Archive for the ‘ Games ’ Category

A Theory of Fun For Game Design (Book Review)

A Theory of Fun For Game Design

A Theory of Fun For Game Design

Have you ever wondered what makes games fun? Sure, you can talk about how you enjoy the challenge or the novelty, but what makes those things fun? What does “fun” mean, anyway? In A Theory of Fun For Game Design, Raph Koster tries to answer the fundamental question of how games work by defining “fun” itself. Though his background is in video games, he finds common ground with everything from sports to role-playing.

According to Koster, games appeal to us because our brain rewards us for learning new things. Games present a structured, learnable system, in effect providing us a lesson that can later be applied to our more complex reality. In fact, Koster takes this to its logical extreme, saying that games are part of the same medium as training drills and school. “Fun is just another word for learning”, and if we don’t normally perceive learning as fun, that is more a failure of school lessons than with the medium itself. After all, our brains are wired to want to learn.

It’s a compelling theory, as figuring out new challenges is a fundamental part of games and it explains why a game will not be fun for someone if it is too simple or too complex for them. Koster builds up this point with a breezy description of cognitive theory, throwing around terms like chunking and explaining levels of consciousness to quickly lay a foundation for the way he sees our relationship to games. This simple style is complemented by the cartoons that are found on every even page. They help the book fly by, partly because those pages read so quickly, and partly because they make it so easy for the reader to peak ahead and suddenly become committed to the next page. They also are effective at driving home Koster’s points; Whether it’s his game design experience or understanding of cognitive theory, he knows that using a second source to repeat a point to a reader will make it much easier to accept.

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Why Dominion Works (Games)

In late 2008, Dominion introduced the concept of deck-building games. Almost 2 1/2 years later, you’d think that we would have some new games that build on that idea in exciting new ways. Surprisingly, though, we’ve seen only a series of knock-offs that miss the fundamental things that made Dominion so great. A few days ago, I found myself caught in yet another Dominion-vs.-Thunderstone discussion, so I think it’s time to explain once and for all what aspects made Dominion so successful.

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Game Reviews from 2010

After posting last week’s article about board gaming in 2010, I realized that it would be interesting to actually review those games that I played at least five times. I’d planned to skip that, because I’m not trying to just cherry-pick the things that I’ll review positively. But a few of the games I played repeatedly turned out to be disappointing once I really got to know them, so there is a good deal of variety in there. This list may not have any horrible games, but it certainly has some mediocre ones, and it’s worthwhile to think about what made them that way. Also, I definitely seemed to be drawn towards the more unique games to play repeatedly, so this list is fairly interesting.

Of the twenty-one games that I played five or more times, I excluded the nine that I’d already known before 2010 started. That left me with twelve, listed below in alphabetical order.

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The Year In Games

I just added my 2010 stats to Mark Jackson’s annual Five & Dime list, and it got me thinking about the board games I played last year. (Yes, of course I keep track.)

The “Five & Dime” list is a count of all games that reached the threshold of either 5 or 10 plays in the past year. In my case, 2010 saw 10 games played 10 or more times, and 11 more played at least 5 times. If you’re looking at my gameplay statistics, that tells half the story. The other half is that I played 153 distinct games a total of 388 times.

My full Five & Dime list, along with what it tells me about the year, is below the cut.

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