Last time I talked about 'I can't win' issue. This was a minor problem. I wouldn't even call it a problem. The big one? The big problem of co-ops? Leader problem! Oh, yes, this is the reason why most of you don't want to hear about playing co-op, right?
Leader problem is a situation when you play cooperative game and one of players, let's call him John, tells you what you should do in your turn. You play as a team. You all want to win, you all want to do your best, you all have ideas what to do. But John is trying to convince you that his idea is the best. He tells you that you should follow his plan and all of you should listen to him. His is forcing you to play his way.
It drives you mad. It makes you pissed off. You feel frustration and anger. It has nothing to do with having fun. When you are finished, you are no longer interested in playing with John. No longer interested in playing that game. No longer interested in playing any co-op ever. Never ever.
In some cases it may be John's fault. It is matter of that – he is asshole. He ruins the game, he doesn't care about your ideas, he is forcing everybody to play as he wants because he is selfish jerk. As long as publishing companies won't decide to put a gun into box, you will have to deal with John and problem won't be fixed. No game designer can handle with dunderhead player.
In most cases it is not John's fault. This is not due to the fact that he is asshole. This is due to the fact that cooperative games suck. As simple as that.
Tic Tac Toe
Here is an exercise – we will play Tic Tac Toe. We are in the middle of the game. We play circles. Situation on the board looks like that:
I played plenty of games of Tic Tac Toe, but today I have an awesome idea. 'Let's put it here, it will be just awesome, look!' I say pointing space where I want us to put third circle.
Ann is not convinced. She has other idea. She wants to create this upside down L shape which she finds cool. She wants us to put our third circle here:
John is looking at us and I think he doesn't believe what he's just heard. 'Are you fuckin' mad?' he starts to yell at me and Ann. 'We have to put circle here! We put it here or we loose! Are you with me or not?' He points space where we should put our third circle.
Me and Ann grumble for a moment. We think that he is dunderhead but finally we agree. It turns that he was right. Blah. Damn jerk.
So here is the question: Is John a jerk or just Tic Tac Toe is not a cooperative game?
Tic Tac Toe is One Answer Game. There is no space for discussion. There is no room for debate. There is no chance to cooperate and work together to find great plan. It is One Answer Game. There is only one good answer and all other have to go to trash.
That is why cooperative games suck. That is why Leader problem arises. Leader - John knows right answer. He played few times, he has experience in that game, he looks at the board and he sees it as a Tic Tac Toe. He forces you to play his way. Not because he is selfish jerk. It is because he knows Answer. It is because co-ops are One Answer Games. They are just like Tic Tac Toe. They have better artwork. They have interesting theme. They have a little bit more sophisticated rules.
But at their roots they are just Tic Tac Toe. They are just puzzle.
Well, I was not brave enough to put a gun into box of Robinson Crusoe so you could solve Leader problem. To be honest I was never ever convinced that Leader problem is John's fault anyway. I believe that problem lies here – co-ops are just One Answer Games.
And knowing that I started to work on Robinson Crusoe...
[to be continued]