20 December 2008

Fear of Failing

Jesper Juul Video game theory reader 2
Jesper Juul has a book out, or rather a chapter he wrote which is collected in this book which is coming out soon.

Juul writes:

Winning isn’t everything

It 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.
fear of failing game difficulty player skill progression Introduction Game Development Steve RabinBut 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.


Anonymous said...

i agree with that point that trying too hard is bad news for gamers and anyone else building on a skill

Dan Eastwood said...

I don't think I agree (or perhaps I misunderstand your comment).
Trying hard is what it's all about. If we try hard and win we feel good. If we try hard and lose, we might still feel good if we come away feeling like we have learned something (like how to play better). If winning or losing has very little to do with how hard we try or how well we play, then winning is not fun and losing gains us nothing. The game (or whatever we are doing) has to challenge the player at an appropriate level for it to be fun.

Brandon said...

Agreed. I remember playing the first version of Tiger Woods on the Wii and getting stuck INSIDE a tree! I got the stroke maximum for the hole as each hit went straight up the trunk of the tree and back down. It was a four player game and I was at 6 strokes behind for the remainder of the tournament despite playing really well. I am still bitter about the experience and have never played that game again even though I am sure that is a very rare bug.

Brandon Hansen said...

I just played the original Mega Man and want to pull my hair out. I wouldn't have served as an early Nintendo gamer.

Brandon Hansen