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Playing With XR

How immersive technologies like Augmented Reality are changing TableTop gaming and making it even more social.

By Brian Thomas at Enlightened Digital

The gaming market has been on the rise for a long time now. The industry as a whole is projected to hit over 90 billion dollars by 2020. That will be 12 billion dollars in growth since 2017.

Strategy and war games, which have historically been more popular in Europe, have been gaining serious ground in the US Click To Tweet

It would seem that this rising tide is lifting all ships, including the TableTop industry. Strategy and war games specifically, which have historically been more popular in Europe, have been gaining serious ground in the US. Simultaneously, AR has been coming on strong since the launch of PokemonGo. Visual technology has advanced so much since then, that it was only a matter of time before designers from both worlds started coming together to try and create the most epic gaming experiences possible.

At some point in time, needing to be in the same space to play games may be a thing of the past Click To Tweet
Easier scheduling

One of the biggest struggles most gaming groups have is scheduling. For those groups (like mine) that consist of players in their 30s and 40s this little thing called “life” can get in the way of regular gaming sessions. Babysitters can cancel. Spouses can “correct” your understanding of the schedule for that week. There are many things that keep gaming groups apart for weeks or months at a time, which is a shame.

With some of the capabilities AR literally “brings to the table”, groups can play together online, and see the same game “board”. Check out this video from TiltFive, which, at the time of writing, has raised over $1Million on Kickstarter with over 21 days left on its campaign that had an original target of $450,000. The pad that players connect on can sync up so everyone can still see and interact with the same board wherever they are playing from. At some point in time, needing to be in the same space to play games may be a thing of the past.

With the capabilities AR literally brings to the table, groups can play together online and see the same game board Click To Tweet

@tiltfive has so far raised over $1Million on Kickstarter Click To Tweet
Increased Design Space

Along with an increase in connectivity, game developers will see a massive increase in design capabilities with the implementation of AR. Since the advent of board games, they have for the most part been stuck in two dimensions. The pieces and “meeples” are of course 3 dimensional but the board itself is typically flat. With AR, the design space goes from a sheet to a cube in front of the players, so even if the physical components of the game stay flat, UI elements like points and progress trackers can now be displayed in a 3rd dimension. We’ve all played games that end up needing way too much space on the table. With AR, UI and gameplay elements can start going up rather than out, saving lots of space and providing developers with new spaces to explore when building their games.

Along with an increase in connectivity, game developers will see a massive increase in design capabilities with the implementation of AR Click To Tweet
Cross-Functionality

New games will have a field day with these new designs, but don’t be surprised if some of your current favorites also get re-released with AR functionality. One of the major areas of focus is wargaming, and Dungeons and Dragons in particular. Any game that utilizes some sort of grid-based environment with combat mechanics would work beautifully with AR. DMs can conjure up their nightmare environments that are hard to replicate without incredibly expensive add-ons. They can even control fog of war for their players!

With AR, UI and gameplay elements can start going up rather than out, saving lots of space and providing developers with new spaces to explore when building their games Click To Tweet
Potential Problems?

Even with all the great things AR can bring to the table, there still could be some downsides to it. We talked about how awesome it would be to not have to miss sessions due to scheduling conflicts. But being connected online should never replace those face-to-face moments with friends and family. If your group finds itself getting together in the same room less and less for “convenience”, you may need to pump the breaks and realize one of the things you loved most about gaming in the first place was being together. So watch out for that.

Another thing we could lose is the tactile feel of manipulating pieces. There is a tangible difference between video and board games and that is the physical manipulation of pieces around a board. You pick things up and put them down, it feels good. With AR, those pieces can be represented digitally and moved through wands, joysticks, or hand motions.

Jeri Ellsworth, CEO of TiltFive told Engaget.com that “The things that people like about board games are connecting with people, storytelling, and working with physical objects. The thing that people love about video games is that you can jump in really quick, you can save your games, and you can play with people over a long distance. We’re kind of somewhere in between.”

So admittedly some of that tactile feeling will go away, and if we start to lose the “togetherness” of being at the same table, tabletop gaming may start feeling a lot more like just, well, video gaming.

I think that overall, AR will be amazing for tabletop gaming, the pros will far outweigh the cons. I for one can’t wait to try to DM for my D&D group and really show them the horrors I have planned! Mwahahaha!

Brian Thomas is a contributor to Enlightened Digital, long-distance cyclist, and lifelong advocate for women in business from Philadelphia.