For many years I struggled to teach my students how to make the leap from designing tabletop games to designing video games. In particular, students without a programming background would consistently have problems defining a video game design as a series of concrete steps that do not leave gaping holes in the game algorithms.
Then one semester I taught my students flowcharting and had them create a flowchart that could play a simple game theory style game that I had designed. As if by magic, these students had no problem creating video game designs. Ever since that semester, I have always introduced students to video game design by starting with flowcharting. It has become my magical “turn you into a game designer” wand.
All this is covered in detail in Tabletop Game Design for Video Game Designers, but I wanted to share The World’s Most Boring Tower Defense Game, which is one of the tools I use to demonstrate how a video game’s “real time” action actually takes place over a series of discrete turns (what programmers call “ticks”). The game is also a useful example of what a digital prototype might entail (see The World Most Boring Excel Spreadsheet for a version of the game that runs inside of Excel).
The World’s Most Boring Tower Defense Game can be played as a turn-based strategy game (i.e., the player manually advances the turns by pressing a button) or as a real time strategy game (i.e., the turns advance automatically).
Conway’s Game of Life provides another example of how “real time” is in actuality very a series of very rapidly occurring turns. As with The World’s Most Boring Tower Defense Game, Conway’s Game of Life can have its “generations” (aka turns) advance either manually or automatically (using the “step” and “run” buttons, respectively).