I will now tell you about my favourite game of all times, my new favourite game, the games I hate and what I have learned about games in general.
I hate games like Monopoly as it doesn’t take the gaming figures more than three walks around the game fields streets to know who will win the game after at least two more hours – the usual resource-based game. I hate roleplaying games like Shadowrun, because the system reflects the game reality so bad – the usual nice game idea with bad gaming mechanics. I hate games like Rommé, because its just luck and no skill is needed to find the correct cards – the typical luck based games. I also didn’t like games like Activity or even multiplayer computer games where the win relys on quick reactions or certain abilities the players have (like painting or singing), but that they cannot really learn throughout the game. These I’d probably call predetermined games.
I played a lot of games
In my teenager times (and arguably also after that), I loved playing every kind of game. I enjoyed board games, strategy games, mind games, card games, role playing games (pen-and-paper) and all kinds of computer games (economic simulations, fighting games, RPGs, strategy, puzzles,…) . And I think after some time, you realize that most of the game mechanics and strategies involved reoccur in other games, and that playing games makes you better in playing other games too.
Side note: When we discussed a school reading (don’t remember if it was “The Catcher in the Rye”), my English teacher hammered in this one sentence that was occurring in the book: “Just connect”. My teacher stood there, looked at us if it was the only thing we really needed to understand so that he could gladly leave the room and know that we’ve learned something today. Just connect the pieces of information. I didn’t like my English teacher too much, because he was pretty much focused on discipline, but he was clearly the teacher I learned from the most. So, if you don’t take anything away from this article, please remember that you just need to connect all the information from the different areas of experience and you’ll understand the big picture more, every time you do it. Just connect.
Becoming an expert
In fact, I firmly believe that you become an expert in anything that you do a lot. Your brain is like a complex muscle, and training a certain activity will strengthen this special muscle and support other muscles when doing related activities. It’s the same with your job, with games, with sports and any skill you can imagine – which is positive.
You will become better in everything you do a lot. You can even become some kind of “negative expert” when you do a lot of unadvisable stuff, like watching TV all day, getting sucked into World of Warcraft style addictive games, drinking too much alcohol, hanging out with questionable people and doing questionable or illegal activities, eating fast food or developing fear of something because you keep away from it too often (people, new experiences, work, …).
What I always liked about games is that with many of the games you can evolve and become better. You learn the rules, you make them your own, you see the hopes that you can exploit, you try and test and fail and try again and succeed. I often see this theme in other players, and with all games that take some time and are somewhat competitive. Competition itself is also very important, and usually also the factor why you want to grow your skills in the first place – as without competition or other gains, why would you?
Speaking of qualities, the games I like have to be enjoyable. They always include some kind of strategy. You always have some way of being clever, interacting with other players or make risky but rewarding maneuvers. You often have an entertaining story that gets told, or some imagination that awakes in your head as the game progresses. If all that doesn’t happen, the game is crap.
The best game I have played to this date is called “Magic – The Gathering”. It’s a card game with ever changing rules, diverse strategies and a big social component to it, as I usually played it on tournaments – and getting there was always a matter of finding people to attend, organizing a car for the day(s) and then beforehand reflecting over the cards that everyone was playing, and what the other tournament-players would pick for their decks (this was called the “metagame”, and your deck was highly dependent on what other players were playing).
To be true, for my life this game was like the worst thing that could happen. I got sucked in. In classes, I wasn’t trying to understand what was taught, I tried to find better combinations of cards, or a silver bullet combination for the metagame. If I would try to calculate the CPU cycles my brain spend in thinking about Magic-decks, I guess I would find several years of my life wasted. Okay, it was really fun playing this game, but after all it got me nowhere, as to be able to make a life out of it, you would need to stop having another life and play and reflect on this 24/7, and a whole lot of luck – and filling in lottery tickets only needs luck and doesn’t cost that much time. So the economical responsibility to stop playing this best of all games and find a better one that could be combined with having a life.
Having played a lot of games, I can tell that game mechanics are never unique. You always see them in a lot of different games, and you can always draw on the experience of other games when you recognize a game mechanic. In resource driven games for example you can most likely benefit from acquiring the most possible resources as this makes it possible to acquire even more resources. If for example a race-like mechanic is included like the game ends at a certain point an you need to collect points, you have to recognize the time when you have to switch from buildup resources to power out resources for points.
After having spent enough time on games, you realize that many game mechanics also can be found in the real world. Here understanding game mechanics is often referred to as “Logic”, “Economy”, “Statistics” or “Creative thinking”. I also saw many game mechanics in my studies in computer science. In fact, the central theme I picked for one of my assignments was “gaming theory”.
And finally, I think I found the only game that you can enjoy to full extend without having to not have a life anymore: it’s life itself. Life has a big number of players, is a competitive setting and there’s an infinite number of rules to learn, bend and use, and there are far more scales that count the points you receive – happiness, money, experiences, enjoyable moments, building a family and having a profession that you can master. The spectrum of values that you can collect points for is diverse, you can define yourself which points you care for the most and that should be added to your most favorable counter.
I think that playing games to a certain extent prepare you for a successful life, as you can transport many of the logical connections you learned that work in games also describe problems in the real world, that you then can solve more easily. But after all, its always the real world that you come back to, so never get stuck in a game or a fantasy reality, no matter how good the story is, how good the mechanics are or how strategic the options in this game are, because after all, you shouldn’t specialize in a game but in mechanics you can reuse in the real world. And ultimately, the most challenging, competitive, strategic and most enjoyable game with the best stories, gameplay and mechanics is life itself. So play that – and have fun!