I’m still watching Arrow. After a good season premier, this week’s episode was terrible. The plot, the subplots, the acting, the action – all bad. But, when I went to read reviews (because I like reviews), other people thought it was a good episode. Putting aside their mental deficiencies, what does this have to do with gaming?
Not everybody enjoys the same things.
Some people really enjoy winning. No matter what else, if they win, the experience is vastly superior to the experience when they don’t win. Some of the things I look for in games are: amusing interactions/situations; overcoming challenges (but not overcoming other players); close results; winning the various subgames a game might have or that I create; playing well.
Ultimately, I see games as a form of entertainment, just as books, TV, movies, theater, etc. A question that I’ve increasingly asked myself over the years is: how do I make a game I play more entertaining?
Not just for myself, as I may enjoy a game much more than others, but in general. For BattleTech, we have instituted a number of guidelines for scenarios – lower speeds, lack of jump, lower gunnery skills, modest terrain features – in order to make it more of the slam, bam, thank you LAM game that it should be. For my RPG campaigns, I often mention ideas to my GMs for how to make things more appealing to me. I often ask my players what they’d like to see more of when I run RPGs, though that either doesn’t generate much feedback or I fail to act on the feedback.
But, what of V:TES?
I was watching the videos from the EC. A takeaway I had from Hugh’s and Randal’s presentations was the idea of maintaining the fun of playing the game. V:TES, like 97% of the CCGs that have come out, has a hard time with maintaining or growing the playerbase. Veterans move on in their lives or move to places with no players, and existing groups find it harder and harder to get together. Playing with the same people all of the time might work, though it tends to move a CCG towards being more like a complicated boardgame, but both Hugh and Randal talked about traveling.
In particular, Hugh mentioned how stimulating it has been to travel to places like the US. CCGs especially, but any game really, are intended to be varied experiences. Not that Hugh mentioned the Bay Area except to have a marker on his map …
Anyway, I always find it concerning when players find the games I want to play frustrating. There’s really no reason V:TES should be frustrating. There are tons of cards, which means variety. It’s multiplayer, which means the best deck doesn’t matter. Sure, some aspects of multiplayer CCGs can be frustrating. I know I’ve gotten tired of table politics at times, looking back fondly on two-player CCGs where it was all about the kill.
But, relating to what I said above, maybe multiplayer CCGs get frustrating because of how often any one person will lose. After all, if everyone is on a level playing field, a five-player game means having only a 20% chance of winning. A 20 player tournament means having a 5% chance of winning the tournament.
Just to go off on a tangent, one thing I keep thinking about when it comes to sports is how annoying the phrase “it’s hard to win a championship” is. Every season, one team will win a championship, so it’s not like it’s that hard. On the other hand, major professional leagues in the US have about 32 teams. Everything being equal, that means a 3% chance of winning the championship.
But, maybe the frustration can come from not everything being equal. Some people like to complain, when it comes to CCGs, of the lack of a level playing field with respect to card collections and, thus, ability to build decks. I can’t remotely compete at Magic, for instance, well, if I just used my collection. With certain CCGs, I can see this. More relevant to me would be Wheel of Time, where decks needed rares, ultrarares, and/or promos in significant quantities to be considered tournament viable.
But, I think collection isn’t that important and too often used as an excuse. After all, anybody can borrow a deck. I can see how never experiencing success can be frustrating. Much better to have players of similar ability and results who elevate each other than to have disparate ability levels that maintain a haves and have-nots paradigm.
But, can’t a game be fun without success?
Why do I get into games?
I got into Ultimate Combat! even after I lost every game I played of it. I got into Jyhad with no aspirations of success. I got into Babylon 5 because I thought it was fun to play with the main characters, where CCGs to that point that I played were not tied into properties where that mattered. I’ve never had much success at Dragon Dice. I played one major tournament of Wheel of Time and didn’t place. I got into Shadowfist because I “feel” the genre now, where I didn’t back in 1995.
Okay, those were reasons mostly why I not-not got into a game. I suppose I could be more specific as to why I did get into those games, just not today.
There’s an essential question as to what makes a game appealing that is too big a topic to cover except maybe over the entire course of life of this blog. But, looking around, I think it’s worth stepping back and asking the question “What am I looking to get out of this game?” not just to decide whether to play it but to decide what to bring to the table to make the experiences better.
Historically, as an example, I’ve often brought funny stuff to the table because I’m looking for amusement and not just results.