Mario Kart? Try Kario Mart. It turns out trying to turn a beloved childhood (yeah, keep telling yourself that) video game into a fast, fun board game is not as easy as I originally anticipated. Though seemingly simple, board games have many elements that need to be accounted for. The board itself and the course/track, the mobility of players, obstacles and power ups to add variation and logistically, how all those elements combine to create a quick, smooth flowing, enjoyable game. Decisions including how many squares around the board and how many laps of the course? Where to place the event squares and what do they trigger? How many of each event, depended on how helpful or hindering the card was, while short cuts and obstacles had to be placed strategically and to greatest effect.
The general concept of the game mirrors it’s digital counterpart, however, in physical form we had to simplify many elements in order to make it easy to understand and play. We aimed for 20 minute races; three laps around the board, interspersed with advantages and sabotage, and I think we managed to achieve it, or something close. But for all the good talking does, what really helps to iron out kinks is testing the game. Unfortunate we didn’t get this far but to really understand how a game is played nothing can replace good ol’ fashioned experience. Our project was a team effort but I like to think I had a hand in making most, if not many of these decisions in an attempt to create a fun, fast, family friendly game that tips its cap to the mother ship.
As a female gamer myself, the issues surrounding gender in the videogame industry are something that I take particular interest in and as it turns out so do many others. The idea of gender representation is a hot button issue surrounding games these days with many experts weighing in ( Laine Nooney, Alison Harvey & Stephanie Fisher to name a few). Video games have long been known as a male-dominated media in most, if not all aspects; market audience, player base, and character representation. As such, both female gamers and characters alike are handled differently than their male counterparts. Playable female characters are few and far between, while sexualisation practically slaps players in the face. But it’s not the physical appearance of a character that determines whether or no they are sexualized but rather how they are portrayed to the audience. The ‘male gaze’ plays a significant role in painting female characters as nothing more than eye candy for the player ( presumably male ) to fawn over and if you’re not into that sort of thing then that’s just too damn bad. It sends the message that if you don’t like admiring the female form then this game for you. The real problem, for me, is not when I become uncomfortable by the overt sexualisation, but rather, when I become desensitized to it.