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Subject: The pleasure of playing well - A call to action rss

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Eric Jome
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My friends, today I would like to tell you of a disappointment I too frequently find on this site. And in the telling, I hope to inspire others to rally around this call and consider what they can do to correct this oversight. The core of the problem is simply this;

There are not enough strategy articles.

You see, it is only the most mundane purpose of this site, in my opinion, that a person can use it to review a potential game for purchase. We have microbadge and geekgold awards for image uploading and review writing, both worthy contributions... to a point. They are the first things, the necessary and basic things without which the site would lose it's first purpose. But they lose their luster quite quickly. When a game has 15 pages of images, does it really need more? When a game has been reviewed 20 times, what more is there to learn in review?

Yet what we really need, even ongoing far beyond the needs of images or reviews is strategy guides. Because, there is more to playing a game than just playing it; there is the very definite pleasure of playing it well. And what better way to learn to play well than study and practice?

In all things, we cherish the learned and pay heed to their wisdom. We learn from experience and experts, pay respects to those who can teach us how to be better. It is always better to do well than to just do. Too often we whip out another flavor of the month game, stumble through the rules, and blunder our way through the game. When we have only the briefest glimmer of understanding, the poor box is shelved in favor of a new distraction. How much richer our gaming can be with some additional insight into how to play well? How much more fulfilling our game time when spent in serious contention instead of fumbling with strategy?

If we cannot give ourselves the time to practice, at least we can read the wisdom of others and learn from them to play better. To give ourselves a better chance of victory and, even more importantly, to give our opponents the challenging, engaging game experience that we ourselves want.

Do not just play games. Become a student of games. Then, become a teacher of games. Bring what you've learned to others so that they can play well too. Your observations, experiences, and insights are among the most valuable contributions you can make to the community of gamers.

Teach us what you know. Make us all better gamers.
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cosine wrote:


Teach us what you know. Make us all better gamers.


I totally agree. I would love to see more strategy articles. And if my win to loss ration was higher, I might even submit a couple.
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Eric Jome
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MWChapel wrote:
And if my win to loss ration was higher, I might even submit a couple.


Often we learn more from our losses than we do from our wins.
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cosine wrote:


Often we learn more from our losses than we do from our wins.


Then I am a god damned Genius!
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Gregory Amstutz
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You know, that may not be as good an idea as you think it is. I'm as attracted as the next guy to reading about my favorite games. However, if too many strategy articles come out, I'm afraid that too many games will become broken, like Puerto Rico for instance, where playing them comes down to reading the article, then following steps 1, 2, 3,..etc, I win.
(For an interesting "gamer" novel that explains the phenomenon, try Masterplay by William F Wu)

Now, I realize that there are some games that simply can't be broken that way, for many reasons. Magic comes to mind. And, of course, you can always decide to not use said strategy. However, playing against someone else who is using the strategy would quickly become an exercise in futility, and there goes fun, wining it's way out the window.

So, am I being paranoid? Crying "Wolf" for no reason? Probably. I'm not the genius Chapel claims to be, although I've had more than my share of losses/failures. It's just one man's opinion. Take it or leave it.


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David G. Cox Esq.
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MWChapel wrote:
cosine wrote:


Often we learn more from our losses than we do from our wins.


Then I am a god damned Genius!

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I've seen you play - you're just a big monkey.

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Eric Jome
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dogzard wrote:
However, if too many strategy articles come out, I'm afraid that too many games will become broken


If a game can be solved by a script, then it isn't much of a game. That fact should be exposed and become common knowledge, not kept hidden to keep some delusional sense of integrity.

Quote:
like Puerto Rico


I guarantee to you that there is no script for Puerto Rico. That is a popular groupthink myth that shows how desparately in need of more strategy education we are.
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Eric Jome
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da pyrate wrote:
I've seen you play - you're just a big monkey.


Monkey?! Chapel always seemed like more of a sasquatch to me.

Or maybe a wookiee.
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Russ Williams
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I agree with you, cosine. There are some brilliant but all too few strategy articles posted here, and I really enjoy reading them and wish there were more.

I think part of the problem is that (based on many comments read in many threads) a very large number of users think that strategy articles are somehow "cheating" and "bad". (A viewpoint that's always puzzled me - are chess and go players who solve practice problems or read books or take lessons from stronger players "cheating"? Is it "cheating" to ask your friend who just won the game "Hey, can you point out some mistakes I made or tell me what I could have done better?")

And many more users, while not actively condemning strategy articles, say that they personally don't want to read strategy articles because then they'll progress faster than their regular partners. (A viewpoint that's always puzzled me - why not simply tell your regular partners what insights you gained from reading the article, and then you all benefit and get stronger?)

Finally, of course, it's simply harder to write a good strategy article than to write a review etc, since you have to be significantly better than average at the game in order to have anything worth saying to other players about strategy.
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Russ Williams
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dogzard wrote:
You know, that may not be as good an idea as you think it is. I'm as attracted as the next guy to reading about my favorite games. However, if too many strategy articles come out, I'm afraid that too many games will become broken, like Puerto Rico for instance, where playing them comes down to reading the article, then following steps 1, 2, 3,..etc, I win.

Despite thousands of books being written analyzing chess and go, they did not break... (Nor did Puerto Rico become broken by some magic sure-win formula, urban legends to that effect notwithstanding.)

Any worthwhile game will not only survive but benefit from enthusiastic exploration.

An interesting case study is Arimaa, whose designer seems to have consciously intentionally encouraged people to try to break the game (with a $10000 award for a computer program that can beat the top 3 human players, set up a website with lots of strategy and tutorial resources, a strategy book has been published, etc.) Its fans continue to plumb its depths and make new discoveries, and this increases their interest rather than decreasing it.

A good game should welcome, not fear, strategic scrutiny.
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(For an interesting "gamer" novel that explains the phenomenon, try Masterplay by William F Wu)

Fiction and reality should not be confused.
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cosine wrote:


Or maybe a wookiee.


Yet no one I game with lives by the mantra.
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Eric Jome
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russ wrote:
I think part of the problem is that (based on many comments read in many threads) a very large number of users think that strategy articles are somehow "cheating" and "bad".


I too am greatly disappointed whenever I hear this. Or the similar "you've been playing it on BSW and now you are too good!" complaint about getting practice and playing well.

Playing well is a virtue, not a sin. It is not cheating. It is what we should all aspire to do. And playing well means studying and practice. If you can't be bothered to even try to do a little better, is it really that important to you how you do at all? Why complain about getting beat by someone who has put in the time to be better?

And, I suppose, one fertile area for this would be strategy articles about good ways to handicap various games for players of different skill sets. That's turning it around for ya.

Quote:
Finally, of course, it's simply harder to write a good strategy article than to write a review etc, since you have to be significantly better than average at the game in order to have anything worth saying to other players about strategy.


It takes more playing and more thinking to write a good strategy article... but it is playing and thinking we already do! You are already experts in so many games. Consider writing articles for those. A review, a good one at any rate, requires a long recitation of the qualities of the game. A good strategy article can just be a paragraph description of how you won the last session. Shorter, more insightful... strategy articles are the natural end result of playing games.

At least consider this - post more session reports! A good session report should include how you planned to win the game, what you did during the game to actualize your plan, and your assessment of how the plan came together in the end... or how it didn't and what you could do next time.
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Curt Carpenter
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For me it has nothing to do with whether strategy articles are "cheating", but more to do with the fact that I find it unfun to play against players who learn from articles rather than their own experience and insight. I suspect part of this comes from the fact that I don't typically play a game over and over ad nauseum like chess and go (and Puerto Rico) players do. If I did, then yeah, it would probably be more interesting to discuss strategy.
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Eric Jome
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curtc wrote:
If I did, then yeah, it would probably be more interesting to discuss strategy.


You are missing out, my friend. Wolfing down games you order at the drive through only sates the basic need. It cannot hold a candle to savoring a well played feast.

If you have limited time to play games, why not make it the best time you can? Why not come to the table ready to put on the best show you can, not just wing it on the stage and hope you amuse the audience for a time?
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curtc wrote:
For me it has nothing to do with whether strategy articles are "cheating", but more to do with the fact that I find it unfun to play against players who learn from articles rather than their own experience and insight. I suspect part of this comes from the fact that I don't typically play a game over and over ad nauseum like chess and go (and Puerto Rico) players do. If I did, then yeah, it would probably be more interesting to discuss strategy.



I think this may be the crux of the matter - many people, myself included, gadfly about from game to game, never resting on one title for very long. In fact, for 2009, I played each game (that I played) an average of 4 times, but that was led by 28 plays of Dominion and 27 plays of Sorry Sliders (not exactly strategy-article fodder...)

Basically, I don't play any one game enough to have anything but the most rudimentary things to say on it, strategy-wise.

Also, for those of us who play with casual gamers who aren't used to thinking strategically, it's harder than Russ thinks to "share the wisdom" with other people.
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cosine wrote:
curtc wrote:
If I did, then yeah, it would probably be more interesting to discuss strategy.


You are missing out, my friend. Wolfing down games you order at the drive through only sates the basic need. It cannot hold a candle to savoring a well played feast.

If you have limited time to play games, why not make it the best time you can? Why not come to the table ready to put on the best show you can, not just wing it on the stage and hope you amuse the audience for a time?


Because people play games for fun and enjoyment, and that means different things to some people than it means to you.
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Curt Carpenter
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Because I value discovery and exploration of a game (and games in general) over the mastering of it.

It's like I would rather visit 100 cities in the world for 3 days each than 3 cities for 100 days each.

But more power to the people who want to play PR to death.
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Eric Jome
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cannoneer wrote:
Basically, I don't play any one game enough to have anything but the most rudimentary things to say on it, strategy-wise.


I don't agree with you in principle, but I'll say this;

Every school has many more students than teachers. Perhaps you can fill a desk instead of stand at the chalkboard - it isn't a school without both people.

Personally, I like to do both. And I think most everyone can contribute in both roles too.
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For me, part of the fun of a new game is figuring it out as I go along. I generally like to play a new game 5-10 times before looking into strategy, and given my buying a playing habits of late, I don't reach that plateau with too many games.

If there's a game that I play often with experienced players, I find strategy articles invaluable. Otoh, going out of my way to get really good at ticket to ride so I can crush my family when we play at thanksgiving probably wouldn't be much fun for either of us.

I certainly wouldn't think of it as cheating though (and really I don't think anyone does), but I understand the impulse *not* to know too much about a game.

Certainly we've all heard from chess players who have gotten turned off of the game precisely because there is so much written about it - there is a feeling that once you get to a certain level you really need to do a lot of rote memorization of openings and endgames to be competitive at the level you have reached.
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Eric Jome
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curtc wrote:
Because I value discovery and exploration of a game (and games in general) over the mastering of it.


There is a happy medium between total newness and mastery. At present, this site isn't even doing much to help anything above basic competency, let alone threatening to make masters out of anyone.

I certainly don't see the purpose of posting how you feel strategy articles are foolish if you aren't going to avail yourself of them. But as a future prospective opponent in some game somewhere, I'll tell you that I want you to play the best you can against me. And I'm sure I am not alone in wanting an interesting challenge in my opponents instead of someone who just fumbles through it.
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cannoneer wrote:
Because people play games for fun and enjoyment, and that means different things to some people than it means to you.


Can you even be said to be playing the game when you barely know the rules and just muddle through? It is hard to imagine someone who would play a game, the essential nature of which is to try to win, but would care so little about the outcome as to not even really pay attention to what it takes to do even passably well.
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russ wrote:
I agree with you, cosine. There are some brilliant but all too few strategy articles posted here, and I really enjoy reading them and wish there were more.

I think part of the problem is that (based on many comments read in many threads) a very large number of users think that strategy articles are somehow "cheating" and "bad". (A viewpoint that's always puzzled me - are chess and go players who solve practice problems or read books or take lessons from stronger players "cheating"? Is it "cheating" to ask your friend who just won the game "Hey, can you point out some mistakes I made or tell me what I could have done better?")

And many more users, while not actively condemning strategy articles, say that they personally don't want to read strategy articles because then they'll progress faster than their regular partners. (A viewpoint that's always puzzled me - why not simply tell your regular partners what insights you gained from reading the article, and then you all benefit and get stronger?)
Finally, of course, it's simply harder to write a good strategy article than to write a review etc, since you have to be significantly better than average at the game in order to have anything worth saying to other players about strategy.



If the game is tense and close and everyone had fun and nobody read any strategy articles is that bad?

If you explain this newfound strategy you read about to the players and everybody tries to impliment it to varying degrees of success but people didn't quite have as much fun, what was the point?

Ok, for many folks figuring out a game and it's many ways to be played is a the main point, but for many others they couldn't care less.


I don't game with anyone currently that finds this important. I read some articles for some deeper strategy games sometimes and I sometimes forward them to my buddy but we try and develop working straegies as we play and to be honest, if we have a close game and had fun it's mission accomplished. The other gamers I play against wouldn't read a strategy article if I printed it out and handed it to them. They simply like the social experience.

We (my buddy and I) usually get in plays of one game 2 or 3 times in a year. We like variety so maxing out the strategy on Le Havre or Brass isn't the be all end all. There's always 20 other games to play.


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For myself I actually have a few games that I play very well. Samurai for instance I have never lost a game of. The problem is, I'm not 100% sure I can put into words "why" I am so proficient with the game. It's like the combination to my gym locker lock. I can open it up without thinking, but if you asked me on the spot what it was, I'd be hard pressed to remember.
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Eric Jome
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cferejohn wrote:
For me, part of the fun of a new game is figuring it out as I go along. I generally like to play a new game 5-10 times before looking into strategy, and given my buying a playing habits of late, I don't reach that plateau with too many games.


I entirely support and encourage everyone to enjoy exploring their way through the beginning of a game. I do that myself.

But it's a tragedy that a good game goes unplayed, unlearned, just because another title du jour has come along. I like new games too, but it seems too much that it comes at the expense of the old.

If there were strategy articles for beginners available for most games, you would have that leg up on your first few plays to enjoy a higher quality of play even within the first 10 plays.
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curtc wrote:
Because I value discovery and exploration of a game (and games in general) over the mastering of it.

It's like I would rather visit 100 cities in the world for 3 days each than 3 cities for 100 days each.

But more power to the people who want to play PR to death.


To play devil's advocate (since I basically am of a mind with you vis a vis the metaphor above), I think calling it playing Puerto Rico (or anything else) "to death" is unnecessarily pejorative, the basic premise being that there are some games with sufficient depth that they can remain enjoyable to people who are of a mind to explore games deeply over hundreds of plays or more.

Whether this is true of Puerto Rico I can't comment since I've played it maybe a dozen times, but it is certainly true that some people spend their whole lives devoted to a number of games such as chess, go, poker, bridge, etc.
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