Jesper Juul has a book out, or rather a chapter he wrote which is collected in this book which is coming out soon.
Winning isn’t everythingIt is quite simple: When you play a game, you want to win. Winning makes you happy, losing makes you unhappy. If this seems self-evident, there is nonetheless a contradictory viewpoint, according to which games should be “neither too easy nor too hard”, implying that players also want not to win, at least part of the time. This is a contradiction I will try resolve in what follows.
I read the Fear of Failing article, and recognized his "Snake" game and the accompanying survey. I don't know if was one of his study participants or if I encountered it at some later time, but I recall play this game and completing the survey (some years ago). Now that I'm trying to write about games on my own, it is particularly interesting to have this particular research come back to me in this way.
But back to the article: Mr. Juul gives an excellent account of the balance between game difficulty and player skill/ability, and that the proper balance is what make a good game. He is writing about video games in particular, but this easily applies to the sort of tabletop games as well.
Before I forget, the image to the right (© 2004 Noah Falstein, reference: Falstein, Noah. 2005. "Understanding Fun—The Theory of Natural Funativity". In Introduction to Game Development, ed. Steve Rabin, 71-98. Boston:Charles River Media.),
Then I got to thinking, and although I still think this applies to tabletop games, is not so simple to describe what is going on you add in the dynamics of human players, either in tabletop games or multiplayer video/computer games. I touched on this briefly when I wrote about The Mathematics of Netrek, and I intend to spend some more time on this in future posts.