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My Game Wall

Description:

A board game recommendation site that describes top-notch games and allows searching for games by a wide variety of criteria, as well as exploration of the serendipitous relationships between games.

For example, this site should be able to answer question like: "What are the best games in the fantasy genre for 5 players eight years and up?" Or the original question my wife asked me: "If we're not letting Candyland and Chutes and Ladders in this house, what board games will we play with our son?"

Competitive Sites:

1. La Ludothèque idéale / The Ideal Game Library (http://www.faidutti.com/index.php?Module=ludotheque) – Bruno Fadutti's "Ideal Game Library" is the closest site to what I want to build: one man's personal, extensive site reviewing games that he likes enough to recommend. The major drawbacks to the site are that its design is old, it does not allow adequate navigation or search across various game criteria, and the site is no longer maintained.

 

Figure 1. La Ludothèque idéale / The Ideal Game Library Home Page

Figure 2. La Ludothèque idéale / The Ideal Game Library Game Review of Qwirkle

  

2. Board Game Geek (a.k.a., BGG, http://www.boardgamegeek.com) – The 800 pound gorilla of board game sites, BGG is an all-encompassing board game community site. That's overkill for what I aim to do, but it does contain all of the game information one might want. The downside is that the site design is old, confusing to newcomers, and doesn't have a good advanced search facility.

Figure 3. Board Game Geek Home Page

Figure 4. Board Game Geek Game Page for Qwirkle (Reviews are in the Forums Section)

 

3. The Dice Tower (http://www.dicetower.com) -- The home of the most popular board game podcast, and the written, video, and audio reviews of games by its prolific host, Tom Vasel and other contributors. Much of the site is now devoted to Tom's growing media enterprise, but the review area is similar to what I want to build.

Figure 5. The Dice Tower Home Page

 

Figure 6. The Dice Tower Text Review of Queen’s Necklace

Figure 7. The DiceTower Video Review of Qwirkle

 

Also examined:

  • Drakes Flames (just a blog with only chronological navigation and search by game title)
  • Board Game Info (no longer active, just an archive)
  • GoodReads (about books, not games, but a better examplar of modern design than BGG)
  • Board Game Reviews by Josh (also a blog, but with an alphabetical and topical lists of board games)
  • Find a New Game (http://findanewgame.appspot.com/?lang=us) – now this is intriguing! Enter names of the games you like and dislike and the site provides recommendations based on what similar people like and dislike. And the recommendation engine here is better than what I've seen on BGG.

 

I don't see anyone doing a good job of organizing game reviews in a fluid fashion or providing faceted search for games. BGG comes closest, and GoodReads may come closer yet, but neither has a good faceted search facility.


Organizational schemes used:

1. La Ludothèque idéale / The Ideal Game Library uses alphabetical listing of games by name and by designer, as well as an idiosyncratic set of topical lists. But each game is also linked to similar games, to indicate that if you like those games, you may like the game in question.

Figure 8. La Ludothèque idéale / The Ideal Game Library Organizational Schemes

 

Figure 9. La Ludothèque idéale / The Ideal Game Library Alphabetical Game Listing Page (Q-R)

Figure 10. La Ludothèque idéale / The Ideal Game Library Topical Lists Page

 

2. Board Game Geek organizes games by “domain” (board games, role playing games, and video games), "subdomain" (major category, such as "Abstract Games," "Children's Games," or the all-inclusive "All Games"), alphabetically (by title, designer, publisher, or artist), numerically (by rank, rating, or # of voters), topically (by category, game family, or mechanics), chronologically (for forthcoming & recently released games), and by "Hotness" (recent views and other activity). BGG also allows users to create "GeekLists" of games belonging to any organizational scheme they wish.

Figure 11. Board Game Geek Home Page Organizational Schemes

Figure 12. Board Game Geek Category List

 

3. The Dice Tower uses a hybrid topic/task organizational scheme at the top level of navigation. Topics relevant to game recommendation are "Top 10 Lists," "Reviews," "Top 100," and "Awards."

Figure 12. The Dice Tower Home Page Organizational Schemes

 

Top 10 lists are organized alphabetically by topic and then by rank (for each reviewer). (But also the Top 10 list menu contains a list of game categories and list of games every gamer should own, so it's a bit of a hodgepodge.)

Figure 13. The DiceTower Top 10 Lists Organizational Schemes

 

Reviews are organized alphabetically by game title and as a list of the 25 most recently reviewed games in reverse chronological order.

Figure 14. The DiceTower Reviews Organizational Schemes

 

The Top 100 lists are organized chronologically (by year) and then by game rank (for each reviewer) within that year.

Figure 15. The DiceTower Top 100 Lists Organizational Schemes

 

Awards are organized by a hybrid of topic ("Hall of Fame") and chronological (by year).

Figure 16. The DiceTower Awards Lists Organizational Schemes


Web navigation design patterns used:

1. La Ludothèque idéale / The Ideal Game Library uses an upper-left home icon and a left-side vertical bar menu (without flyouts). No search is available.

 

Figure 17. La Ludothèque idéale / The Ideal Game Library Web Navigation Design Pattern

 

2. Board Game Geek uses a home icon, tabs, top horizontal bar with dropdown menus, subdomain tabs with dropdown menus, left-side vertical bar menus (without flyouts). Search and "advanced search" are available. Pages associated with a given game are given breadcrumbs back to the game and page category (e.g., Settlers of Catan > Forums > Rules). Images pages for games contain an image carousel, as well as thumbnails of the immediately preceding and following images.

 

Figure 18. Board Game Geek Home Page Web Navigation Design Patterns

 

3. The Dice Tower uses a top horizontal bar with dropdown menus at the top level of navigation. Some top-level menu items have no drop-downs, so they effectively double as tabs; for example, the Home menu item selected below.

 

Figure 19. The Dice Tower Home Page Web Navigation Design Patterns

  

Navigation within Top 10 lists is by a paginated table of links, with links to the other pages of the table at the top and bottom of each page.

 

Figure 20. The DiceTower Top 10 Lists Web Navigation Design Patterns

 

Navigation within Reviews are by a second-level top bar menu (of the first letter of the game title) or by a table of links to recent reviews shown on the initial page.

Figure 21. The DiceTower Reviews Web Navigation Design Patterns

 

Navigation to Top 100 lists is by the main top bar drop-down menu, with a pull-right menu to 10 game rank groups. On each Top 100 page, links to the adjacent ranked pages are at the bottom of the page; so, from the group of games ranked 71-80, you can move to the down the list to the group ranked 81-90 or up the list to the group ranked 61-70 (lower rank meaning a better game).

Figure 22. The DiceTower Top 100 Lists Web Navigation Design Patterns

 

Navigation within Awards is entirely by the top bar drop-down menu.

 

Figure 23. The DiceTower Awards Web Navigation Design Patterns


Target Audiences:

1. La Ludothèque idéale / The Ideal Game Library targets French and English-speaking board game enthusiasts. It's not a top ranked site in Google searches for board game names, "board game recommendations" or "board game reviews", so effectively it targets only those board gamers who are informed enought to know it exists, and to know that Bruno Faidutti's opinion is worth something.

 

2. Board Game Geek targets committed board game community members. Hardly anyone else will take the time to learn how to find the information they want on it. On the other hand, searching for board game names, "board game recommendations" or "board game reviews" on Google leads one to BGG immediately, so it may attract more people than I think would be willing to put up with its complexity.

 

3. The Dice Tower targets the people who listen to that board gaming podcast. This takes a level of involvement in the board game community; although, perhaps not as much involvement as is required to deal with Board Game Geek.

 

My Game Wall is targeted to a far more casual and less involved board game audience than those sites, to people who are curious about board games, but are not necessarily board game enthusiasts or board game community members. The target audience are people who know there are now better board games for children, families, and adults than when we grew up -- and may even have played some "gateway games" like Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, or Settlers of Catan -- but don't know where to go next.

 

Persona

 

  

Card Sort
 
I have capsule reviews of over 100 games in hand. I'd like to determine how to arrange these topically. The lists on The Ideal Game Library site are too ideosyncratic for me to use. On the other hand, Board Game Geek identifies 8 major board game subdomains, 82 categories, 51 kinds of game mechanics, and 1878 game families (some of which are arguably categories or game mechanisms, such as "flicking games," rather than games related by brand), and none of these are hierarchically arranged. The Dice Tower provides a manageable list of 33 "tabletop game categories", with examples, but this site does not organize or label its game reviews with those categories.
 
Identifying the categories people use for games "in the wild" calls for a card sorting exercise. Typically this would be done with members of the target audience, but because the target audience are largely board game novices, they will not know enough games to sort them into categories. Therefore, the recruiting profile for the sort must be people with sufficiently broad board game knowledge to sort the cames, but not those so expert as to use abstruse terminology that would tax a novice (e.g., a category like "variable phase order").
 
Although it will only provide a single-level categorization with a limited number of games and participants, I have set up a OptimalSort survey with a selection of 30 very well-known games (as determined by their number of ratings on Board Game Geek) that fall into several game subdomains (strategy games, children's games, etc.). As the number of cards does even equal the 33 categories of games listed by The Dice Tower, this can best be considered a pilot study. 
 
The initial trial sort revealed confusion about OptimalSort's drag-and-drop interface, so I have clarified the instructions about adding items to categories, as follows: "Step 4. Now you can either put more games into this group by dragging them over the group and dropping them there, or make more groups by dragging a game to the empty space. It's up to you!"
 
Each participant will be asked the following post-sort questions:
1. How knowledgeable are you about board games? (required)
Options: Very knowledgeable, Knowledgeable, Somewhat knowledgeable, Not knowledgeable
2. What is your gender? (required)
Options: Male, Female, Other, Decline to state
3. How often do you use the internet to learn about new board games? (required)
Options: Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Often, Always
4. What sites on the internet do you use to learn about board games?
5. Other than the internet, how do you learn about board games?
6. What are your objectives in learning about board games?
7. What key information do you look for about a board game?
8. What other board game categories or lists would you expect to see on a board game review site beyond those you created?
9. Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?
 
The results of this survey indicate that the target audience was reached, with 50% stating they were "somewhat knowledgeable" about board games. More men (70%) responded than women (30%). 80% of the respondents use the internet for information about board games sometimes or more often,   primarily using Board Game Geek and Amazon as their source of information. Otherwise, participants learned about games from friends, retail game stores, and game meetups.
 
Key information desired by participants included:
  • Game length (7 participants)
  • Number of players (5)
  • Style (3)
  • Theme (2)
  • Replayability (2)
  • Game mechanics (2)
  • Complexity & Ease of Learning (2)
  • Reviews (2)
Results of this card sort itself were of only marginal value, due to the small number of games sorted, the small number of participants in the card sort, and the great difficulty participants had in recognizing the games in question. Generally, about half of all the games were sorted by any given participant; with the rest unsorted or put in a category like "Unknown."
 
Another difficulty in finding agreement was the variety of categories into which any given game could be put. The game of Monopoly, for example, was quite reasonably sorted into categories such as "family gathering games", "boring mainstream games", "classic games",  "The-one-with-the-most-toys-wins games", and "trading and negotiation games."
 
Also, sometimes a single term was used for different purposes. For example, some participants created a category called "Party" which included casual games for parties, while other participants created a catogory called "Party" that included longer strategy games that might be suitable for family gatherings or a game night, but would not normally be classed as "party games". 
 
The following categories emerged after standardization:
 

Category Name

Participants

Cards

Agreement

Ameritrash

1

8

1.00

Card Games

3

5 (3 unique cards)

0.56

Children's Games

1

2

1.00

Civilization-building Games

1

2

1.00

Games about Civilizations

1

7

1.00

Classic Mainstream Games

7

38 (8 unique cards)

0.68

Cooperative Games

7

14 (4 unique cards)

0.50

Deck-building Games

1

1

1.00

Deduction Games

1

1

1.00

Dexterity Games

2

5 (3 unique cards)

0.83

Economic Games

2

10 (7 unique cards)

0.71

Euro Games

6

27 (12 unique cards)

0.38

Family Gathering Games

2

13 (12 unique cards)

0.54

Fantasy/Horror-themed Games

3

8 (4 unique cards)

0.67

Gateway Games

3

15 (9 unique cards)

0.56

Humor Games

1

2

1.00

Longer Games

2

15 (14 unique cards)

0.54

Party Games

5

5 (1 unique cards)

1.00

Shorter Games

2

5

0.50

Strategy Games

4

18 (12 unique cards)

0.38

Train Games

2

3 (2 unique cards)

0.75

Unsorted

3

20 (13 unique cards)

0.51

War Games

3

6 (3 unique cards)

0.67

Word Games

2

3 (2 unique cards)

0.75

  
From these categories, it is clear that a variety of categorizations schemes are used by the participants for games:
  • The subject or setting of the game, also known as its theme or genre (e.g., fantasy, trains, economics, or war)
  • The mechanism of game play (e.g.., card games, deduction games)
  • Style of the game (e.g., "Ameritrash" versus "Eurogames")
  • The length of the game (shorter or longer)
  • Complexity of the game (some raw category names contained "quick and easy..." versus "in-depth...")
  • The game's intended audience (e.g., children, families, gateway games for non-board-gamers)
  • The setting(s) appropriate to play the game (e.g., party games)

 

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