Gaming Translations

What makes for a successful board game based on a pop culture artifact?

Obviously you have more souvenir/revenue generation machines on the one hand: Your Simpsons Monopoly, Seinfeld Scene It?’s, The Vanilla Ice Rap Game (no joke). There’s also things like game shows that just convert simply. Everyone’s wanted to prove that they, too, want to be a millionaire, meaning the core concept of a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? game would be fairly easy to adapt for a home audience to play what is essentially Trivial Pursuit with a new brand name.

But the flip side of this would be games that are intended to—like a film adaptation or novelization—adapt the concept and qualities you so love about a show into a board game. It’s sort of like challenging an audience (or perhaps a hardcore subset of an audience) to pony up and put their money where their mouth is; if they think they could hack it in the imagined world, prove it.

For that to be successful, you need more than just cutesy namechecks. I think that you’d theoretically want people to feel rewarded for engaging with your media on such a high level: The game Harry Potter: Mystery at Hogwarts is essentially Clue—except for a few key developments. For instance there’s more pieces at play with different (in the theme of Hogwarts, maaagical) powers that can affect gameplay. But some Harry Potter trivia comes into play as well.

Games like Battlestar Galactica and Game of Thrones are intricate and detailed, in order to better resemble the show. Sure the titular game of thrones is not won so easily, and the cylons are not likely to be defeated by just finding a few spies in your ranks. But the core ideas of the show—winning power over others, rooting out the humanlike robots amongst you, defending your people—are preserved. A Game of Thrones fan might enjoy the game even if it weren’t branded as such because the like the powerplays that come into question. Battlestar Galactica as well.

For the rest, who just like the drama of it all—well, that’s just bonus.


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