Sep 222009

Randomness has been part of games since their earliest inception — and when I say “earliest inception,” I mean deep into the unwritten Neolithic past. Game scholars sometimes point to The Royal Game of Ur as the earliest known game, and in a sense it is — but we also know of games from any number of Neolithic cultures that survived into the modern era, many of them documented by Stewart Cullin in a series of books for the Smithsonian, published in the early 20th century.

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  3 Responses to “GDCA: Greg Costikyan’s talk on randomness”

  1. I think the author of that article is trying too hard to filter out different games within “skill” and “chance.” There really isn’t just two columns that games fall into, it’s more of a huge grey area between the extremes – and more and more games being developed are falling right into middle to appeal to the most possible consumers. With the right mix of skill and chance, you’ll have something that pleases both parties.

    The author seems to take his opinions too seriously. Such as the examples used for skill and chance in regards to strategy and FPS… he claims that FPS games are as trivial as a game of chance to a brainy gamer. I disagree. An FPS game requires just as much skill as a strategy game.

    He argues that FPS games are random and twitchy whereas strategy games (like Chess) are skill-based and desired by critical thinkers. I can counter his argument entirely by pointing out StarCraft and Battlefield 2142. StarCraft in tournaments is much more about twitch and memorization than adaptation and strategy (the maps are small, games last no longer than 10 minutes), and Battlefield can be won almost entirely by strategic methods (the maps are too big to memorize, matches can take 45 minutes or longer). Both are strategy games, none have any element of randomness programmed into them.

    It would be more accurate to say that games with different paces and scopes are better suited to gamers of different tastes, as any FPS or RTS game still requires a lot of strategy and memorization. The real difference is that the faster a game is, the less time there is for on-the-spot critical thinking – and so we have to memorize more than analyze.

    I do agree with him that randomness can add an element of surprise, surprise which is needed for any amount of interest or fun. But abusing that source of surprise leads to problems, because randomness is not always pleasant (it’s frustrating when it’s everywhere).

  2. I’ll respectfully disagree with xenon. It seems to me that the author made an effort to specifically discuss the fact that the vast bulk of games fall on a spectrum between 100% randomness and 100% skill… then goes on to point out in detail how certain degrees and variations of randomness create different type of appeal and consequences for game play.

    Your insight about about the absolute temporal length of a game (or given action sequence) and its effect on strategy vs. memorization is an important one though.

  3. […] Koster, R. (2009). “GDCA: Greg Costikyan’s talk on randomness”. Retrieved 15/10/2013, from […]

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