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Subject: Define "A Good Game" rss

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Tim Murray
Canada
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Howdy!

Upon writing a reply in the 'what makes your game so special' thread, a thought just hit me: What do we mean when we say a game is "good" or "fun".

Those words are clearly relative...but relative to what? Is a game "fun" if we qualitatively consider it "more fun than the average game in this genre that we've played"?

If we've never played a game of this genre before (or, say it's the first game we've ever played, as a little kid), what barrier does a game need to breach before we'll use the label of "fun" or "good" to describe it? How do we know when to use this label?

I find myself starting to use words like "fun" and "good" when a game makes me go "whoa!" or have some other significant emotional reaction, ideally multiple times while playing. The key for defining "fun" or "good" seems to come down to:
"How often can we cause someone to have an involuntarily positive emotional reaction to what's happening on the table?"
Once a game manages to achieve an intense enough emotional response, or achieve a significant emotional response often enough, the game starts being perceived as "good". This is assuming the emotional response is not simply one of intense frustration, anger or annoyance, but is a

1) Purely Positive:
"Whoa!", "Awesome!", "That combo was insane!", "That worked REALLY well!", hilarious moves by other players, "Good strategy; well played", etc.

2) Constructive:
"Almost got that last card I need...!" or "I just need 1 more turn...!" excitement, anticipation, 'teasing', etc.

There are a huge number of factors that come into play for these emotions to result: Balancing, pacing, interaction, etc. etc.
This post isn't intended to focus on the specific mechanics of games. Rather it is intended to be a discussion on the relative meaning of "fun" or "good" in the context of games.

What do you tend to associate with games that are "good" or "fun"? What makes you use those words when describing a game...or what makes you NOT want to use those words? When do you draw that line? When does a game cross the line between "not fun" and "fun"? "Don't care to play again" or "Want to go again!"? Does the good have to outweigh the bad? How much bad do we tolerate in an activity that is supposed to be "fun"? Why do we tolerate it?

Just to add on one more question: When designing games, is it your goal to make a game "more fun" than games already in that genre? Do you care? Why?
 
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Brook Gentlestream
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As far as my criteria for a good game, I once suggested that a good game is one that allows players to force their opponent into having to make difficult decisions. The more decisions, and the harder they are, the better your game is.
 
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Christopher Markham
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As far as I know, the test of a good game is "When the game is over, do the players immediately want to play again?". Defining whether or not a game is fun probably falls somewhere in there.
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Jeremy Lennert
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action9000 wrote:
Those words are clearly relative...but relative to what? Is a game "fun" if we qualitatively consider it "more fun than the average game in this genre that we've played"?

Relative to everything else that you could be doing instead.

No one wants to play a game that is less interesting (to them) than the book they're currently reading or the TV show they're watching, no matter how good it is compared to its own genre of board games.
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Brian Fong
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To me:
A game is fun if:
1) I enjoy the player interaction
2) I can see a defined goal
3) The players have fun
4) The theme seems integrated to the play of the game, rather than pasted on.
5) Doesn't make me feel weird after playing

To me a game is good if:
1) There's a group of people that like playing it (not necessarily me)
2) It feels thematically intentional
3) The people playing it have fun
4) It tries to improve the way games are played.
 
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Stephen Williams
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I have no predefined criteria for what constitutes a "good game." I know it when I see it.

I have no desire to establish a set of criteria for what constitutes a "good game." Having a preconceived notion can only serve to restrict my experiences with games that "don't fit."

I know you're just trying to gather people's thoughts on the subject, and I have no desire to hinder those efforts. In my opinion, though, there are some things that work better when you don't think about them. =)
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