Reading Note #3

1a) The game “SORRY!” I find to be almost completely “fair”. The 4 way symmetry of the game board, the identical playing pieces, and the randomness of the dice and cards all work to even out the game against any player’s advantage. Some games lack so much player control that it in turn becomes “unfair”. Games such as Candy Land have a winner predetermined exclusively by the shuffle of the cards. However SORRY! has just enough meaningful choice to combat this predisposition, while still checking and balancing the skills of the players to make a game that any player could win.

1b) Games that I find to be unbalanced are one’s which are heavily skewed based on the player’s age, education, vocabulary, and general knowledge. Things like Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, and Scattergories will almost exclusively be won by the oldest, most educated, and most culturally informed player. The game itself requires a very specific skills set, one that typically has an enormous range within every day society, so the mechanics do little to level the playing field. These games typically will only ever be “fair” when all the players are from similar backgrounds and age groups.

1c) Asymmetrical games, especially inside the complex worlds of MMORPGs, take into account the asymmetries of the people playing the game. Simplistic games can never truly be fair unless they are being played by clones. Each player harbours a different set of skills, whether their strengths lie in memory, strategy, intuition, bravery, or collaboration. Creating complex worlds with diverse character rolls allows the players to choose which of their real life strengths they want to exercise during game play. A reserved or shy player may not get the same benefits out of a violent warrior character as would a more impulsive player. Balanced games force and drive a specific strategy out of each player. Unbalanced games create wildly different narratives and experiences for each player, accommodating the breadth of characteristics found in the players themselves. I find this variation to create a much more rich, vibrant, and ultimately valuable gaming experience.

2) Soccer: Ludus – Agon

Slot Machines: Ludus – Alea

Barbies: Paida – Mimicry

Merry-Go-Rounds: Paida – Ilinx

Unicycling: Ludus – Ilinx

3) Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of the flow state is achieved through a high degree of focus and enjoyment during game play. Flow can be found by some through immersion, rigour, perfection, exertion, and exaction. It can be described as the feeling of being in control of our own fate, creating an optimal experience. Games most commonly have the ultimate goal of making its players have “fun” and enjoy themselves. The theory of flow along with Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas on how to best achieve this state through game design, create an ideal set of guidelines on how to optimise gameplay for this experience. By balancing challenge, awareness, feedback, concentration, control, and immersion, a gaming environment can be created that gives the optimally pleasurable experience. A game with successful flow can remove the player from the stresses and anxieties of life, help build confidence and self-worth, and exercise the mind in a constructive context. The level of this emotional and psychological experience achieved can help to be an overarching and subjective criteria to evaluate a game.