What motivates your gaming?

I saw a video of a robot playing Settlers of Catan recently and it made me think. I enjoy playing board games on my phone against AI opponents, but how would that change if the AI was in front of you? What motivates AI in the game? Winning? The word “winning” is a full word, and means lots of things to lots of folks. It made me think of the broader implications of a robot gamer: why do I play games?

I play games for the diversion. “Diversion” comes from the Latin divertere which means “to turn aside or away.” So, when I play games, I play to veer away from the normal life. “The normal life” isn’t a bad thing. I live a happy and easy life. Even with all my comforts, a break is necessary, and I use games to fill that time. I don’t play to win. I don’t play to become good. I play to play. I also enjoy the time spent with family and friends. I also play for the intellectual challenge and exercise. There is something about learning a complex game and playing it well. When “playing it well” starts to mix with “playing it better,” I begin to lose interest. I’m alway striving to be better at my job, my marriage, and my family. I don’t want to be better at games. I only want to play them.

That is a human thing. A robot can’t play to “just play.” I suppose you could program a computer to make random plays to progress the game rather than win. Its purpose is still derived from its program. I can’t “just play.”

There are many who can’t define a game outside of the need to win it. In that way, I see a continuum. One extreme is the “just play” motivation. The other is the “must win.” Most folks land along that path.

Are there other motivations? Is this too linear? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Christian board games? Or Board games by Christians?

In my last post, a reader commented on Christian board games. It made me think of the first time I saw a Christian “reskin” of a game: Bibleopoly.
Of course, it is like Monopoly but reworked to have a Christian theme. The theme doesn’t add anything to do the game. It doesn’t even present itself as “Christian” aside from the changes in terminology. It is a “reskin,” meaning the designer took the bones of Monopoly and put a different outfit on them.
Is there anything wrong with this? For me, I shout a resounding YES! There aren’t any overt moral implications. As Christians, however, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. If we want a game with definite Christian themes, that is a great goal. Rather than re-skinning a game, we should make our own.
Being a Christian game designer without designing “Christian” games is another idea. There are only a handful of themes that a Christian should distance themselves from. I know several Christian designers who have excelled at their craft and have designed games with many themes.
There is a broader idea at work here. There are similar questions with music, literature, and art. The Apostle Paul tells us that whatever we do, we should do it for the glory of God. In my view, using any of these creative outlets to create new works glorifies the one who is the first Creator.

Broader Scope Incoming

After an extended break, I’m ready to write again.

I thought a lot about my blog and it’s scope after the last month. I decided that while I love to write and talk about games, I also like to write and talk about other things. I saw this blog as a way to begin a discussion about family gaming and some of my own designs. Now, I see it as a way for me to reflect on my gaming experiences as well as other experiences I have.

Every blogger has to come to the place where they realize their blog isn’t going to become the next great blog. I wasn’t naive, but I was hoping to gain a bit more steam for a particular concept. Now I see that hope may be a pipe dream. I want to broaden my scope to consider other “hobbies” of mine: theology and teaching.

My mind is always racing. That doesn’t make me different. My particular bent on the things listed above does though. I often see the three things – games, theology, and teaching – coming together. There is something very pleasing about teaching a new game. There is also something very please about teaching theology. While theology isn’t always game-worth, good games reflect creativity. That creativity comes from a Creator.

While I’ll still write about my thoughts on games and family, I’ll now be adding other things to the mix.

Any of you Christian gamers? Christian teachers? Gaming teachers?

What is Dungeons and Dragons?

“Dungeons and Dragons” has come to represent any number of tabletop roleplaying games. Since its beginnings, certain groups have made it out to be a Satanic ritual. Some have said it encourages suicide. Others, like myself, see it as a great form of cooperative storytelling. Tabletop RPGs are something I plan to play with my family in the coming years. For some who question that, it may be helpful to see them from my perspective.
Tabletop roleplaying games (TRPGs) have been around for a long time. Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) was one of the first to gain some popularity, in large part due to negative press. The first public concerns games with the case of James Dallas Egbert. Much of the early stigma surround D&D then had to do with fictionalized association about this case. Today, there are still similar holdovers. D&D uses words like “witch” and “devil” to describe fictional monsters, and for many, this is too much.
While I’m not a fan of some of the terms either, everything about how one play a TRPG is optional. The world you create, the characters, their stories – everything. The “Dungeon Master” (DM) facilitates the world and its non-player characters (NPCs). The characters either stick to the main storyline or drift around, discovering new people and places. That is one of the things that makes TRPG so great. Sure, you could make your story “evil” if you chose, but you could also make it a great family adventure. Designers have created other TRPG systems that allow for my diversity. Savage Worlds is my favorite when it comes to creating your own type of world and building a story. I have played everything from Middle Earth to Wild West with the Savage Worlds system and have grown to love it.
TRPGs deserve a second chance if you’ve cast them away in the past. What have been your experiences with TRPGs?

The Board Game Cafe

Last weekend, Emily and I, along with two friends, traveled to St. Louis for a weekend of baseball. The Lord had other plans, as it rained the entire time we were there. We did get to watch one game on Sunday, but the team postponed Saturday’s game a few hours before game time. We scoured the webs looking for something to do, and one of the things we found was Pieces, a board game cafe.
Pieces is the first board game cafe I’ve ever seen, much less been to. They featured good food and atmosphere…and a collection of over 500 games. They hooked me with the games part. Emily and I love gaming, but our friends had never played many of the games we are into. After looking at their shelves for a while, I chose a few to play. We had a great time playing games and eating food. What excited me most was the variety of games folks were playing, and everyone was having a great time.
If I ever stumble into wealth somehow, I’m going to open a cafe like Pieces. Also, if you’re in St. Louis and need someplace to spend several hours, I can think of no better place.

“Gametes” Update

Since my last post, the Gametes have  collected quite a collection! Using Gofundme.com, we raised over $200 in cash, as well as over $200 in games. Companies and stores from all over sent games to the high school to supply our little club.
The experience has been very humbling to me. When people gather around a common hobby and experience, there are good things that can occur. I shared our club’s fundraiser with several communities of which I’m a part. Not only did that experience supply our club, but it inspired others to start similar clubs.
Our club is growing and young people are playing games together. It has been a great destresser for me after school, and I hope it is the same for them.

Stress-Causing Factors at the Table

Last time, I wrote about how games can (and should) be a way to relieve stress. There are certain ways to play games to help you do that. For some, games can be a source of stress. There are certain stress-causing factors to avoid when playing games. Not everyone needs to avoid these. These are things you “learn as you go.” After years of gaming, I’ve learned a few things.

Analysis Paralysis (AP)

For some folks, the number of decision to make at once can be paralyzing. They want to do something, but they’re unable to commit. Some of it is fear of loss of course, but much of it is hard to qualify. I tend to go by the axiom, “Lose fast and play again,” but for many, this isn’t an option. The decisions are too much, and that leads to long turns and frustration. If this is you, pick games that have a low decision density or lower “weight.” Work up to more complex games as your decision-making improves. Table Downtime I link this one with the one above. This is one of the most frustrating factors for me in playing games. Sometimes, it is about the design of the game. Most of the time,

Table Downtime

I link this one with the one above. This is one of the most frustrating factors for me in playing games. Sometimes, it is about the design of the game. Most of the time, however, it is about the people who are playing it. I’ve solved this a few times by choosing who I play with. Other times it may not be that easy. A simple strategy would be to first make sure you plan out your next turn. Also use the time to learn the board and consider what your opponents strategy might be. This has helped me many times not only to become a better gamer, but to help my friends who suffer from AP.

Non-game Talk

This is a bother for many folks. They have sat down to play a game, not talk about baseball or the latest Kickstarter game. This has a lot to do with group ethos. If your group allows for this, it probably doesn’t bother you. But if you have one or two folks who can’t be quiet during your turn, it can be frustrating. One solution is to stop playing with those people. If that solution isn’t socially viable, then either join the conversation or politely ask them to stop. This is a hard one because of the delicate balance found in some groups. This is another one that is hard for me. Good luck! What are some things that stress you out while playing games?

A blog discussing games, family, and games with family.

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