Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Even More on Winning

Last week we talked about winning using mechanics. This week let's contradict everything I said last week and talk about what winning really means.

What is Winning?

Anyone who says winning means coming in first place is playing in a tournament. The actual victor of the game - by points, by money, etc... - is entirely secondary to winning the game in the broader sense. Unless you're in a tournament, winning means only one thing: everyone enjoyed the experience.

Enjoyment can come from a variety of different intellectual and emotional sources, some of which may be important to an individual, and some of which may not be. To name few possibilities:

  • Winning the game (as victor).
  • Playing well.
  • Someone you love winning the game.
  • Facing a challenge and succeeding.
  • Facing a challenge and doing better than previous times.
  • Not coming in last.
  • Everyone playing their best.
  • Finding the gameplay funny, interesting, clever, awesome, or meaningful.
  • Finding the conversation funny, interesting, clever, awesome, or meaningful.
  • Impressing someone.
  • Playing or doing something clever, or witnessing someone else doing that.
  • Enjoying the experience vicariously.
  • and so on ...


I'm willing to bet that for most people who read this, actual victory in the game is not enjoyable if your fellow players didn't enjoy themselves (unless your opponent was somebody obnoxious that you were trying to convince to leave the game group). If you come to the end of the game and you find yourself in first place, but surrounded by people who look entirely unhappy, frustrated, bored, or even on the verge of tears, have you won?

Enjoying the Game

With so many people having different expectations as to what makes a game enjoyable, how can you ensure that all players, in fact, "win" the game?

  • Play with well-mannered people

    I've known five year-olds who are more enjoyable to play with than forty year-olds. It is not a question of age. It is a question of manners. Well-mannered people don't get upset if they are losing because they insinctively know what winning means: having fun and doing your best. Well-mannered people don't harass other people, make fun, insult, demean, play moves for other players, ruin games by undermining hidden information, argue incessantly about the rules, or ruin the game components or places in which they are playing.

  • Play games that people like

    Games are meant to be fun, not a trial. It may be difficult to match everyone's needs with a limited selection of games, but it is better not to play at all than to play, or force someone to play, when they don't enjoy the activity.

  • Don't play to win at all costs in long multi-player games

    Sometimes a game will allow you to totally destroy another person's chances of winning. For instance, I played a game of Cities and Knights of Catan where I had a choice of where to build a settlement: either of two locations was equally good for me, but one totally eliminated the last location in which one of my three opponents could build. By all rights, the right "winning" move was to kill my opponent, which I did ... and instantly regretted. My opponent then had to suffer without a single meaningful decision to make for another hour and a half, painfully wanting to leave. He didn't blame me for the decision; it was the "right" play to win. But he also never came to the game group again. It was not the winning move, after all.

  • Play games without early-player elimination, games where players can make meaningful decisions even if they are far from winning, or play short games

    It is one thing to lose. It is another thing to be bored for two, three, or six hours with nothing to do, but not able to leave without wrecking the game for other people.

    This is less problematic in shorter games, or in two player games that allow a player to resign. In these cases, the game experience is felt over the course of a number of games; a single game becomes no worse than losing a "battle" in the main game.

  • Don't let your game life ruin your personal life

    Don't start familial or neighborhood wars because of your game playing or the members of your game group. Keep your priorities straight.

  • Cultivate some of the other sources of enjoyment

    That's a good list of ways to enjoy games up there. Maybe you can branch out as to what you consider "enjoyment".


For myself, whenever I no longer have any chance of winning, I set myself a sub-goal in the game that is similar to the original goal: achieve a certain number of points, acquire a certain number of territories. As long as I have something challenging to keep me interested.

Yehuda

24 comments:

gamesgrandpa said...

I don't know that I would call it "winning" if you don't actually finish in first place. I would certainly call it "fun", "successful", "entertaining", "true gaming", or something similar. I do, however, subscribe to the philosophy you have described.

One point stood out to me, in particular -- games that eliminate players before the game ends. For me, that is the primary reason not to play such games as Risk and Monopoly (there are other reasons, too, but that is a key one for me). I cannot imagine a more boring game situation than one in which I (or anyone else) is eliminated from participating in a game, while others continue to compete. I understand that feature in cut-throat competitions or tournament play, but for a sociable gaming experience, it is just not an acceptable factor. In fact, I recently created and posted on BGG a Monopoly variant that allows bankrupt players to continue in the game (it also has a built-in time limit). Although I have not played Risk 2210, I believe it has a turn limit and perhaps does not eliminate players before the end of the game. That appears to me to recognize the main failing point of the original game.

I, also, had an eye-opening experience (in a Diplomacy game) in which I virtually eliminated a player whom I had been supporting from the first turn (and he was supporting me). Although back-stabbing is an integral part of that game, my sudden traitorous move came as such a shock to him that he would never play the game with me again. Although it was the "correct" move, which enabled me to win the game, I regretted the effect it had on our relationship (and we worked in the same office).

Shannon Appelcline said...

Well written!

Ryan Walberg said...

gamesgrandpa, you said
I cannot imagine a more boring game situation than one in which I (or anyone else) is eliminated from participating in a game, while others continue to compete.

I believe Jon just mentioned one: a situation in which you are eliminated from doing well at the game, while you are forced to continue to play. This is the biggest problem with SoC.

gamesgrandpa said...

Ryan -- I can't fully agree with you regarding SoC. We played a 6-player game of Settlers last Saturday. My son-in-law found himself trapped in the middle of the board, with no place to build more than the three settlements he had upgraded to cities. Rather than being discouraged, though, he began buying development cards as quickly as possible, hoping for VPs. He didn't win the game, but he wasn't totally out of it. And, his son once won SoC with 4 VP cards, so it would have been possible.

However, I do understand your statement about the problem of knowing you cannot win and having to continue playing a lengthy game. But, I still prefer playing to either just watching others play or finding something else to do, while the others finish a game. If I'm in the game, I have enough interest to watch developments and perhaps learn something for a future game.

Jeff said...

Count me in *for* player elimination. I think one of the least enjoyable gaming experiences is being in a long game with no chance to win and no graceful way to quit. That said, I fully expect someone to knock me out of a game if possible, even in a long game, and can't fathom not making my best move because someone else will be bored for a while. I think the important thing is to only play long games with people taking them as seriously (or not) as you are.

Anonymous said...

Much of this comes down to the old question of responsibility. The other half seems to come down to the old golden rule: Do unto others as you want them to do unto you.

You are responsible for the effects you create. That simple really. However that knife cuts both ways. Not only are you responsible for the effects you create on the other players in your game, but as a player in that group and in that game you are also responsible for the effects you create (or thus allow to be created) by your being in that game (group) in the first place.

Elimination, reasons for play, and all the rest? What are the common and mutual agreements that your group is based on? What is the golden rule for your group? What effects do you desire to be created on you by others, and thus what effects have you agreed to create on others? Is it for sociable enjoyment with a light frisson of competition? Something more? If your group has agreed on a more competitive approach, then by the golden rule, part of the picture is taking responsibility for the fact that you'll be eliminating other players from play and they will be eliminating you from play.

To take the Settlers of Catan case, were I the other player I would be upset if you didn't build in the location which eliminated my prospects. That would piss me off, even though it eliminated my future. If you didn't build there I'd feel that you'd break your responsibility to me as a competitive player and that you had suddenly and unilaterally changed the rules and agreements in terms of what effects you were willing to create on others and thus have created on yourself. Suddenly, you would have stepped out fo the game and effectively said, "Oh, I'm playing a different game now, a different game with different rules -- but you all just carry on Okay? I'm just going to go off and do my own private thing in this game with you all." You'd suddenly be playing a different game for different reasons than the rest of us. You've suddenly popped up and said that you are no longer going to create and accept the effects of the game, but have instead, unilaterally, redefined the common agreements on what can and cannot be done. Not Okay, no fair.

Yehuda said...

Anon: I agree with your assessment of playing for the expected goals of the game. In fact, I object to the personal vendetta in a game for that very reason.

In defense of my opinion, consider this: the expectation of all players was that all players would "play" the game with at least a small chance of winning, more or less, as the game progressed.

When a person is eliminated early in the game but unable to quit, through no poor play of his, this might be considered a design flaw in the game.

If you are playing a game and you suddenly discover a design flaw, you might be justified in using it, but you might be equally justified in saying: this game has a flaw I just discovered; I'm going to play around it for now.

Yehuda

BilboAtBagEnd said...

I think there are two mindsets:

Mindset a: people who play a game to have fun with their friends, and not whining about winning/losing or not beating up a loser just for the heck of it is part of that.

Mindset b: people who play to win, and regard competition as a too-bad-for-you circumstance of life.

It's not that group a is not competetive, or that group b is not trying to have fun, merely that they have different priorities for these two goals.

Personally, even when a game allows for player elimination, I try not to do it. It doesn't really make sense to kill off Red's last city when Blue and Green have fifteen more. If I need to go around to do it, then fine. I kind of consider this "sportsmanship" a sort of etiquette, like not eating soup with your fingers.

Of course, I've stopped playing with certain people because they rag me out for that. Not, of course, when I make my way around them... only when I make my way around others.

I guess people will have to take it on faith that I'm really not trying to throw the game just because I'm not eliminating a player and am trying to move ahead instead.

gamesgrandpa said...

My strongest preference is for games that do not include a method for completely eliminating an opponent before the end of the game and that do have a scoring system that does not make it obvious who will win (or who couldn't win) until the final accounting. I like partially-hidden scoring mechanisms (e.g., Settlers of Catan's VP cards or TtR's hidden tickets or Royal Turf's hidden bets and many other excellent games) or scoring that is complicated enough that most competitors do not try to keep track until the final scoring (e.g., Take It Easy). This doesn't mean I don't enjoy games with constant, open scoring (I very much like Carcassonne and Mississippi Queen), but I really enjoy the surprises in the final scoring that some games allow.

Fellonmyhead said...

What is wrong with sitting through a game when you know you have little chance of winning?

Next people will be saying they don't want to play Puerto Rico with Joe Bloggs because Joe Bloggs is too good at it!

Also, I understand why some folk consider elimination a poor mechanic, but it fits many games well. In fact, the only reason I tend not to play such games is because the groups I play with are small and I wouldn't want anybody to be sat around doing nothing for an hour or two.

Anonymous said...

> In fact, I object to the
> personal vendetta in a
> game for that very reason.

Also. A perfect example arose recently in conversation here. In disucssing the game Antike with another local gamer I observed that capturing another player's cities early in the game is (often) much more resource and action point cheaper than building your own. He replied that were I to take one of his initial three cities, likely dooming him in the game, he'd shift his game goal to ensuring that I had no possibility of winning in that game. I then stated that were he to do that I'd not play with him again as I'd consider it a fundamental violation of the gaming ethos. He thought his own view obvious and natural and my response incomprehensible.

Funny that.

> In defense of my opinion,
> consider this: the
> expectation of all players
> was that all players would
> "play" the game with at
> least a small chance of
> winning, more or less, as
> the game progressed.

Certainly. If that is part of the base agreements of your group/play, then you need to hold to that.

What I'm really trying to get at here is that it just doesn't matter what the agreements are among the players. No set are particularly any better or worse than any other. What matters is that the agreements are held and implemented by all the players. Just as we assume that we're all playing the same game by the same rules, these group agreements form the larger contextual rules about how the games are played, and if they are broken, much as you've observed, the game breaks just as badly as when one player tries to unilaterally rewrite the game's specific rulebook.

DWTripp said...

Good article and a good discussion.

I always try and suggest the right games for the group playing. I like all styles and if we'll have younger players or emotionally unbalanced players I stay away from anything that smacks of elimination.

Fellonmyhead said...

Anonymous said:

In disucssing the game Antike with another local gamer I observed that capturing another player's cities early in the game is (often) much more resource and action point cheaper than building your own. He replied that were I to take one of his initial three cities, likely dooming him in the game, he'd shift his game goal to ensuring that I had no possibility of winning in that game. I then stated that were he to do that I'd not play with him again as I'd consider it a fundamental violation of the gaming ethos. He thought his own view obvious and natural and my response incomprehensible.

I find your response differs very little from his; you are excusing virtual elimination of this other player with reasons of action economy and he is stating his intention to create a less economic long-term situation for you if you take advantage of it. Neither standpoint is unethical if we are to accept either as possible within the game structure. If either situation were not supposed to happen then the game would be designed with rules to counter them; furthermore if this is what you consider unethical you ought to be playing something alternative to an empire-building game.

I consider it rather selfish for somebody to want one strategy within the scope of the rules to be acceptable and another not to be - especially if they take it to the point of saying "I'm not going to play anymore".

What he was stating was neither outside the spirit nor the scope of the rules; I would certainly take sides against another player bent on my elimination whatever their underlying reasons and I would tell them so. Isn't such negotiation generally accepted in games of trade, diplomacy and war?

Disclaimer: I have never played Antike.

Anonymous said...

> I find your response
> differs very little from
> his; you are excusing
> virtual elimination of
> this other player with
> reasons of action economy
> and he is stating his
> intention to create a less
> economic long-term
> situation for you if you
> take advantage of it.
> Neither standpoint is
> unethical if we are to
> accept either as possible
> within the game structure.
> If either situation were
> not supposed to happen
> then the game would be
> designed with rules to
> counter them; furthermore
> if this is what you
> consider unethical you
> ought to be playing
> something alternative to
> an empire-building game.

The critical difference (for me) is that he has changed his goal from winning to stopping me from winning. He is now playing a different game than he was. This has nothing to do with being an empire building game or even what that particular game's rules allow. He's now playing a different game than I am. I don't like that, consider it unacceptable, and thus attempt to only play with people who keep their agreements as to what game they are playing.

What the rules allow, or don't allow and how that relates to the game design in this case is irrelevant to the point. As you say, the rules allow it and therefore it is fair game. The native assumption is that every player will act without restraint within the rules and context of the game in pursuit of victory. (And to echo back to Yehuda: No, this is not a tournament in that there are no scores or rankings or the like kept or tracked after each individidual game. It is merely a question of dedication levels in pursuit of victory. To poorly echo Knizia: It is the full-on contest which is enjoyed, not the victory.)

Negotiation? Sure. If it is a negotiation game (and Antike supports negotiation) they can use those wiles all they want, and they may quite validly and perhaps usefully use a "Help me get back at him!" argument to improve their position and attempt to regain contention for the win. Fair game and expected. That is however still playing for the win and thus different from "I'm going to make sure you don't win."

Fellonmyhead said...

anonmymous said:

The critical difference (for me) is that he has changed his goal from winning to stopping me from winning.

This is critical, but even more critical is that if you cripple him you have changed that goal for him - as you have taken the goal of winning away from him.

I don't see that it is fair for you to argue that he shouldn't pursue victory, however pointless to either of you, through trying to do to you what you have done to him - I mean, you haven't really given him the option to do much else by crippling him in the first place.

There are probably not many alternatives at that point, and I assume he will become little more than somebody else's minor ally or enemy throughout the rest of the game. If this results in somebody other than you meeting their goal via his intervention then your strategy of destroying his starting empire is clearly not a viable and extendable one.

Essentially, I can turn your argument on its head and state your goal of winning is achievable without the subgoal of stopping him from winning. Arguably you are behaving just as unethically (if that is even the right word to use).

I believe there are certain games where you are right, but not in the same category as this one and not for reasons of ethics (more for reasons of common sense).

Anonymous said...

> This is critical, but even
> more critical is that if
> you cripple him you have
> changed that goal for him
> - as you have taken the
> goal of winning away from
> him.

Taken? No, merely made extremely difficult. It is his choice whether or not to change his goal and in this instance he has a prior trumping agreement with the other players as to what his goal for the game will be. (ObNote: I have been this squashed player on many an occassion)

> I don't see that it is
> fair for you to argue that
> he shouldn't pursue
> victory, however pointless
> to either of you, through
> trying to do to you what
> you have done to him...

Once started games are inherently unfair. The goal of a game is for one player to explicitly create as unfair condition a condition as possible by beating the other players by as large a majority as possible. The fairness only really applies before the game starts in that the potential for winning should be equal (morally) for all players.

> ... I mean, you haven't
> really given him the
> option to do much else by
> crippling him in the first
> place.

He always has a choice. The question is in how that choice is exercised. Ignoring the impacts of luck on such cases (Antike is a certain information game), there is complicity on his part. Presumably he exposed his position either through bad play or in the mistaken assumption that there would be more value to me elsewhere. He goofed. Now he pays for his error. In the more global sense, this payment for error seems "fair" (good play is rewarded, bad play is punished). I'll accept arguments as to whether the scale of the punishment exceeds the crime, but call them moot as the player agreed to those potential response levels in agreeing to play the game.

> If this results in
> somebody other than you
> meeting their goal via his
> intervention then your
> strategy of destroying his
> starting empire is clearly
> not a viable and
> extendable one.

Of course, but that's tautological. Any approach which does not result in victory is unviable. Obviously part of the logic of potentially eliminating a player's future also encludes accounting for their remaining attempts to win. Setting an in-game mine to deny yourself victory is, ahem, self-defeating.

> Essentially, I can turn
> your argument on its head
> and state your goal of
> winning is achievable
> without the subgoal of
> stopping him from winning.

It may be, but that rather depends on the game in question. Ultimately winning requires preventing all other players from winning. The question here is how well and how early in the game that particular fact is enforced on specific players. Early, late, gradually, iteratively, progressively, etc. These risks and potentials were agreed upon and accepted by the players at the point that they agreed to play the game.

Fellonmyhead said...

Anonymous said:

Once started games are inherently unfair. The goal of a game is for one player to explicitly create as unfair condition a condition as possible by beating the other players by as large a majority as possible. The fairness only really applies before the game starts in that the potential for winning should be equal (morally) for all players.

The fairness I am talking about is your (rather unacceptable) statement about not desiring to play the game with somebody because of their strategic choice.

Essentially you have stated that every other player should follow some arbitrary moral standard you have devised for the game in question. Unacceptable, and a complete waste of time.

Anonymous went on to say:

Ultimately winning requires preventing all other players from winning. The question here is how well and how early in the game that particular fact is enforced on specific players. Early, late, gradually, iteratively, progressively, etc. These risks and potentials were agreed upon and accepted by the players at the point that they agreed to play the game.

This doesn't answer why it's fair game for you and not for him; remember you agreed to those "risks and potentials" too, so when he turns on you after near-destruction you should neither be surprised nor offended.

Anonymous said...

> The fairness I am talking
> about is your (rather
> unacceptable) statement
> about not desiring to play
> the game with somebody
> because of their strategic
> choice.

Presumably every player has some criteria on which they select players they wish or don't wish to play games with. It doesn't matter what the reasoning is as it is a private choice. Among my criteria is that they (and I of course) must play to win. But, this is a choice and preference made outside of any particular game, not inside a game. It is an OOB consideration. It doesn't change the way I approach a game once in it.

> Essentially you have
> stated that every other
> player should follow some
> arbitrary moral standard
> you have devised for the
> game in question.

No, I'm bolder than that. Not for the game in question but for all games played competitively with me (ie excepting learning games, experience games etc). More simply I request that players joining me for a competitive game do in fact play competitively. In agreeing to play or not play a particular game, or in recruiting players for a game, I will also attempt to vet the players to select out those whom I have reason to think won't play competitively. Sometimes this means I'll sit out a game; sometimes I'll not invite specific other players to a game -- it varies.

I wish to play with players who play to win. I don't wish to play with players who don't play to win. Ergo, I try and ensure that all the players in the games I play are players who play to win. Is this any different to attempting to only play games with people without offensive body odour? Both qualities are offensive (to me); one is just more widely agreed upon.

> Unacceptable, and a
> complete waste of time.

I have found it valuable in that it increases the quality and enjoyment of the games I play.

> This doesn't answer why
> it's fair game for you and
> not for him; remember you
> agreed to those "risks and
> potentials" too, so when
> he turns on you after
> near-destruction you
> should neither be
> surprised nor offended.

Two parts really.

1) Games once started are not fair, make no claim to be fair, and it is directly against the player's interest to keep them fair. Fairness occurs in the initial conditions of the game, not in the game itself.

2) The other player (or me if I'm in that situation) has an (implicit) agreement with the other players to play to win. This agreement doesn't have exception clauses and is not properly subject to unilateral change. I expect the other players and myself to maintain that agreement during the game without exception. How he feels about me (or I about him) in-game is irrelevant compared to our striving to win the game.

Jingleheimer Schmidt said...

What about playing for the longer-term, multi-game win? Even if you aren't in a tournament, developing a reputation for revenge might well stop people from attacking you. Or it may cause people to band together against you, in-game. Are these not reasonable long term strategies?

For instance, if you play diplomatic games of treachery and betray someone, you will become known as someone who will do this. This will affect future games you play with these people. It's clearly acceptable to betray or to not betray others (emphasized in certain games, i.e. Diplomacy itself).

I'd say it's entirely fair, in all senses, to try to develop a reputation to increase your chance of winning.

As an aside, *declaring* your intent to crush someone who has wronged you may, in fact, be a fine tactic for winning that game. For me, it falls pretty clearly into the category of saying, "Jesus is SO winning, beat up on him!", though it obviously appeals to different players for different reasons. Even though you may profess that you have little chance of winning, the actual public statement should hopefully increase your chances.

Anonymous said...

We're wandering off the topic a bit here.

> What about playing for the
> longer-term, multi-game
> win? Even if you aren't in
> a tournament, developing a
> reputation for revenge
> might well stop people
> from attacking you. Or it
> may cause people to band
> together against you,
> in-game. Are these not
> reasonable long term
> strategies?

Certainly training desired responses into one's opponents is a reasonable approach. However for me it muddies a line that I'm none too comfortable with at the best of times. I like and hold to the general principle that games are played in a vaccum without external context. The players join the game and bring only their respective abilities. They leave the game with only the game's results. However in there are many unpreventable bleed overs. For instance many games reward human estimation and thus prior observation and resultant conclusions of the other players. (Your reputation aspect would fit in here, as would the elements of training one's opposition). In truth I like this and feel it adds a lot to the games. However I only like it in the abstract. When it becomes personal, when the relationships that are then exploited and used in-game are based on out-of-game player-interrelations or emotional contexts rather than simple pattern/prediction/ability observations (the classic case being marriage or simple revenge play from the last game) then I find it very unacceptable. A fine line to be sure and one I do not feel comfortable with.

> I'd say it's entirely
> fair, in all senses, to
> try to develop a
> reputation to increase
> your chance of winning.

I'd agree with the caveats and queasiness noted above.

> As an aside, *declaring*
> your intent to crush
> someone who has wronged
> you may, in fact, be a
> fine tactic for winning
> that game. For me, it
> falls pretty clearly into
> the category of saying,
> "Jesus is SO winning, beat
> up on him!", though it
> obviously appeals to
> different players for
> different reasons. Even
> though you may profess
> that you have little
> chance of winning, the
> actual public statement
> should hopefully increase
> your chances.

Absolutely and there are many players who despise such meta-gaming within a game (I play with a number of them). As happens I'm not one of them. I look at it as in-band to the game and therefore generally acceptable. The fact that I rather enjoy such internal-meta-gaming may be clouding my judgement.

Anonymous said...

> I consider it rather selfish
> for somebody to want one
> strategy within the scope of
> the rules to be acceptable
> and another not to be -
> especially if they take it
> to the point of saying "I'm
> not going to play anymore".

This may be a core misunderstanding in this discussion. My original text reads:

"I then stated that were he to do that I'd not play with him again as I'd consider it a fundamental violation of the gaming ethos."

'Again" in that sentence refers to subsequent plays of games, not the game play in which the offensive behaviour ocurred.

Yehuda said...

A number of my thoughts on this subject are already contained in this article: http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/Ethics1.shtml

Remember that there is no "right" answer about whether a game should be played with each player doing all in their power to win. Some people find that to be enjoyable and they should play that way. Some people don't find that enjoyable and they should not play that way. The ket is that all players find the game enjoyable.

The simple truth is that you are going to have a mixture of people at most gaming sessions and you have to face this integration. Pretending that it doesn't exist isn't going to help.

I believe that when there is a mixture of people, it is not right for either player to force their own belief about what is enjoyable on the other players. They can say: "This is what I like", but don't expect the other person to be argued into agreeing with it. All players should be as considerate as possible in trying to make the game enjoyable for the other players, without compromising so much that they no longer enjoy the experience themselves, of course.

Once it is known that people have a difference of opinion you should make no further move without ensuring that all players are going to end the game with good feelings - again, unless this is a tournament, in which case you are excused.

The simplest solution for all players is to understand what your fellow players find acceptable before the game starts. A single sentence can change an agonizing experience into a favorable one.

The two problems are: 1) what if some people refuse to play with that unwritten rule (verbal agreements may/may not be broken, vendettas are acceptable, ...) and some people insist on it? and 2) what if the situation arises during the game and a disagreement occurs?

When players refuse to agree on acceptable types of play, avoid playing games where this type of situation can come up, or avoid playing together.

If players find this out during the middle of the game, each player should be jumping to accomodate the other player's sensitivities, not arguing that they have a right to do what they want.

In my Ethics article I knock out a few general rules, which people are welcome to disagree with, but which I think are generally ethical, namely:

- Vendettas are appropriate in certain games, but not in others. The appropriate games are war, diplomacy, and political games, where vendettas are common. Inappropriate games are any other type of game.

- Metagaming across multiple games is always unethical in any situation. Instilling fear in a player for the next game, or taking retribution for a previous game, is unethical, no matter how you slice it. Sorry; but that's my opinion, and I have tried to see it as a matter of "player style", but I can't.

- Any type of sub-goal is a reasonable choice when you can't win a game, including most points, best place, least point spread, achieving a sub-goal, and so on. If you can achieve nothing, you should try to avoid altering the outcome of the game by not siding with either player whenever possible.

Yehuda

Note that in my original game, it's not that I would be sacrificing myself to prevent his elimination from contention, only that I could have make an equivalent play that didn't involve his elimination, but I didn't. And I was not talking about a player who had made some critical strategic mistakes, but one who was eliminated by about nine dice rolls on the third round of the game. And I wasn't talking about eliminating him from the game, where he could go home, but eliminating him from contention, where he couldn't (without wrecking the game).

Anonymous said...

Quote: "When it becomes personal, when the relationships that are then exploited and used in-game are based on out-of-game player-interrelations or emotional contexts rather than simple pattern/prediction/ability observations (the classic case being marriage or simple revenge play from the last game) then I find it very unacceptable."

I would certainly agree with this (and a similar sentiment from Yehuda). Blindly attacking someone at the start of a game because of a previous game doesn't fall into the line I consider acceptable. Favoring someone who is your spouse or whatnot is also unfair. At all times, leaning on actual out of game emotional contexts seems both unfair and unsporting.

I definitely believe developing other patterns makes sense, such as never betraying an alliance, etc., or playing the Tit-For-Tat subgame within a single game. I'm not quite sure if this breaks Yehuda's prohibition against "Metagaming across multiple games".

As far as "If you can achieve nothing, you should try to avoid altering the outcome of the game by not siding with either player whenever possible.", I sometimes attempt the "make the game a tie" strategy, if it happens to be possible in the game being played, even if I can't be one of the players tying. In short, when I'm in a kingmaker position (as is common in many games), I try to assure there's no single king.

Anonymous said...

One of the great things about creating ties ahead of you in ranking is that you also increase your own ranking, Now, instead of being third you're second! That's quite a delta for a single move, especially on the last turn of the game.