Presentation Trumping Mechanics

There’s an interview with the Game of Life (Hasbro) creator on about.com of all places. The game is pretty dull by most of my personal measures, but I had a copy in my youth and I’m sure most of you did too. (As an aside, I had changed the rules when I played to something more interesting and removed some of the crummy rules – I was a game designer back then too!) Anyway, it’s hard to argue with success. I think Cranium is cringingly awful too but it sells by the truckload so obviously I am missing something.

It’s something obvious to me that Life was his first game design:

However, James Shea, Sr., president of Milton Bradley asked me if I would develop a game in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Milton Bradley Company. I immediately accepted this challenge.

But I think he is getting a little… aged when he says:

Klamer believes that The Game of Life has remained so popular for so long because it features “tremendous interaction between the players” and because players are faced with several important decisions as the game progresses.

It has nothing to do with Hasbro nee Milton Bradley’s long retailing arms combined with an attractive and colorful combination of packaging and components? I wouldn’t credit the game mechanics with its longevity, it is the theme and presentation combined with the business.

Would Life have been as popular if its presentation was as ugly and generic as Trivial Pursuit‘s?


Image courtesy BoardGameGeek

It makes me think about what digital games are successful more based on their presentation and distribution than mechanics. Do we escape this in digital because the arc of evermore engaging graphics possibilities tarnishes titles quickly and thus nothing can reach the kind of “simple hollow classic” status like Life has been?

One thought on “Presentation Trumping Mechanics”

  1. What? The games mechanics are great. You have the choice to either go to college and win or skip college and lose.

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