The advent of digital on the gamers’ scene does not signal the disappearance of physical gaming. In fact the opposite is true, as both types of device can be brought together. This is likely not only to increase the range of possibilities but also to bring gamers closer together.
Interview with Etienne Mineur, Creative Director at Les Editions Volumiques publishing house, on the sidelines of WIF - the International Festival of Interactive Design - which took place on 29 – 31 May in Limoges, France.
L'Atelier: What gaming practices are set to dominate in the coming years?
Etienne Mineur: We’re going to see interaction between the tangible and digital approaches. In my view we are now starting to get back to physical objects, tangible objects, especially as regards the feel of the thing. But we’re also living in a digital world, so we need to bring the two together. Then, of course, we have to ask ourselves how to make all these devices intelligent and communicative and what they should be used for. We ourselves work in the games sector. Having said that, once this dual approach works for the gaming world, we can take it further. With games that are both educational and fun, for example, and innovations for learning how to read, beyond just simply a book in PDF format. For example, there’s now a prototype of a book which whispers things to the reader, to ensure that s/he is following the thread. In the old days, we used to talk about the ‘real world’ and the ‘virtual world’. Nowadays we regard the digital world as part of the real world. So it makes more sense to distinguish between the physical and the digital, while at the same time seeing them as complementary.
L'Atelier: What do you think players are looking for in this type of game?
Etienne Mineur: When we develop a game, we always ask ourselves why we should integrate a tangible object with the screen. The basic idea is that if we remove this item, you can’t play the game. If, on the other hand, you can still play the game when the physical item is removed, it becomes nothing more than a gizmo. It’s absolutely essential that there should be interaction between the two items. For example, we’ve developed a game of draughts where the pieces are ghosts. When you have these ghosts on your tablet, which is the games board, these ghosts are hiding other items. So my opponent doesn’t know, as he goes to take one of my pieces, that it’s hiding a dead man’s skull and that when he takes the piece he’s going to lose points. And then, of course, there are constraints. First of all there are the technical constraints. When you use a tablet, you’re limited by its size. We modify an existing piece of equipment, such as a tablet, and give it new functions but people have to adapt too. Then there’s the question of price, and of course it’s really all about people: you have to be able to create a good game.
L'Atelier: Will this change the way we play games?
Etienne Mineur: If you look back in time, the first board games players were always face-to-face across the board. Over time the physical position of the players has changed. Games consoles, television and even cinema have led to people sitting next to each other. Then playing games over the networks meant that players found themselves back-to-back, as it were – i.e. in entirely different places. Now with modern phones, everyone has his own device, everyone stays glued to his smartphone. With games that use the digital functionality provided by a tablet or a smartphone, we can bring the richness of social and physical interaction back into gaming. But with a new dimension, because we’re integrating into the gamers’ world an information technology device which is now getting closer to the capabilities of video games.