Reading Notes 3

1a. I think a game that’s close to “perfectly balanced” is Rocket League. The reason why is because the game is completely symmetrical. There are no classes, levels, or attributes that alter players’ performances. Rocket League, when stripped to the bone, is a game about skill—fast reflexes, coordination, and resource management—and nothing else. Which is why anybody, especially a beginner, can jump into the game at any time and play on a level playing field with anybody else.

 

1b. A game that I think is unbalanced is Monopoly. While the game starts off on a level playing field for all the players, as the game progresses it becomes increasingly unbalanced. A few bad rolls at the beginning of the game can land a player in jail for multiple turns, giving them no opportunity to buy property (the key to winning the game) and dooming them for the rest of the game. In contrast, the first player to build real estate almost always wins the game because the rent is so high that other players have no possible way of catching up.

 

1c. I personally appreciate asymmetry in games because it helps facilitates interesting dynamics between players. For example, if you play the role of a healer in WoW or a medic in TF2, your role is completely different from other roles, but it’s just as integral and meaningful. That being said, I don’t think asymmetry is completely necessary to facilitate interesting group dynamics. Going back to Rocket League—the game is completely symmetrical, but there are still implicit roles that need to be fulfilled. One player has to be a goalkeeper, another a midfielder, offense, etc. Even though these roles aren’t explicitly required, they arise naturally anyways.

 

Tennis – Agon Ludus

Settlers of Catan – Alea Ludus

Charades – Mimicry Paida/Ludus

Playground Roundabout – Ilinx Paida

Prank Call – Mimicry Paida

 

3. Flow is a state of mind where the participant’s attention is completely consumed by an activity, because in their eyes the activity is greater than themselves. Engaging in such an activity invokes happiness because the participants are pursuing something perceived to be meaningful. Because flow is such an immersive state, many game designers might aspire to incorporate it into their game. Flow can be incorporated through a careful and deliberate balance of game mechanics—risk and reward, action and outcome. Games like WoW, I believe, strike such a perfect balance of these elements that the flow is too strong (to the point of addiction).