Sandbox Game

What is a Sandbox Game?

A sandbox game is a type of immersive video game that encourages players to explore and interact with a virtual environment. The objective of a sandbox game is for the player to learn about the game’s features, mechanics, and limitations through trial and error.

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Sandbox games are typically open-ended and can be characterized by the following elements:

  • Players are free to explore the game at their own pace and engage with game elements in any order they choose.
  • Players are encouraged to experiment and discover different ways to interact with the game world.
  • There is no definitive endpoint or “win” condition. The focus is simply on interaction.

Sandbox vs Linear Games

Traditional linear video games have pre-programmed paths that players have to follow in order to win (or beat) the game. In contrast, sandbox video games give players the ability to experiment, and the concept of winning is irrelevant.

  Sandbox Games Linear Games
Gameplay Open-ended. The player sets their own objectives. Linear progression through predefined paths. Game objectives are set by the game’s designer.
Creativity and Modification Permits a high degree of change to the game environment. Encourages experimentation and content creation. Limited (or no) ability for the player to change the game world. Little-to-no opportunities to be creative.
Storyline May have a storyline, but its only job is to provide the player with context for the game’s visual elements. Has a linear storyline that unfolds in a predetermined manner. Players are expected to follow the story.
Exploration Unlimited opportunities for exploration and discovery. Players are funneled through game levels. Each level has a specific number of routes.
Challenges Challenges can be self-imposed or emerge naturally from the game’s architecture and the player’s actions. Challenges, puzzles, and obstacles are carefully designed to be completed in specific ways.

Benefits and Types of Sandbox Games

Games can offer substantial benefits beyond entertainment. Sandbox games, in particular, are often used to make the learning process more engaging.

Gamified learning is often more memorable than traditional methods. That’s because learners are more likely to retain information when they actively participate in fun activities that stimulate their interest and challenge their abilities in a dynamic and enjoyable way.

Popular types of sandbox games for educating students and training employees include:

  • Collaborative Sandbox: Requires players to work together as a community to keep the game going.
  • Simulation Sandbox: Allows users to design virtual twins that can take the place of real-world people, places, and things in a game world.
  • Role-Playing Sandbox: Allows players to experiment with user-generated storylines and character development.
  • Creative Sandbox: Provides artificial intelligence (AI) tools that enable players to express themselves artistically through digital art and/or music.

Open-World Games Vs. Sandbox Games

Sandbox games and open-world games both provide players with opportunities to explore a game world. The two types of games are not the same thing, however. Open-world games guide players through a structured narrative within a free-to-explore world. In contrast, sandbox games do not have a structured narrative.

Minecraft, for example, is a sandbox game. Its gameplay involves exploring a blocky, procedurally generated three-dimensional world that has virtually unlimited terrain. The Legend of Zelda, on the other hand, is an open-world game. Players can explore the game’s virtual environment, but the main gameplay still revolves around completing specific tasks and following storylines created by developers.

Some video games are hybrid and contain elements of both open-world and sandbox game design. For example, a hybrid game might give the player free unlimited access to a gameworld but require them to earn (or pay for) access to specific elements within that world. This approach combines the exploration aspects of open-world games with the customizable elements of sandbox games.

Sandbox  Platforms

Sandbox platforms are websites or mobile apps that allow users to create, share, and potentially monetize video game elements. This type of platform often has a strong community aspect that encourages collaboration and sharing.

Roblox, for example, is a platform that allows users to create their own games and game elements using the platform’s low-code/no-code development tools. Community members can publish their creations and make them shareable for fun or profit.

The Sandbox is a blockchain-based creative platform that allows users to create, share, and monetize their gaming experiences. It is built on the Ethereum blockchain and uses the SAND token as its native currency.

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…