Reading Note #3

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).

I think that the game Hungry Hungry Hippos is perfectly balanced. It is a four-player game that utilizes plastic hippos to capture small white marbles into each players’ section. The goal is to “eat” the most marbles. The perfect balance of the game assumes the fact that the board itself was constructed equally and symmetrically. It is balanced because the mechanics of the game have very strict parameters. Each player is equidistant from the center of the board and uses the same lever mechanism to move the Hippo’s mouth. Each Hippo moves in the exact same way with the same limitations.
1b): Describe a game that you believe is un-balanced.

I believe that the game Pictionary is un-balanced. As an artist, it is one of my all-time favorite games. However, when I play with friends who are not artistic, a very clear advantage goes to my team. The game is balanced only with the players have identical artistic skill. I have played Pictionary before when one team has much more artistic skill than the other. From round one, the artistic team dominates both in drawing and guessing. The game would be much more balanced if there was a way to build perfectly balanced teams.
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 that asymmetrical games are fantastic for players who are willing to invest more in the game. They must take time to understand the complexities of the game to a point where they no longer totally reliant on balanced parameters in order to have a chance at winning. Playing in an asymmetrical game requires a player to understand more than just rules; they must understand strategy and be prepared to confront variables that may affect other players differently. Diverse play experience gives players an opportunity to challenge one another and even engage in a more personal way because they must face differing challenges. The asymmetry must be justified with complexity, opportunity to improve, and balance meaningful choices across gameplay.


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. 

Hopscotch:  Ludus, Ilinx, Can involve Agon

Charades:  Ludus, Alea, Mimicry

Eye Spy:  Ludus, Agon

Texas Hold ‘Em:  Ludus, Alea, Agon

Operation:  Ludus, Agon, Mimcry


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.

According to Csikszentmihalyi’s theory, flow is a feeling of immersion or engagement that gives one control over outcomes. He describes it as a feeling of “achievement or accomplishment”. In order to create flow, certain things can take place. Csikszentmihalyi gives the examples of “a challenging activity that requires skills”, “the merging of action and awareness”, “clear goals and feedback”, “concentration on the task at hand”, “the paradox of control”, the “loss of self-consciousness”, and the “transformation of time”. These states can occur in games because games often create alternate realities. They can transport players to another context where they must concentrate and have control over certain parameters. Games involve skill, focus, a clear goal, and awareness. All of these factors lead to flow. Game designers can seek to develop flow by emphasizing these parts of the experience.