Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Finishing Well

There is another thoughtful post on BoardgameGeek News by editor W. Eric Martin on why it may not be important to finish games or score them.  Inspired by an article from a novelist who speaks of readers who enjoy books even though they do not always finish them, he adds that the same can be true for someone who plays games. Sometimes, a player may care more about the experience of the game than the final score.
Chris Farrell then rightly steered the ensuing conversion in the direction of game design. He writes: "The reasons why a lot of games and books have unsatisfactory endings is, in my opinion, no more complicated than the fact that ending things is hard. Coming up with a beginning and a middle, a premise and a twist, is not the hardest thing in the world, but bringing them all to a satisfactory conclusion is very difficult, at least judged by the amount of failure by even very good artists. You see it all over the place: popular music that resorts to the ultimate cop-out, the fade-out; novels that end abruptly or unsatisfactorily; or even worse, series of books that just keep on going with no apparent intention of ever finishing at all."

Awhile back, I wrote about how game designs are sometimes better when they "begin in the middle" of a story, where there is already tension present, rather than starting with a clean slate. The initial tension is an important first impression of the game that sets the tone for the whole experience.  And, of course, it needs to keep building from there.

How a game ends, however, is just as important. The story of the game experience and all its possible endings needs to finish on a high note.  In a saturated boardgame market that encourages one-and-done cult-of-the-new, how a game ends could determine whether or not it will ever get played again.  It could be the difference between crossing the new release off a checklist and inspiring every player to seek the game out for their respective collections.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Take That! (and I'll take this)

There seems to be a constant debate among gaming hobbyists about direct negative interaction and how much should generally be allowed in a game, if any.  The games that encourage it are labeled "Take That" games, as that is something your opponent might actually say to you when he gleefully slaps down a card to intentionally block you or otherwise impede your progress in the game. There are plenty of people who enjoy large doses of screwage in their games, but there are also those who will avoid such games at all costs, preferring what is often called "multi-player solitaire" games that allow each player to have his or her own "sandbox" that cannot be disturbed by opponents.  These often feel like racing games, as each player is trying to solve the game's "puzzle" (i.e. reach a certain number of points through optimization) before his or her opponents.