my findings in the capabilities of games to create cultural memory.
Board Games and the Construction of Cultural Memory (2015) proved to be a key text that perfectly supported our intentions for our game. It evaluated the ability of games to provide cultural memory. It effectively communicated how they can allow for history to be ‘constructed, circulated, and preserved’. Games can be a form of historical texts because they provide the opportunity for analysis beyond exclusively historical facts. They instead represent the reasoning behind and the reasons why, the past occurs. Cultural memory studies thus defines itself as relating to the ways a culture interacts with and creates itself. In this way, our game has the ability to record a history of women as intentional, as multifaceted and as characters that are more than what media often depicts them.
When researching into industry, I came to understand the popularity of board games in recent decades. I also developed my knowledge of the significance of the global game market as well as factors within this that would impact our game. When considering the success of our party game, it became clear that we must understand the limitations on new games styles entering the market, the use of crowdfunding and what is popular in industry at the time of release.
The concluding part of the process of creating A Game of Thorns came in combining our knowledge as a group and reviewing our progress. Together, we considered feedback loops that we had closed to improve our work. We evaluated the process of developing our game as one of constant iteration, and of failures that led to successes. It became clear that discussion in class of the different considerations of gaming paradigms allowed us to understand the relationship between theme and mechanics, and understand how our niche could be best expressed within industry.
Ultimately, I believe that we have successfully created a meaningful and significant game as a team. I further believe that I played an important role within this process, and that A Game of Thorns has been an amazing experience.
For further reading please see here for our group blog post and presentation.
Bareket, O, Kahalon, R, Shnabel, N & Glick, P 2018, ‘The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy: Men Who Perceive Women’s Nurturance and Sexuality as Mutually Exclusive Endorse Patriarchy and Show Lower Relationship Satisfaction’ , Sex Roles, vol. 79, no 9.
Begy J. Board Games and the Construction of Cultural Memory. Games and Culture. 2017;12(7-8):718-738. doi:10.1177/1555412015600066
Margaret Atwood Speech, Summary Of Spotty Handed Villainess By Margaret Atwood Speech, date viewed May 13 2021, <https://www.cram.com/essay/Summary-Of-Spotty-Handed-Villainess-By-Margaret/F3L4FTX3UZ3Q>.
2014, Sheriff of Nottingham, date viewed May 13 2021, <https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/157969/sheriff-nottingham>.