Last week, we talked a little bit about gateway games, and how they help introduce players into the hobby. We also noted, however, that it can be difficult to create a game that is accessible to new players, yet also provides depth for repeated or more strategic play. At Broomstick Monkey games, we're looking at ways to take this idea of "simplicity plus depth" even further, by taking games a step beyond the gateway.
For the sake of terminology, let's call these "garden games." The metaphor is actually pretty apt. You've stepped through the gateway, and now you're in the garden. You're not in the house yet, playing Twilight Struggle and Madeira, but you're no longer an outsider looking in.
And the best thing about the garden is that you have options. You can simply meander through, admiring the flowers and shrubs and landscaping. Or you can dig in, get your hands dirty and grow something yourself. It's a place where gamers can grow, too.
A lot of gamers and gaming podcasts (including The Dice Tower) have discussed this idea, referring to these games as Next Step games or Gateway+ games. But this implies that there's some sort of prescribed process of being introduced to games. You graduate from one tier and start playing the next until you're ready for the tier after that. But gaming is so much more than that. Players should have room to explore and discover in every game they play. New strategies, new scenarios and new challenges should be available, if the player wants to look for them.
There still needs to be a certain level of luck, or simplicity, to help even the playing field between a new player and a veteran gamer. But both of those players should be able to walk away from the game feeling like they got a satisfying experience out of it.
And if you're not sure there's an audience for games for different levels of players, look at any family gathering or couples game night or convention setting where multiple people are coming together. Some are gamers, some may be new to the hobby, and chances are, at least one person has a different taste for games than the others. Creating an accessible, flexible experience isn't just a viable design decision, it's critical as the gaming hobby expands.
Our upcoming games list is littered with garden games, and it's not just because many of them are strawberry-related. Our company is built on the idea that games should be fun for everyone who wants to play them. And that fun should help build relationships between players of all kinds. Because that's what gaming is all about – having fun together.