What Makes a Good Game? Part 3

Hey there everyone, thank you for your patience and for this late Morning Table Talk! Last week I spent some time talking about what mechanics are and how they help make a good game and this week I want to talk about the most important part of a game: players.

Now the players in a game is a broad subject to tackle ranging from their role in the game, if games can only exist with players, how communities affect games, etc. but what I want to talk about is specifically player interaction with other players. In the talk about mechanics last week I talked about how mechanics allow the player to interact with the game but also good games allow the players to interact with each other.

There are several different philosophies on what kind of interaction players should have and how much but the simple rule of thumb for a good game is that the actions of players should affect the decisions that every other player should make. In some games players interact with their opponents directly and in other games players have to subtly influence each other's actions. For me the two different styles can both make for good games but what makes the games good is if the interaction is paired with the mechanics and design intent.

Now there are several ways for a game to promote interactivity. The simplest form of  interactivity is direct conflict/help where players can literally take or give cards, dice, resources, etc from another player or with players openly communicating with one another. This style of interactivity is commonly found in most American-style games and includes aspects like negotiation, bidding, bluffing, etc. This kind of interactivity keep players involved on each other’s turns since they typically have an action to do.

For instance it would be difficult to have a bluffing game with no interaction between the players or if a tile laying game allowed players to steal each other's tiles after they have played them (though that is a good idea). The other form of interactivity is more subtle and involves making decisions that indirectly impact your opponents: taking resources that another player may need or a crucial board position instead. This second form of interactivity promotes a more chess-like form of games where players focus more on developing their own positions and how those affect other players.
This interactivity should keep players invested and engaged on each other’s turns. Personally I believe that if a player is not invested in what the other players are doing then the game is not that great and might as well be solitaire. (Solitaire games can be good but are not good group experiences.) There are some players that see the social aspect of games as a necessary evil to prove their prowess but for most part I believe games bring us together. In short a good game ensures that players are engaged with each other and care about what each other do on their respective turns.

But that is just my view and it’s something to think about this fine morning.