Have you ever played a game that had an epic theme, depth, great mechanics, and excellent gameplay, but ended up not being fun in the slightest due to another player’s play style? Often the force that drives playstyle comes down to the simple reason of why that individual is playing the game in the first place. We have discussed this a bit in other blogs, but most of these reasons fall into three basic categories:
Social gamers--play to socialize and build relationships
Gameplay gamers--play to experience the game, this includes immersing yourself into the theme and game mechanics, basically enjoying the game itself
Super competitive gamer--play to win
Game groups with social gamers and gameplay gamers seem to get along fine, without much confrontation (except for a bit of playful banter). Enter the gamer whose sole motivation is to win. We have all played with this gamer. They’re not afraid to step on as many toes as necessary to win the game. You know, the gamer that sucks all the fun out of the room. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh…a bit. What type of gamer are you? What are you looking for when you sit down to play a game?
Prior to writing this, I reminisced about the gaming experiences that I have had over the last 20-30 years. I realize that, for me, I have gone through various levels of progression as a gamer when it comes to these questions. I look at where I am now as a gamer versus where I started. My current motivations for playing a game, along with the essential elements needed to provide enjoyment for me are quite different when compared to my first few years of gaming. Growing up, games were meant to be won at any cost. If I didn’t win, then the game wasn’t fun. I found myself only playing games that I was experienced with, and had a high percentage of victories, or I would play with people that I knew didn’t really stand a chance. My aggressive playstyle made these individuals not want to play games with me again.
As with many aspects of life, maturity can help us see the errors of our youth. I realized that I had closed myself off to many different and interesting games, and alienated many people, simply because I wanted to win. Otherwise, what was the point in playing? Now, don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that everyone should play games with the intent to win. I also acknowledge that some games, by design, are confrontational and are meant to be played that way. I don’t bring that style of game to my table often, but that is due to my personal tastes and game preferences. Looking back, I see the people that I turned away from board games due to the brutalness of my former playstyle. I have come to realize, especially with the number of amazing and diverse games in the world today, that for me, a board game is about the experience and the enjoyment of the game itself. Of course, we all enjoy winning. Who doesn’t? The question is, are we willing to sacrifice the enjoyment of others simply because we want to win? I would argue that no, it is not worth sacrificing the group’s enjoyment for a one-time victory.
As I said, at our game nights, we typically stay away from games with direct conflict (there are a few exceptions). Games with direct conflict tend to create bad feelings and can even turn people away from board games entirely. There are some games that have a direct player interaction element to them but manage not to be too emotionally confrontational. However, there are few things more frustrating than playing a game with someone who seems intent on countering your every move and making you feel as though you are just spinning your wheels. Some players enjoy the cut-throat feel to this style of play, but I believe this is the minority of players. I do not believe that one player’s enjoyment should come at the cost of the enjoyment of everyone else at the table. We are all there to have fun. I don’t think this means that players should go easy on each other or shouldn’t make moves that can negatively impact someone else, but they should be mindful to not cripple other players, thus ruining their experience. I have been on both sides of that coin. It can be extremely tempting to play aggressively, especially when no one else is playing so confrontationally. I feel that you must try to win and play the game to the best of your ability. However, I also believe that this can be accomplished without ruining the enjoyment of the game for everyone else. Is a one-time victory worth the lasting effects once the game is over? Board games should bring people together, to socialize and for mutual entertainment. Being an overly aggressive “win at all cost” gamer is an excellent way to not get invited back to game night, and an effective way to dissuade players from coming back.
Ultimately it comes down to the players in your game group and knowing their style of play. If you all are aggressive cut-throat players, I say have at it, and all should enjoy the carnage. If your group isn’t big on a lot of confrontation, then don’t be the person that kills the joy or the person everyone tries to avoid once games start to hit the table. This can be even more important if you have new or non-gamers playing with you. Remember, everyone is there to have fun. If you manage to win and everyone at the table agrees they just experienced a great game, then that is a win all around. There are so many games out there to enjoy, with almost endless themes, different game mechanics, and all-around uniqueness. I hope everyone can look forward to their next game experience and, win or lose, can say that they have a great time playing a fun game with great people.
What is your group's gaming style? What are you looking for when you bring a game to the table?