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Competition and the Unknown ~The Gamer A~

July 21, 2010

What makes a board game fun? Nearly every board and card game ever made has a central element: competition. When I first considered this element as an inexperienced gamer, I surmised that the fun of games must be due to the ability prove our worth to our peers by besting them in a match of skill and strategy…followed by taunting, making lewd gestures and insinuating that you fornicated with their mothers, of course. As I began playing more games I realized that although decent games allowed us to pulverize our opponents into bits for hours on end, those games just weren’t as fun as games where no one knew the outcome until the last moment.

The simple fact is that in many mediocre games, a dominant force emerges, and the rest of the game is played out, with all the players knowing the final outcome (Monopoly anyone?). No suspense. No hope. Just the mindless moving of pieces waiting for the inevitable to occur. This creates two negative effects for the losing players. 1. They become frustrated at the fact that they cannot stop the anticipated conclusion, and 2. They become subsequently annoyed that the rules require the game to continue, despite #1. Like most of you, I play games to have fun with my friends. If they’re just sitting there in agony waiting for the game to end, then gloating about my victory is so much less poignant because I could’ve denounced their mothers’ wholesomeness an hour prior. Hidden elements improve games in several ways. Not knowing where your opponent stands makes every move a possibly game-changing one, heightening the suspense. This keeps the game engaging and exciting for its entirety. It has also become clear to me that when elements are hidden, my friends and I talk about our cunning, secretive and dastardly ploys long after we’ve packed the game away. This showed me that games with hidden powers, hidden victory points, and hidden motives are just plain more fun.

So go try out Citadels, SmallWorld, or Battlestar Galactica. You’ll see that the joy of making a brilliant maneuver is heightened tenfold by the fact that your opponents will soon suffer for your brilliance, but be none the wiser. Then afterward you can tell them how you did it, and how their mother gave you the idea while you were in bed.

~The Gamer A~

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