Reading Notes 3

  1. Creating a perfectly level playing field is a complicated challenge.

1a): Describe a game that you believe is perfectly balanced (provides a perfectly level playing field).

While no game in the real world can be perfectly balanced, I believe that a game like a simple thumb war comes close to creating a perfectly level playing field. Although the players can be of different sizes and weights, and thus one player may have bigger or more powerful thumbs, the playing field itself gives both players an equal opportunity to win. Either player can start at any given point and making the first move does not give any inherit disadvantage to the player who did not do so. A digital version of a thumb war, where the physical strengths of the players were coded to be entirely equal, would, in my opinion, be a perfectly level playing field.
1b): Describe a game that you believe is un-balanced.

Almost all games are at least somewhat unbalanced. Many games are unbalanced simply because the player beginning first gets an inherit advantage. For example, in Tic Tac Toe, the player who begins first has the opportunity to strategically play only the corners and in three moves will win the game no matter what. If the other player figures out this strategy, they may sabotage it and tie the game, but they generally cannot win because the first player has the mathematical advantage.
1c): What are your thoughts about asymmetrical games such as Starcraft, Axis and Allies, Soul Caliber, Tekken, or World of Warcraft, which create inherently uneven playing fields but in turn provide diverse play experiences and strategies for the opposing sides?

I think asymmetrical games are a very interesting phenomenon, which provide diverse and entertaining play experiences that allow for innovative strategies to be created. While I prefer generally very simple digital and board games, with concise game play and succinct rules, I respect asymmetrical, more intricate games such as World of Warcraft. At first I thought that games like World of Warcraft were a bit strange for grown adults to play because of how invested players must be in the game play to have a successful experience, but now I respect the dedication to the game, and see how entertaining the dedication can allow the experience to be.

  1. Roger Caillios’ system for game categories includes the following terms: Agon, Alea, Mimicry, Ilinx, Paida, and Ludus. Choose 5 games that are not mentioned in the reading and and categorize them according to Callios’ terms (see ROP pg 306 for an example of the table). You may want to create hybrid categories as some games involve multiple types of game play experiences.

Soccer (Ludus Agon)

Gambling machines. i.e. slot machines (Ludus Alea)

House – where children pretend to be different roles in a home such as a mother, father, etc. (Paida, Mimicry)

Rock climbing (Ludus Ilinx)

Thumb wars (Paida Agon)

  1. In trying to quantify elusive and subjective terms like “fun” the authors reference several “typologies of pleasure”, one particularly compelling model is Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow. Briefly describe the general theory behind flow and how it may be useful for designing and evaluating games.

Flow is a general concept that aims to describe the state of mind of a player once they have reached focused and fulfilling engagement with a game that leads to superior feelings of pleasure due to achievement in the game. Flow is useful in designing and evaluating games because it is a term that describes the ultimate goal of all successful games. The most timeless games like Chess, execute the concept of Flow repeatedly almost in every move, simply because the concentration and strategy a game like Chess mandates. Flow is a concept term, like God or Love, and is vague enough to be considered the ultimate criteria for every game. It is a culmination of all pleasure derived from the game.