A Seat at the Table: Serious Games

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19 Mar 2019 16:43 #294061 by PROJ

JonathanVolk wrote: Ubarose writes,

Personally, I think other players are the biggest contributor to complexity and depth. The more player interaction you have in a game, the more complex, deep and interesting the game is. People are more complicated than anything that can be designed.


Perfectly said. This is why I’ve developed a near-allergy to games with solitaire-like mechanics and minimal interactions. It’s like a bunch of people taking separate submarines to the bottom of the ocean with really complicated Rubik’s cubes, and, after a predetermined amount of time, surfacing to see how all the other submarines did. Deep isolation.


Unfortunately, it's far from perfectly said. All (and I mean that quite literally) human interactions in games can be boiled down to some variation of rock paper scissors (even perfect information games with discrete turns), which we have rejected as a society (and rightfully so) as a game worth spending any sort of energy on. Mathematical systems can be much more interesting and consistent than simply interacting with a human opponent. In fact, the reason interactions with the other players are interesting are because the game sufficiently obfuscates the rock-paper-scissors dynamic into something more subtle and interesting.

If you spent less time crafting similes and more time analyzing game design mechanics from a logical and mathematical perspective, you'd find that these "multiplayer solitaire" games not only converge to more interaction the better you get at them, but they have other desirable properties that more interactive games don't have.

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19 Mar 2019 16:56 #294062 by Vysetron
I don't really agree with Volk on this one, but saying that math is better than humans if you're smart enough is the most headass thing I've read all day.
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19 Mar 2019 17:06 #294063 by hotseatgames

PROJ wrote: but they have other desirable properties that more interactive games don't have.


That's great and all, but the interaction IS the desired property.
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19 Mar 2019 17:47 #294069 by DukeofChutney
Lets start with the important questions; I use Metolius Super Chalk. Have you reviewed it? Should I consider using different chalk, what factors should I consider when selecting a climbing chalk?

With the first section on criticism I think there are two things going on here.

First there are a quite a number of people who take their taste in games as part of their identity and thus, as far as I can tell, take any criticism of the games they like as attacks on them personally. This is what I think is going on. I have two friends like this, both are very very intelligent people, good at games, and very nice reasonable people, but both get upset by negative reviews of games, films or media they love. Both will describe reviews as 'just wrong' even though they both understand these things are objective. Neither actually post much online.

Second, criticism has been subsumed into this idea of the culture wars. All cultural and artistic objects are now often seen as weapons of insidious cultural indoctrination. Feminism, veganism and both left and right wing politics are often viewed as being the real motive behind works of art, films, games etc. Whilst art has long been used for propaganda it seems more common in recent years to assume that anything that expresses any notion of a political, ethical or philosophical view point is being used as a weapon by its originators. Sometimes it might be, but i tend to think its just a reflection of the feelings or personality of its creator.
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19 Mar 2019 17:54 - 19 Mar 2019 17:55 #294071 by Sulla
Roger Ebert, a very prominent movie critic, said the following:

When you ask a friend if Hellboy is any good, you're not asking if it's any good compared to Mystic River, you're asking if it's any good compared to The Punisher. And my answer would be, on a scale of one to four, if Superman is four, then Hellboy is three and The Punisher is two. In the same way, if American Beauty gets four stars, then The United States of Leland clocks in at about two.


I was reminded of that when reading section 2. of your thought provoking article.
Last edit: 19 Mar 2019 17:55 by Sulla.
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19 Mar 2019 17:57 #294072 by cfmcdonald
The interaction in Race for the Galaxy is in the role selection. If you pay attention to what other people are doing you will crush players who don't.
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19 Mar 2019 18:57 #294076 by Gary Sax
I wouldn't necessarily call BGG attracting gamers who like more complex design bias, I would just call it a selection effect stemming from people who seek out a board game site. I suppose both mechanisms result in a selected set of ratings, but on the other hand I'm not sure the hypothetical population we're trying to infer about using the ratings (gamers who don't log collections and rate on BGG?). fwiw, I think the weighted by complexity list is just as spotty, to my tastes, as the raw bayesian BGG list.
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19 Mar 2019 19:11 - 19 Mar 2019 19:16 #294078 by mc

Vysetron wrote: I don't really agree with Volk on this one, but saying that math is better than humans if you're smart enough is the most headass thing I've read all day.


The maths, at least at boardgame level, is solvable. Humans are not.
I don't find knowing that there is a quantifiably "best" move on my turn interesting in the slightest. Even if the complexity is such that i can't reasonably be sure, given timeframes or other constraints. I simply don't care.
I find wondering wtf my opponent is going to do much, much, more interesting, and more to the point, enjoyable. Not only that, but that's a puzzle that is dynamic and forever
Consistency? Yech. Viva unpredictablity.


I was playing Citadels with my daughter recently, and, was (again) amazed at how much of a tough nut she is to crack, and how easily she sees through me. She's a terrible liar. But in the moment of selection.... who the hell knows?

I take the point that systems can deal with this in many ways, and adding maths over the top "can" be interesting.

I don't think I'm alone in thinking the way I do though, especially outside the BGG bubble.
Last edit: 19 Mar 2019 19:16 by mc.
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19 Mar 2019 19:19 #294079 by jeb

Sulla wrote: Roger Ebert, a very prominent movie critic, said the following:

I thought about Siskel & Ebert a lot when this blog/site was getting started. I'd seen hundreds of movies (sister worked at the video store!) and watched a lot of S&E review shows and realized a lot of their success as reviewers and entertainers came down to how differently they looked at and evaluated cinematic art. Siskel, by and large, was a film guy. He wanted brave bold new art, pushing the boundaries of the form, or crystallizing the essence of the genre. Ebert, by contrast, was a movie guy. He went to the movies--was it good? Was he entertained? They would both adore a great picture, but they arrived at that thumbs up through different paths.

Over at BGG, there was a great big pile of gameur tastemakers that wanted only the perfect gaming experience as distilled down into rules, components, and chances for "heavy" intellectual puzzling to arrive at optimal strategies. Hence, CAYLUS rocketing to the top of the charts. You also had a smaller but (very) vocal contingent that just wanted to play a game and have a good time, and thought something like DUNGEON! should be rewarded with more buzz than it would otherwise get at BGG. Some feelings were hurt, some folks were banned, and now there are two decent sites for generic boardgame buzz and chatter.

I think BGG shed a lot of the nonsense over the years, actually. Some is still there, geeks gonna geek and all; but it's harmless for the most part.
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19 Mar 2019 19:22 #294080 by ubarose
@PROJ

I think perhaps my statement was a bit ambiguous. It isn’t the in game interaction that is necessarily complex, but the human interaction above the table, so to speak, that is complex and is interesting to me. The actual action of throwing paper isn’t the interesting part. It’s can I predict that you will throw paper, or manipulate you, misdirect you, or negotiate, or bluff, or lure, or strong arm you into throwing paper? And can you do the same to me?
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19 Mar 2019 19:24 - 19 Mar 2019 23:01 #294081 by Frohike
There's an unmistakable, hobby-specific snobbery in the assumption that the structure and intricacy of rules surrounding human interactions are superior to --and more refined than-- the interactions themselves. Can designed systems enhance these interactions or sculpt them in interesting ways? Sure. But turning the tables and saying that these systems are not only the determinant of a good game, but in fact a replacement for what they are framing... isn't some sort of clever deconstruction. It just amounts to stating that the tail wags the dog.

Sorry if that's too "analogy heavy"... or whatever.
Last edit: 19 Mar 2019 23:01 by Frohike.
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19 Mar 2019 19:49 #294082 by Erik Twice
That, generally speaking, more complex games are rated higher than simpler games does not mean there's "complexity bias". I don't think Vatvani's analysis holds to scrutiny. It's a bit like seeing a Rolls Royce and talking about them being overrated by "money bias".

After all, designers don't make their games complex for no reason. They do so because it allows them to do more or express something that would be difficult to express in a simpler game. And it's not just a game thing, the best novels ever written and the best films ever made also tend to be more complex than the average. This does not mean that making something more complex will make it better, of course.

BGG's "weigh is also a very questionable metric. People use it in contradictory ways and there's even less of a concensus of what it measures than the already questionable ratings.
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19 Mar 2019 22:03 - 19 Mar 2019 22:04 #294085 by Sagrilarus
I'd like to see a simple rating presented -- Units Sold. If the nature of the game appeals to me and it sells, it's likely a game I'm going to enjoy. Anyone can pop a 10 on a game. Voting with $80 shows a bit more commitmemt, though these days that's not even true.

And unfortunately Units Sold seems to be an industry secret.
Last edit: 19 Mar 2019 22:04 by Sagrilarus.
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20 Mar 2019 08:33 #294102 by JonathanVolk
DukeofChutney wrote,

Lets start with the important questions; I use Metolius Super Chalk. Have you reviewed it? Should I consider using different chalk, what factors should I consider when selecting a climbing chalk?


Metolius is fine. But I don’t let anything besides Bison Designs Competition Chalk touch my hands. I’m actually phobic to dryness/dry-hands, so I need a chalk that is spending most of its time convincing me it’s not chalk.

Jeb wrote,

Siskel, by and large, was a film guy. He wanted brave bold new art, pushing the boundaries of the form, or crystallizing the essence of the genre. Ebert, by contrast, was a movie guy. He went to the movies--was it good? Was he entertained? They would both adore a great picture, but they arrived at that thumbs up through different paths.


Roger Ebert was one of the few celebrity passings that actually made me weep. He’s one reason I decided to go to school in Chicago (and I met him a couple of times at Music Box events; a kind and hilarious soul, that dude). Anyway, not sure you can divide the Siskel/Ebert differences that cleanly. Ebert loved serious film too. Ebert watched broadly and with constant curiosity, which we might all take to heart. I still go back and watch the outtakes of them roasting each other—and Ebert was, hands down, the better roaster.

Sagrilarus wrote,

I'd like to see a simple rating presented -- Units Sold.


This is why I still visit BoxOfficeMojo weekly; I have an informal pact with myself to see every weekly number 1 movie released in the states. That said, nobody has ever convincingly made the case that financial success is consonant with artistic success. Mad Max: Fury Road might be my favorite film in the last 20 years, but it made half the money of Suicide Squad, which was so bad they’ve already announced that James Gunn is rebooting it. I’m fascinated by popularity, but, as in the case with Gloomhaven, I remain unconvinced that it says much.
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20 Mar 2019 09:10 #294104 by PROJ

ubarose wrote: @PROJ

I think perhaps my statement was a bit ambiguous. It isn’t the in game interaction that is necessarily complex, but the human interaction above the table, so to speak, that is complex and is interesting to me. The actual action of throwing paper isn’t the interesting part. It’s can I predict that you will throw paper, or manipulate you, misdirect you, or negotiate, or bluff, or lure, or strong arm you into throwing paper? And can you do the same to me?

Then cut out the middleman and just play rock paper scissors, because that's what it sounds like you want. Rock paper scissors, however, is uninteresting because there are no mathematical obfuscations to make the interaction more than a basic guessing game with a bit of prediction, which is deeply unsatisfying for most people. Any other game, though, is just differing degrees of rock paper scissors obfuscated by math on top of it, which dilutes the purity of player interaction. The only difference is degrees.

It's amazing how other people in response have completely missed the point in my original post. I pretty clearly stated that the interaction from games with less overt interactive mechanics is deeper, richer, and more intricate, if you bother to spend the time to study them beyond a surface level. You are no longer bluffing with rock vs. paper, you're bluffing with your entire valuation model of an intractably difficult system vs. mine. I did not say "math is better than humans" or some other nonsense.

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