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.
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?
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,
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.
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?