Recommend
6 
 Thumb up
 Hide
29 Posts
1 , 2  Next »   | 

BoardGameGeek» Forums » Gaming Related » Gaming Articles

Subject: Why Do People Play Boardgames? rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Laurentiu Cristofor
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This article follows a couple of others in which I've tried to crystallize my thoughts around some gaming-related topics:

Subjective vs. Objective
Determinism and Randomness in Boardgames

People play games for various reasons and no game satisfies everyone. It is therefore useful to look at these reasons of playing games, so that when we look at a game we can also try to determine which of these reasons it can satisfy. I omitted here artificial reasons that come from outside the game itself ("Bob made me play it", "I was just beta testing", "It was a social study experiment", etc).

So I came up with these categories of goals that a game can help its players achieve.

1. Competition

This goal is about proving one's skill at a game. Winning is the most important outcome of playing the game. Balance and limited luck are important criteria, because their absence can make it hard to argue that skill was the deciding factor of a victory.

2. Intellectual stimulation

In this case, players look for interesting problems to be generated by the game. Exploring and solving the solutions to these problems takes precedence over actually winning the game. Players are rewarded primarily by gaining knowledge about how to solve the problems posed by the game.

3. Education

What I would include here are games that can either be used to teach players various concepts or games that by the nature of their theme result in exposure to information about various subjects: technology, history, geography, and so on. I guess this category could be broken into two sub-categories of (a) Training and (b) Information if we wanted to be more specific.

4. Entertainment

Here players look for a good story or a good experience to be generated by the game. I would also include an interest in particular themes under this category. The reward here is in the journey, so to speak.

5. Social Interaction

Finally, in this case, the game is supposed to play the part of a social lubricant, if you will.

Comments

The first thing to notice is that the lines between these categories can be pretty thin. But lines exist. You can be the best at a game that nobody else cares about playing because they find it boring and dull - that's the line between the first two categories. And the ability of the game to encourage player interaction is what distinguishes the last two: an entertaining game can always provide the opportunity for social interaction outside the game, but a social interaction game includes it in the game.

Also, players will probably look for more than one of these goals in a game - and games will usually target more than one of these goals. An exception may be puzzles which might just satisfy #2.

The extremes of these goals may be a bit contradictory. Competitive games tend to be 2-player games or perhaps maybe even solitaire games (who can solve this problem the fastest or in the least number of steps?), but then such games encourage limited social interaction (other than the final "take that!"). It follows that virtually no games can cover all these goals optimally, hence it is not surprising if we see such different opinions on any one game.

Of course, different people may still disagree about how well a game addresses any of these goals. What one player finds intellectually stimulative, another one may find dull, and the same applies to what would make a good story. To solve this dilemma we would need to have a better understanding of the players themselves.

To conclude, I think it's useful to evaluate games from this perspective and understand what role each game plays in one's collection.
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
flag msg tools
badge
Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
You might find it interesting to compare your categories to those in this blogpost: Schools of Design and Their Core Priorities
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
jumbit
China
Zhejiang
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
6. Control.

A lot of people find that the feeling of control while playing boardgames to be highly satisfying. Especially in games that minimize or eliminate randomness.
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Martin T.
Germany
Ravensburg
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Here is the psychological take of Vsauce on why we play games:

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Laurentiu Cristofor
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
jumbit wrote:
6. Control.

A lot of people find that the feeling of control while playing boardgames to be highly satisfying. Especially in games that minimize or eliminate randomness.


Can you elaborate on this? It's the first time I came across this point. What do people feel they control in a game? Do they enjoy this control even if they lose the game?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rick Roby
United States
Ballston Spa
New York
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Laurentiu wrote:
jumbit wrote:
6. Control.

A lot of people find that the feeling of control while playing boardgames to be highly satisfying. Especially in games that minimize or eliminate randomness.


Can you elaborate on this? It's the first time I came across this point. What do people feel they control in a game? Do they enjoy this control even if they lose the game?


Not sure where the original poster was going, but I can see this with my son, though his is with video games. He likes to play Minecraft and gravitates to the control he has over the game. He decides what to do and when. If he just wants to build he changes to creative mode and builds.

There is also an escape from reality. The real world can be difficult. The game world fits within certain rules and This can be very comforting to some people. I know I play as a way to relax; to take my mind off of all of those things that are stressing me. So, I’m also escaping real life into a artificial world.

Sure entertainment is also a goal. I’m not really going to play a game that is boring, but primarily I play to escape reality, even if for a little while.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Laurentiu Cristofor
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
qwertymartin wrote:
You might find it interesting to compare your categories to those in this blogpost: Schools of Design and Their Core Priorities


Thanks for the link.

I would say that Oliver's categories and mine are orthogonal.

Oliver was attempting to define the characteristics of game design schools by reverse-engineering the community consensus, while I was trying to identify what main type of rewards people could claim to be getting out of games.

I'm not sure if I could use my categories to discriminate between the schools as defined by Oliver. To see the difficulty of doing this, let me actually try to do it by attempting to list the top-3 rewards that each game design school may provide, in decreasing order of importance:

Ameritrash: Entertainment, Social Interaction, Competition
German Family: Entertainment, Social Interaction, Competition (softened)
Eurogames: Intellectual Stimulation, Social Interaction, Competition (softened)
Wargames: Education, Intellectual Stimulation, Entertainment/Competition (solo/multiplayer)
Abstract: Intellectual Stimulation, Competition, Education

This is a pretty forced attempt to view these game genres from the perspective of my categories, so don't pick on it too harshly. Note that I had to add a "softened" mention, to be able to discriminate between "Ameritrash" and "German Family". And the order of the rewards is forced too - it would actually vary a bit across games from each school.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Laurentiu Cristofor
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
rroby wrote:

Not sure where the original poster was going, but I can see this with my son, though his is with video games. He likes to play Minecraft and gravitates to the control he has over the game. He decides what to do and when. If he just wants to build he changes to creative mode and builds.

There is also an escape from reality. The real world can be difficult. The game world fits within certain rules and This can be very comforting to some people. I know I play as a way to relax; to take my mind off of all of those things that are stressing me. So, I’m also escaping real life into a artificial world.

Sure entertainment is also a goal. I’m not really going to play a game that is boring, but primarily I play to escape reality, even if for a little while.


I would file all this under my Entertainment category then.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
jumbit
China
Zhejiang
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Laurentiu wrote:
jumbit wrote:
6. Control.

A lot of people find that the feeling of control while playing boardgames to be highly satisfying. Especially in games that minimize or eliminate randomness.


Can you elaborate on this? It's the first time I came across this point. What do people feel they control in a game? Do they enjoy this control even if they lose the game?


I first became aware of it on the well-hidden wargames subforum, when people raged against perfectly good games because of dice. Seeing as an authority of no less than von Clausewitz himself stated that three quarters of what happens on the battlefield is out of the hands of the commander, it seems entirely appropriate for chance to have a role, even a deciding role. History is replete with examples of the "better" force losing. After some discussion, the posters replied they liked playing wargames to be in control of the situation and hated the dice. They liked to make a plan, they liked to execute a plan, and they liked to succeed in the plan. Failing due to chance caused rage, even though it is historically accurate. Open any history book to any page and you will find all sorts of improbable events happening.

The next came during one of BGG's periodic "Talisman sucks" threads. I engaged in a spirited defense, pointing out that Talisman does indeed have strategy other than "go left or go right". You have short term, medium term, and long term goals and those who pursue them will win more often than not. It's not the deepest strategy game but it's a lot of fun. The poster sat me down and said something to the effect of, "Look kid, I'm not in control when I'm at work. I'm not in control when I'm at home with my family. When I get a precious hour or two for gaming you bet your last goddamn bottom dollar I'm going to be in control."

This also goes for Settlers of Catan rage as well. We can see why the "multiplayer solitaire" aspect of Eurogames are so attractive to a slice of the gaming audience: they offer hours of experiencing nothing but pure control. There's little or nothing to mess up your plan.

This isn't something derogatory, but I firmly believe it to be true. There is a segment of gamers out there that play games primarily for the feeling of control they get.
5 
 Thumb up
0.01
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jason Bloody Purchase
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
flag msg tools
designer
http://www.jasonbegy.com
badge
http://www.jasonbegy.com
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
If you want to know why people play...maybe you should ask them?


https://www.amazon.com/Eurogames-Design-Culture-Modern-Europ...
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joe Wasserman
United States
Morgantown
WV
flag msg tools
I don't think he would like that.
badge
"A single action or event is interesting, not because it is explainable, but because it is true." - Goethe
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Jasonbartfast wrote:
If you want to know why people play...maybe you should ask them?


https://www.amazon.com/Eurogames-Design-Culture-Modern-Europ...

whistle Why do you play boardgames? Contribute to PhD research by sharing your reasons! (Working on the next step of this project now...)

ETA: Eurogames is a great book. Highly recommended reading!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Laurentiu Cristofor
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
jumbit wrote:

I first became aware of it on the well-hidden wargames subforum, when people raged against perfectly good games because of dice.


Interesting. I'm wondering if this might actually fit under Competitive.

Were these players enjoying this control even if they were soundly defeated? If this is only about the pleasure of commanding the pieces without any concern for the outcome, then I'd file it under Entertainment - Escapism section, as Rick suggested earlier.

jumbit wrote:
This also goes for Settlers of Catan rage as well. We can see why the "multiplayer solitaire" aspect of Eurogames are so attractive to a slice of the gaming audience: they offer hours of experiencing nothing but pure control. There's little or nothing to mess up your plan.


SoC doesn't strike me like a good example for control or multiplayer solitaire. For one thing, dice can be frustrating and then other players may block areas you intended to get for yourself. It's hard for me to explain the attraction of SoC when I don't get it myself, but I imagine it is down to accessible rules and the interaction that results from the need to trade goods to make up for what you can't produce yourself. Basically, I think it delivers in the Entertainment and Social Interaction areas.

A better example for control and multiplayer solitaire may be Karuba.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Laurentiu Cristofor
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Jasonbartfast wrote:
If you want to know why people play...maybe you should ask them?


The title was more of a rhetorical question.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
jumbit
China
Zhejiang
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Laurentiu wrote:
jumbit wrote:

I first became aware of it on the well-hidden wargames subforum, when people raged against perfectly good games because of dice.


Interesting. I'm wondering if this might actually fit under Competitive.

Were these players enjoying this control even if they were soundly defeated? If this is only about the pleasure of commanding the pieces without any concern for the outcome, then I'd file it under Entertainment - Escapism section, as Rick suggested earlier.


Nah, they wanted everything to happen according to plan, with no unexpected or meddlesome outcomes. That's not what happens in human conflict, so I remember being surprised that they'd be angry about it.

Quote:
jumbit wrote:
This also goes for Settlers of Catan rage as well. We can see why the "multiplayer solitaire" aspect of Eurogames are so attractive to a slice of the gaming audience: they offer hours of experiencing nothing but pure control. There's little or nothing to mess up your plan.


SoC doesn't strike me like a good example for control or multiplayer solitaire.


SoC rage. Control gamers will tell you they hate SoC for various reasons, but it all boils down to a lack of control. They'll gravitate towards games that give them the most control and be quite happy with them. There are whole swathes of the gaming industry that cater to control gamers, but nobody recognizes it as a motivation for playing games. I think it's a very important motivation and perhaps people don't realize that they're doing it.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Laurentiu Cristofor
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
jumbit wrote:

SoC rage.


LOL. I didn't interpret it literally. I thought you meant it in the positive, figurative sense (as in "that SoC game is all the rage"). I got it now - thanks for the clarification!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Australia
NSW
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Laurentiu wrote:
qwertymartin wrote:
You might find it interesting to compare your categories to those in this blogpost: Schools of Design and Their Core Priorities


Thanks for the link.

I would say that Oliver's categories and mine are orthogonal.

Oliver was attempting to define the characteristics of game design schools by reverse-engineering the community consensus, while I was trying to identify what main type of rewards people could claim to be getting out of games.

I'm not sure if I could use my categories to discriminate between the schools as defined by Oliver. To see the difficulty of doing this, let me actually try to do it by attempting to list the top-3 rewards that each game design school may provide, in decreasing order of importance:

Ameritrash: Entertainment, Social Interaction, Competition
German Family: Entertainment, Social Interaction, Competition (softened)
Eurogames: Intellectual Stimulation, Social Interaction, Competition (softened)
Wargames: Education, Intellectual Stimulation, Entertainment/Competition (solo/multiplayer)
Abstract: Intellectual Stimulation, Competition, Education

This is a pretty forced attempt to view these game genres from the perspective of my categories, so don't pick on it too harshly. Note that I had to add a "softened" mention, to be able to discriminate between "Ameritrash" and "German Family". And the order of the rewards is forced too - it would actually vary a bit across games from each school.


Ameritrash more competetive than euro? Not sure about that. And given that thread where only 14 percent of people on BGG apparently prioritise people over games, I'm not sure I buy social interaction being important to euro gaming either.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joe Wasserman
United States
Morgantown
WV
flag msg tools
I don't think he would like that.
badge
"A single action or event is interesting, not because it is explainable, but because it is true." - Goethe
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
casualcasual wrote:
Ameritrash more competetive than euro? Not sure about that. And given that thread where only 14 percent of people on BGG apparently prioritise people over games, I'm not sure I buy social interaction being important to euro gaming either.

Would you mind pointing me to that thread? I somehow missed it, but I'd like to see what people were saying!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian S.
United States
Minneapolis
Minnesota
flag msg tools
01010011 01001000 01000001 01001100 01001100 00100000 01010111 01000101 00100000 01010000 01001100 01000001 01011001 00100000 01000001 00100000 01000111 01000001 01001101 01000101 00111111
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
SoC rage? Isn't Shadows over Camelot cooperative?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Australia
NSW
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Mymil wrote:
casualcasual wrote:
Ameritrash more competetive than euro? Not sure about that. And given that thread where only 14 percent of people on BGG apparently prioritise people over games, I'm not sure I buy social interaction being important to euro gaming either.

Would you mind pointing me to that thread? I somehow missed it, but I'd like to see what people were saying!


https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1887788/games-vs-people-or-...
1 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joe Wasserman
United States
Morgantown
WV
flag msg tools
I don't think he would like that.
badge
"A single action or event is interesting, not because it is explainable, but because it is true." - Goethe
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
casualcasual wrote:
Mymil wrote:
casualcasual wrote:
Ameritrash more competetive than euro? Not sure about that. And given that thread where only 14 percent of people on BGG apparently prioritise people over games, I'm not sure I buy social interaction being important to euro gaming either.

Would you mind pointing me to that thread? I somehow missed it, but I'd like to see what people were saying!

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1887788/games-vs-people-or-...

Oh, I'd already thumbed it... blush Thanks for the link!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Laurentiu Cristofor
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
casualcasual wrote:

Ameritrash more competetive than euro? Not sure about that.


I'm not sure what made you draw that conclusion either.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Laurentiu Cristofor
United States
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
casualcasual wrote:

And given that thread where only 14 percent of people on BGG apparently prioritise people over games, I'm not sure I buy social interaction being important to euro gaming either.


Not that I really want you to buy something else, but have you considered that maybe the players that like people are spending more time with people than on forums?

Polls are only meaningful when they do a proper sampling of the population that their results are supposed to apply to.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul DeStefano
United States
Long Island
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
It's a Zendrum. www.zendrum.com
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
In it for the chicks.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Joe Wasserman
United States
Morgantown
WV
flag msg tools
I don't think he would like that.
badge
"A single action or event is interesting, not because it is explainable, but because it is true." - Goethe
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Laurentiu wrote:
casualcasual wrote:

And given that thread where only 14 percent of people on BGG apparently prioritise people over games, I'm not sure I buy social interaction being important to euro gaming either.

Not that I really want you to buy something else, but have you considered that maybe the players that like people are spending more time with people than on forums?

Polls are only meaningful when they do a proper sampling of the population that their results are supposed to apply to.
Are not fora populated by people?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Australia
NSW
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Laurentiu wrote:
casualcasual wrote:

Ameritrash more competetive than euro? Not sure about that.


I'm not sure what made you draw that conclusion either.


Well, you said "competition softened" for euros and straight competition for Ameritrash. In my experience, developing a consistent winning strategy is far more important to the Eurogamer, who generally dislikes randomness as well, or things that interfere with their ability to carry out their strategy. The best player winning is valued . Their skills will be rewarded. This competetive approach is much more of a primary focus to my mind in your modern euro. Maybe you meant you softened the definition, but I still think your definition of competetive fits the Eurogamers best anyway, as opposed to Ameritrash.


As for your comment about the people lovers being elsewhere, it's quite possible, of course. BGG tends to favour euros, and is the home of the hardcore euro set, which is why I mentioned it, because a sizeable population (BGG) that loves euros values games over socialising. Another piece of the puzzle is that if you distinguish between german family games and euros, one of the main distinctions is the level of direct interaction within the game- trading, negotiating, attacking, bluffing and so on. All these social interactions require focus on other people, as opposed to the game state, which is what a Euro asks you to do.

Thanks for the article BTW - always enjoy reading ideas about these things.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.