Board Games and Interface Design: Lessons from the Past?

Strange how the challenges we face today have so many parallels in the past. On the heels of announcing the finalists for the User Interface competition I ran across this post summarizing the life and times of Redmond Simonsen, a pioneer, I take it, in the graphic design of board games. And come on - admit it, you know what Avalon Hill is right?

I’ll leave the editorializing to others - I’m not saying I necessarily believe some of this perspective, but it gives food for thought that the challenges repeat themselves.

“The best possible combination is a well-designed physical system which has an overlay of just the right amount of mood enhancing decoration.

Usually, the more complex the game system, the less decorated it should be. When counters carry several different values and symbols; when the terrain is highly varied, when the mechanics of play are very involved, it is then that decorative effects should be kept to the bare minimum.

It could almost be stated as a quasi-mathematical theorem: decoration varies inversely with complexity. As you might expect, it could also be said that the amount of graphic engineering required varies directly with the complexity of the game-system.”

“The best graphic designers do more; they suggest ways of organizing charts better, of recording information better, of using graphical representations to make the game play more smoothly. The best graphic designer with whom I have ever worked was Redmond Simonsen, at SPI; all of the games I did with him were genuinely collaborations, even though his name was listed under Graphic and not Game Design.”

I wonder if we’ve found our Redmond Simonsen for virtual worlds?

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