For those of you just joining us, I’m developing a game called Deme for my master’s project. It’s a tactical game that models an ecosystem, and it’s meant primarily for adults. I’m studying how people understand the game’s mechanics in relation to the real world, in an effort to better understand games as learning and meaning-making tools.

I stumbled across Roll20, quite by accident, while reading the PA Report. What I like about Roll20 is the fact that your table session can be shared as a link (apparently—I haven’t started digging yet as I only found out about it a few hours ago). Also, each token can be assigned a hit counter. Damage tracking is something of a hassle in Deme’s current incarnation.

I’ll have more to report after I play around with this for a while. Moving the game from one incarnation and environment to another has forced me to think of it as a system, rather than a product. I want Deme to be portable, and a robust system can be used with just about any tabletop, real or virtual. For an example of a game system, see Wizards of the Coast’s d20 System. The d20 System happens to be a handy model for quantizing events and behaviors—handy enough to inform the data collection framework for our observation systems in the Visitor Center.

Of course, Deme cannot be run single-player as a tabletop game. That’s a double-edged sword. A tabletop game (even a virtual one) is an immediate social experience. A single-player game is a social experience too, but it’s an asynchronous interaction between the developer(s) and the player. I rather like the tabletop approach because each species has a literal voice. The unearthly torrent of resulting qualitative data may be tough to sort out, but I think that’s a good problem to have so long as I know what I’m looking for.

At this phase, the tabletop version is still officially—as much as I can make something official—just a pilot product. I don’t know if it will become something more, but I feel like it deserves a shot.

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