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The Board Game Theory

By Joe Herbert,

The Herbert Brothers To the tune of the theme from Big Bang Theory: The board game universe was in a non‐ existent state, then, over five thousand years ago Senet was invented. Wait... That Egyptian game was cool. Board games began to rule. Then came Higinbotham’s video console. We built pong. We built the Internet. Apps, tablets, history, unraveling the mysteries – that all started with a board GAME!

Penny: Wow, Sheldon. I had no idea you made a board game. Sheldon Cooper: Oh, Research Lab is more than just a board game. As it saays on the box, "the physics is theoretical, but the fun is real." Leonard Hofstadter: We must not be playing it right.

If you look at inventing games as a science, then it makes sense to approach new ideas scientifically. Start with a question. Look to fill a need, find a new perspective, or capitalize on a trend. Once you know what question to ask, it’s time to use the Scientific Method to develop an experiment to answer the question. Example: Is there a new way to look at words?

The Scientific Method is a logical order of steps by which scientists come to specific conclusions. First, you start with an observation which helps direct how you need to go about your research. Second, develop a hypothesis -the answer you think you’ll find. Next, make a prediction. If the hypothesis is true, then what do you predict you’ll discover? Then begins experimentation, which leads to the final step – the conclusion.

STEP ONE (Observation/Research): This is simply understanding the problem, or question asked. In our example of looking for a new way to look at words, we simply research and observe all the existing ways that words are being used in games (and in general). Whether it’s a crossword or a word jumble, or finding missing letters (hangman, Wheel of Fortune) it’s always linear with a start and end to the word.

STEP TWO (Hypothesis): The hypothesis is simply a possible solution to a problem. In our example in finding a new way to look at words, we believed that it would be a particular challenge to read a word if it was circular instead of linear so that you didn’t know where it started or ended.

STEP THREE (Prediction): This is a general statement of how you intend to answer the question, or solve your hypothesis. In our example, we predicted that writing a phrase but inserting a random letter in between each letter of the phrase, and writing it in a circle would be a challenging and fun new word game.

STEP FOUR (Experiment): Experimentation is the tool used to determine if your ideas are right or wrong. The experiment is the most important part of the process in any invention – test, test, and test again. We play‐tested phrases written as every other letter in a circle. The conclusion: too hard, and boring.

STEP FIVE (Conclusion): Experimentation will result in whether or not your hypothesis/prediction are true. When experimenting with our word game, we found that it was far too difficult to find phrases within every other letter in a circle, but we still thought we were on to something, so we went back to the drawing board and started the Scientific Method all over again with a new question. What if it was just a single word, and not a phrase? This proved still to be very difficult. What if we didn’t add any extra letters, and just wrote the word in a circle? No, we predicted, that would be way too easy. Experimenting proved otherwise, and because you think it should be easier than it is, that only made it much more fun.

And thus, WordARound was born.

(November 2014)

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