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Subject: Alpha Gamers: A player problem or a game design problem? rss

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Carl Frodge
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What are your thoughts on this? Is the problem with Alpha Gamers that some people are Alpha Gamers, or that some games allow people to be Alpha Gamers? Is it a player problem, or a design problem?

If you're living under a rock, an Alpha Gamer is someone who, most often in Cooperative games, tells the other players what to do, or believes they've figured out the best strategy, and strongly encourages other players to act the way they think is best.

The problem with Alpha Gamers is that, if they're making the decisions, they might as well be playing alone, because the other players, if they're listening to the Alpha Gamer (which is not necessarily a bad thing), they're basically not making any real decisions.

So what are your thoughts on this?
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Gentle Gamer
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agentkuo wrote:
What are your thoughts on this? Is the problem with Alpha Gamers that some people are Alpha Gamers, or that some games allow people to be Alpha Gamers? Is it a player problem, or a design problem?

If you're living under a rock, an Alpha Gamer is someone who, most often in Cooperative games, tells the other players what to do, or believes they've figured out the best strategy, and strongly encourages other players to act the way they think is best.

The problem with Alpha Gamers is that, if they're making the decisions, they might as well be playing alone, because the other players, if they're listening to the Alpha Gamer (which is not necessarily a bad thing), they're basically not making any real decisions.

So what are your thoughts on this?


It's likely a symptom of autism, as the player misses the point of games as a social activity.
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Kevin "Coop" Cooper
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It's a player problem that some games minimize and some games exacerbate. If you know your players and you know your games you can find combos that work.

I only "alpha game" when playing with my kids (even competitive games) and I really try to suppress the urge, but it's difficult.
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maf man
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sure some blame can be put on the player but I think its more on the game.

I played some coops with some of my quiet friends/family and were all the same intelligence level and even with us all agreeing and doing well there became an alpha gamer because the game didn't need more than 1 player. No matter how good we were we wernt able to do better than just 1 of us would have done meaning we all had nearly zero effect and a useless gamer is a board gamer.

so what are your thoughts?
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maf man
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Gentlegamer wrote:
It's likely a symptom of autism, as the player misses the point of games as a social activity.

DAMN! that escalated quickly, harsh on players who play differently eh?
an alpha gamer could just be excited they found the best strategy
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Gianluca Casu
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mafman6 wrote:

DAMN! that escalated quickly, harsh on players who play differently eh?
an alpha gamer could just be excited they found the best strategy


In my experience the issue is not that the gamer might have found the best solution. It is the paternalizing and agressive stance which he or she adopts to pass their point of view.
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Dave Lartigue
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Outside of cooperative games, it's a player problem. No one wants you to play a game for them. We don't want your advice. Sure, there are situations that merit discussion, but if you've got my turn figured out, keep it to yourself. I recently played a game that exacerbated this problem, as information was open and moves and payouts were calculable. By the time it got to me, everyone else at the table had figured out the best move for me and let me know. Boy was it fun.

A petty thing I like to do within those situations is to go ahead and do a sub-optimal move instead, which usually drives those players nuts.

Many cooperative games increase this problem, though I still pin it on the players. It's true that a poor co-op game is a solo game that's been made into a co-op, but one also needs to recognize that other people are playing and want to provide input, even if your suggestion is "better". Just shut the hell up, let them make decisions, and get them involved in the game. As long as it's not the Pandemic 500 Grand Prix for a half million dollars cash prize, no one cares if you failing to command the game results in a loss or somehow diminished win.
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Pete
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The alpha gamer is a fact of life. There's no avoiding the fact that at any table of multiple players cooperating, there can be differing opinions as to the best course of action at any given juncture. You have two options: suppress the contribution of the off-turn player or let the off-turn player contribute fully. One results in the frustration of a player having to watch other people make bad moves that directly affect him, and the other results in the frustation of the feeling that someone else is playing your turn for you.

My experience is that the groups that enjoy cooperative games are either unaware of who their alpha gamer is because that person has the tact to intervene only when actually necessary, or because the collection of people is perfectly comfortable with the alpha player that they have.

Pete (calls this a "player problem" but doesn't think it's a problem)


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Andi Hub
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I agree with Legomancer that for competitive games this is purely a player problem.

I think that also for coop it is still predominantly a player problem. There are many coops that I enjoy a lot, which would suffer from an alpha gamer. If you have an alpha gamer in the group, you need to look for games that mitigate the problem. But I think it is unfair to blame coop games that do not mitigate that problem. Those just do not fit to that player or group.
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Ben Harding
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It is absolutely a player problem, but some games put mechanisms in place that attempt to limit it.
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K S
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agentkuo wrote:
What are your thoughts on this? Is the problem with Alpha Gamers that some people are Alpha Gamers, or that some games allow people to be Alpha Gamers? Is it a player problem, or a design problem?

I think that certain game elements (open information, low chance, sequential turns, shared wins) lend themselves to alpha-gaming more than others. Personally, I prefer to seek out co-operative games which mitigate these concerns to some extent. This can be accomplished a variety of ways, such as including elements of chance (e.g. dice-based games like Pandemic: The Cure, Zombicide), concealed information (e.g. players have separate decks in Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game), simultaneous play (e.g. real-time co-ops like Space Cadets) or semi-cooperative elements (e.g. Shadows over Camelot). Again, this is just my personal preference, but it is something that I definitely pay a lot of attention to when considering a co-op game.
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Mark Smith

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Games that we have been in with alpha gamer incursions have been more pleasant on other occasions minus said player.
You could always use a nerf gun and every time Alpha kicks in shoot em' or just play Hanabi and watch them squirm during play.
So in practice the game is probably not the problem but some games seem to funnel or exaggerate these particular gamers play sometimes.
I have to say alpha gamers are awesome if there are analysis paralysis players in the same game , the AP players tend to get a move on with decisions.
Regarding this what joy to be had in Pandemic of even Ghost stories with these two players.
Must admit Alpha players could enhance games with traitor mechanics , I have won a game of dead of winter all because of an alpha gamer , cheers bud .
I am no innocent as AP creeps into games versus the missus sometimes and when the kids were younger Mr alpha gamer came to the table a lot.
In short through playing games I would say it is a player problem that is magnified when matched with certain game mechanics.
 
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Bryan Thunkd
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Why does it have to be one or the other?

If you don't have an alpha gamer at the table, then it's not a problem even if the game is susceptible to being alpha-gamed. If the game doesn't allow alpha-gaming, then it's not a problem even if there is an alpha-gamer at the table. It's only when you have both risk factors that it becomes a problem. Both contribute equally to the problem.

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Chris
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A little from column A; a little from column B.
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Cool User
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Gentlegamer wrote:

It's likely a symptom of autism, as the player misses the point of games as a social activity.


Don't be too quick to blame a medical/psychological disorder when it is more likely just plain rudeness and an overinflated ego.
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Nathan Bergom
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Absolutely a player problem. The Alpha player is not playing according to the spirit of the game.

Blaming co-op games for alpha players is like blaming competitive games for kingmakers. You may as well say that all games are flawed because there are players out there who play purely to inject chaos.
 
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Ben Harding
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nbergom wrote:
Absolutely a player problem. The Alpha player is not playing according to the spirit of the game.

Blaming co-op games for alpha players is like blaming competitive games for kingmakers. You may as well say that all games are flawed because there are players out there who play purely to inject chaos.


I'm with you on the alpha gamer issue, but I do believe that kingmaking can be a problem with the game itself. At the end of a game of TI3, after having played 8 hours of that miserable game, I had a turn with three options available to me: one would have won the game for one player, one would have given the game to a different player, and the third option was to do nothing. That's a crappy situation. After 8 hours, I was forced to take a turn doing nothing.
...and then immediately after my decision to do nothing, the player after me kingmade for one of the players, just to end the game. Everyone went home unhappy.
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maf man
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[ok so I'm gonna try to continue this discussion because I'm kinda in the midst of finding what I like/dislike in relation to coops and I feel like I'm not seeing what the majority here see or feel.]

ok so (most) coops have an alpha gamer problem, we can all agree there
and alpha gamers can be caused by poor attitudes/players
we all don't like that...ok so far we all on board?

but I'm saying when you have a good group coop games can be blamed for the alpha gamer problem (and I think they should solve the problem they cause).

My first try at pandemic was with my friends (all = levels of passion, intelligence, same thought processes, we're very similar) and very soon one of the other player became the alpha gamer telling us what all to do. I became a sheep just doing what I was told along with the rest. Not only was it clear it wasn't him being a problem but when we tried again a different person became that alpha gamer.
My next theory was that it was our fault for kinda pushing 1 person out to be the leader but its just the fact that we all came to the same decisions and rather than try to discuses or make our own decisions it was faster just to have a leader.

I think this is a problem caused by poor design and coops should be striving to overcome it rather than us taking the blame.
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Shaun Morris
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plezercruz wrote:
The alpha gamer is a fact of life. There's no avoiding the fact that at any table of multiple players cooperating, there can be differing opinions as to the best course of action at any given juncture. You have two options: suppress the contribution of the off-turn player or let the off-turn player contribute fully. One results in the frustration of a player having to watch other people make bad moves that directly affect him, and the other results in the frustation of the feeling that someone else is playing your turn for you.

My experience is that the groups that enjoy cooperative games are either unaware of who their alpha gamer is because that person has the tact to intervene only when actually necessary, or because the collection of people is perfectly comfortable with the alpha player that they have.

Pete (calls this a "player problem" but doesn't think it's a problem)




I don't know, we tend to recognize when a player is alpha gaming in the group but I think because we've played so much DnD together it usually ends up with a group discussion and decision. With DnD I find my players will usually alpha game certain scenarios/circumstances depending on what their character's strengths are. (So the barbarian takes point on combat laden scenarios, the bard on diplomatic scenarios, etc., etc.). Perhaps I've just got an odd group? Or maybe it stems from the fact we were friends before we discovered gaming and didn't become friends through gaming?

Ultimately, I don't think alpha gaming is an issue unless the group thinks it's an issue. If the group is annoyed by it then the group needs to say something to correct the behavior. If the group doesn't mind, then let it be.
 
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It's not a problem at all. Playing a cooperative game with a bunch of people who have no opinions on the correct course of action is dead boring. People should just speak their minds. The real problem is the passive-aggressive "beta gamer" who has no ideas, no involvement, but just sits and stews in his misbegotten resentment then comes and whines on BGG about it.
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lampeter
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cool username wrote:
Gentlegamer wrote:

It's likely a symptom of autism, as the player misses the point of games as a social activity.


Don't be too quick to blame a medical/psychological disorder when it is more likely just plain rudeness and an overinflated ego.


Or, as was suggested earlier, excitement over optimal strategy. Honestly ( and I say this as a non-confrontational person), you can't completely blame the alpha gamer if you have never expressed your concern to the player.

My husband is an alpha gamer. Not because he is autistic. Not because he is rude. He just has spent 20 years of his life playing solo computer games, many of them grand strategic war/civ games. He is really good at strategy, and he is used to playing solo. All it takes is for me to say, "Hey, you're starting to take over," and he apologizes and backs off.

I posit that if you are sitting back in your chair and thinking passive aggressive thoughts in the alpha gamer's direction, you are part of the problem as well.
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Cris Whetstone
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lampeter wrote:
cool username wrote:
Gentlegamer wrote:

It's likely a symptom of autism, as the player misses the point of games as a social activity.


Don't be too quick to blame a medical/psychological disorder when it is more likely just plain rudeness and an overinflated ego.


Or, as was suggested earlier, excitement over optimal strategy. Honestly ( and I say this as a non-confrontational person), you can't completely blame the alpha gamer if you have never expressed your concern to the player.

My husband is an alpha gamer. Not because he is autistic. Not because he is rude. He just has spent 20 years of his life playing solo computer games, many of them grand strategic war/civ games. He is really good at strategy, and he is used to playing solo. All it takes is for me to say, "Hey, you're starting to take over," and he apologizes and backs off.

I posit that if you are sitting back in your chair and thinking passive aggressive thoughts in the alpha gamer's direction, you are part of the problem as well.


I'd have to disagree with this. You are in effect enabling your husbands behavior by not helping him stop doing it. What would he be without your presence to check him? He would be 'that rude guy'.

Playing solo games is no excuse for behavior nor did it cause it. The behavior comes from him and him alone. Lot's of people have played solo computer and video games for years now. Most of them do not have issues of alpha gaming. I'm one of them as are plenty of people I play games with.
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Brian M
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I dislike the term 'alpha gamer'. In my book, you've basically got two cases:
1) someone is being "overly helpful" - in which case you tell them that you are doing fine and would like less advice.

If they keep giving too much advice or are overly unpleasant or unhelpful to start with, they go into category 2:

2) bossy jerks.

The best solution for #2 is often to not play with that person.

I've seen people being overly helpful or bossy jerks in competitive games plenty of times as well. The difference tends to be a bit clearer there - when someone is giving helpful advice to a newbie, just too much of it, they are in case 1. When someone is giving deliberately unhelpful advice to a newbie, phrased as serious and earnest advice, they are in #2.

But there's nothing magical about co-ops in this regard. People can be bossy in any game.
 
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Mike
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Okay, I definitely fit in this category.

It's not that I'm trying to manage the game and other players. But when I see a good move, I'm going to share it. Often even if it's in a competitive game and the move will be directed against me.

In my defense, I'm not trying to be the boss. I'm happy when other players are doing the same thing and pointing out good moves I missed.

But I recognize that some players get annoyed by this so I try to keep myself in check.
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lampeter wrote:
cool username wrote:
Gentlegamer wrote:

It's likely a symptom of autism, as the player misses the point of games as a social activity.


Don't be too quick to blame a medical/psychological disorder when it is more likely just plain rudeness and an overinflated ego.


Or, as was suggested earlier, excitement over optimal strategy. Honestly ( and I say this as a non-confrontational person), you can't completely blame the alpha gamer if you have never expressed your concern to the player.

My husband is an alpha gamer. Not because he is autistic. Not because he is rude. He just has spent 20 years of his life playing solo computer games, many of them grand strategic war/civ games. He is really good at strategy, and he is used to playing solo. All it takes is for me to say, "Hey, you're starting to take over," and he apologizes and backs off.

I posit that if you are sitting back in your chair and thinking passive aggressive thoughts in the alpha gamer's direction, you are part of the problem as well.


Yeah, I also have spent 20 years playing grand strategy/civ games and I don't act like that. I think it is just the way your husband is (who should probably have learned the first couple times you said to back off).

Also, you are totally allowed to sit back in your chair without having to deal with an "alpha gamer". That's sounds like you think that non-assertive people have it coming.
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