I’ve been thinking a lot lately about different levels of player interaction in games. The reason for this is because – for as much as I love the deduce-and-eliminate interaction of Osprey Adrift, I really want to try something new (and perhaps a little more friendly) with another game I’ve been working on.
Player elimination is the extreme end of how players can interact with one another. On the far other end of the spectrum is the ‘multiplayer solitaire’ approach. And then, there’s varying degrees in the middle.
Different gamers fall into different archetypes when it comes to their favored level of player interaction. Of course, it’s not as simple as “I always like co-operative games and nothing else,” but we all have our preferences. Also, it’s not as simple as “this game is entirely co-op” or “this game has that type of player interaction” because there’s such a wide spectrum. In any case, to help illustrate some different types of interaction that gamers favor, I’ve come up with five different character archetypes… similar to the Timmy/Johnny/Spike archetypes in Magic the Gathering.
Ahem. Without further ado:
Sarah is a scientist. She loves digging into her research, uninterrupted, tinkering away to do the best job possible. She loves games that can be played solo, or–if they’re played with other people–she prefers little to no player interaction. She doesn’t want other people messing with her stuff; she’d rather build the best possible gamestate, beat the hardest possible puzzle, and score the most possible points, without being too impacted by what other people do. Sarah loves games like One Deck Dungeon and Sagrada (solo), Dungeon Roll, and Acquire. Even though some of the games she enjoys feature some player interaction, it’s minimal.
Franklin (Minor Interaction)
Franklin is a farmer. He loves minding his own work, but enjoys a little help or hindrance from other people, so long as it doesn’t mess with his plans too much. He loves games that feature core gameplay that gives players their own gamestates, but might be affected in some way by other players’ actions. Players might be competing over actions (such as in a worker placement game) or share a common draft pool from which to select cards, dice, or tiles, for example – but their success and failure is ultimately dependent on what they do, not what other players do. Franklin loves games like Suburbia, Dominion, (without the Attack cards), Agricola, and Ticket to Ride.
Dean is a doctor. He loves helping other people do their best and truly feels fulfilled when everyone else around him is thriving. He loves games in which players are co-operating together to reach a common goal. The players either win together, or they lose together. There might be separate teams of players, or one team against an automated artificial intelligence, but whatever the case he’s enjoying himself as long as he’s part of a team. Dean loves games like Pandemic, Forgotten Island, Zombicide, Dead of Winter, and Castle Panic.
Janice (Take that!)
Janice is a judge. She loves being right and beating others, but she’d rather everyone get to stay till the end and have a fair shake. She loves games with a lot of direct conflict. Players might be competing over the same gamestate, the same resources, area to control, or points to score. Whatever the case, players’ actions directly impact the success or failure of other players’ actions. However, Janice prefers games in which all players get to continue playing until the end. Janice loves games like Carcassonne, Citadels, El Grande, Innovation, and Fluxx.
Stephen is a soldier. He loves using strategy and tactics to engage with the enemy and eliminate them. Stephen loves games that feature direct competition, like Janice, but unlike Janice he enjoys the thrill of removing other players from the game because of the brilliant moves and maneuvers he executes. If there’s a way for players to come back, then there should be a hefty, hefty penalty for doing so; but generally, Stephen prefers games that reward the ‘last man standing.’ Stephen loves games like Risk, King of Tokyo, Coup, and Tsuro.
I’m probably a combination of Stephen and Dean – I prefer games where there’s a ton of player interaction, be it adversarial or co-operative. I don’t shy away from games where players get eliminated – I’m just as likely to gloat when I win as I am to congratulate my opponent when I lose. (As long as I can hang out with the rest of the crew after I’m eliminated, I’m good!) But I also love sharing in the thrill of victory with the rest of my friends; co-op games have a certain appeal because everyone either gets to commiserate a defeat, or celebrate a victory… together. Whatever the case, I love games that get people together – it’s the aspect I love most about tabletop games. Great games are truly great when they bring people together… either as bitter opponents or as devoted allies.
What about you guys? Who are you when it comes to your preference in player interaction?
Until next time, gang. Keep it plucky,