Comments 4

  1. I noticed that one of the “pillars” of game design was “Player Control” (minimizing the role chance has to play, giving it as small a roll as necessary). While I, and maybe you, might agree that player controlled games are superior to chance based games, this is an assumption (a priori postulate) that stems from a particular theory of game design based on certain preferences.

    I might believe, and do, that Chess is one of the best designed games in the history of games, if not the best. It is an entirely player controlled game, but that does mean that the best player usually wins. I am an average Chess player, and a good loser, so I don’t mind getting whooped by friends who are more skilled than I. This isn’t necessarily the case for others.

    On the other end of the spectrum is Candy Land, which is entirely random (assuming an honest shuffle) and chance determines the winner. Any one can win and the skill of the player makes no difference. Okay, there are two places (the shortcuts) where a player is given an opportunity to make a choice, but it is largely a predetermined choice.

    Somewhere in the middle you have Monopoly. The game’s engine is based on a randomizer (the dice are the conveyor that moves you around), but the player makes the choices of what to buy and when. But the player is compelled by the underlying engine to pay when he or she lands on another’s property. The concept of randomization is deeply embedded in the underlying philosophy of the game. As Philip Orbanes’ book points out, the original concept of monopoly is to teach the whimsical nature of property ownership economics and the quintessential unfairness of land ownership/rental.

    One could argue that Monopoly meets the demands of a heavily Player Control design philosophy because the randomness is representative of what is simulated, and I agree and skilled players still usually win, just not as often as in Chess.

    Essentially, what I am getting at is that the first principle of any game should be to “be fun,” possibly to “educate and delight” (if you are an Aristotelian game designer), and this means a balance of player control and chance.

    Let me begin a reasoning:

    Absolute Player Control = Skilled Player Always Victorious

    More Player Control = More Frequent Skilled Player Victories.

    More Chance = More Frequent Unskilled Player Victories.

    Absolute Chance = Victory Is Completely Arbitrary.

    “Winning” a game is more fun than losing.

    “Winning” a game where your own skill is responsible for victory is more fun than winning via chance.

    At the edges of Player Control/Chance games become less “fun” for more people. High Player Control games become very fun for the skilled, and are likely to be used in competitions and held in high esteem. High Randomness games will usually be used as introductory games. They are fun at first, but the arbitrariness wears one down.

    Most games should be in the middle having enough Player Control to make victory sweet, but enough chance to make replayability for the unskilled worth the time.

    Note this is a theory for recreational and home gameplay. For game as sport, or absolute competition, Player Control should be absolute. Imagine Baseball with an added randomizer. “I know he missed his swing, but the back up d20 roll says he hit a home run.” Now that would be bizarre.

    Just thoughts, and not refined.

  2. I noticed that one of the “pillars” of game design was “Player Control” (minimizing the role chance has to play, giving it as small a roll as necessary). While I, and maybe you, might agree that player controlled games are superior to chance based games, this is an assumption (a priori postulate) that stems from a particular theory of game design based on certain preferences.

    I might believe, and do, that Chess is one of the best designed games in the history of games, if not the best. It is an entirely player controlled game, but that does mean that the best player usually wins. I am an average Chess player, and a good loser, so I don’t mind getting whooped by friends who are more skilled than I. This isn’t necessarily the case for others.

    On the other end of the spectrum is Candy Land, which is entirely random (assuming an honest shuffle) and chance determines the winner. Any one can win and the skill of the player makes no difference. Okay, there are two places (the shortcuts) where a player is given an opportunity to make a choice, but it is largely a predetermined choice.

    Somewhere in the middle you have Monopoly. The game’s engine is based on a randomizer (the dice are the conveyor that moves you around), but the player makes the choices of what to buy and when. But the player is compelled by the underlying engine to pay when he or she lands on another’s property. The concept of randomization is deeply embedded in the underlying philosophy of the game. As Philip Orbanes’ book points out, the original concept of monopoly is to teach the whimsical nature of property ownership economics and the quintessential unfairness of land ownership/rental.

    One could argue that Monopoly meets the demands of a heavily Player Control design philosophy because the randomness is representative of what is simulated, and I agree and skilled players still usually win, just not as often as in Chess.

    Essentially, what I am getting at is that the first principle of any game should be to “be fun,” possibly to “educate and delight” (if you are an Aristotelian game designer), and this means a balance of player control and chance.

    Let me begin a reasoning:

    Absolute Player Control = Skilled Player Always Victorious

    More Player Control = More Frequent Skilled Player Victories.

    More Chance = More Frequent Unskilled Player Victories.

    Absolute Chance = Victory Is Completely Arbitrary.

    “Winning” a game is more fun than losing.

    “Winning” a game where your own skill is responsible for victory is more fun than winning via chance.

    At the edges of Player Control/Chance games become less “fun” for more people. High Player Control games become very fun for the skilled, and are likely to be used in competitions and held in high esteem. High Randomness games will usually be used as introductory games. They are fun at first, but the arbitrariness wears one down.

    Most games should be in the middle having enough Player Control to make victory sweet, but enough chance to make replayability for the unskilled worth the time.

    Note this is a theory for recreational and home gameplay. For game as sport, or absolute competition, Player Control should be absolute. Imagine Baseball with an added randomizer. “I know he missed his swing, but the back up d20 roll says he hit a home run.” Now that would be bizarre.

    Just thoughts, and not refined.

  3. Excellent points, Christian, and I find it hard to argue with your reasoning. For another primer about fun games, check out A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster. It’s meant for computer games, but there’s a lot to chew on there for tabletop games too. I’m only about halfway through it at the moment, but I’m enjoying it.

    To put another wrinkle in your theories, there’s a thought that complex games (like CCGs) reward players with hidden knowledge. Players who dedicate themselves to a game will learn about the various subtleties of the game, making them better players, whether they’re particularly skilled at the game or not. The promise of hidden knowledge draws in a good chunk of players and promises them the fun of learning something that gives them an edge over newer players.

  4. Post
    Author

    Excellent points, Christian, and I find it hard to argue with your reasoning. For another primer about fun games, check out A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster. It’s meant for computer games, but there’s a lot to chew on there for tabletop games too. I’m only about halfway through it at the moment, but I’m enjoying it.

    To put another wrinkle in your theories, there’s a thought that complex games (like CCGs) reward players with hidden knowledge. Players who dedicate themselves to a game will learn about the various subtleties of the game, making them better players, whether they’re particularly skilled at the game or not. The promise of hidden knowledge draws in a good chunk of players and promises them the fun of learning something that gives them an edge over newer players.

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