Gaming Cooperatively – Competitive Fun

Posted: April 14, 2011 by Raparth in Uncategorized

A brief look into next week:  I received my copy of RIFT on Monday and have been playing it quite a bit.  So far, it is tremendously fun, though I haven’t done much beyond the solo questing experience.  (I’m trying the Defiant on the Faeblight server, my character is currently a level 15 cleric named Tzimios.  I have a level 2 Mage named Koldis on Shadefallen to try out the Guardians more later.  Yes, I wanted to try out RP servers, so both are RP-PvE servers.)  I’ll try to give some feedback and general perspectives on this next week.

Concluding the two-week segment from last week on Gaming Cooperatively, I’ll be concluding this discussion with some cursory talk about how to have Competitive Fun for all parties involved.  This is a topic that may bear returning to later, should I go through a larger section of competitive gaming (to be honest, it’s been a while since Cynthia and I have played a competitive game against each other), but for now I want to talk about the Purpose, the Type of Game, and the Way You Play.

The Purpose is rather simple, really.  Why do we play?  More than that, why do we play with other people?  Further still, why do we play with people we care about?  Simply put: to have fun.  This is a very particular sort of fun.  It starts as anything we enjoy, then (filtered through the social nature of games) it becomes what we can enjoy around others, then (filtered through the nature of the people we are playing with) it becomes a sort of fun we can enjoy “with” others.  By this “with,” I mean in a manner where both parties create more enjoyment than would have been experienced separately and neither party is destructive towards the other’s enjoyable experience.

What Type of Game do we play cooperatively and competitively?  Generally, this is a game where two parties are on [roughly] equally footing.  This doesn’t need to be as simple as an FPS where people have identical weapons, but needs to be a situation where gameplay challenges both parties and does so in a way that doesn’t frustrate them.  Left 4 Dead comes to mind.  As a Special Infected, you have very different strategies for victory that the Survivors do.  You can die, you will die, but the point is to pick off the Survivors.  Real-Time Strategy (and Turn-Based Strategy) games also come to mind, where people work in the long-term (ignoring rush-matches like Starcraft, which I barely think has any S in RTS.  It’s a Real-Time Tactics game.  See Supreme Commander for something more along the lines of my vision for a true RTS.) to different, sometimes competing goals.  These are perhaps some of the most fun, because you can agree to work alongside your fellow players (or computers), but you are doing so only insofar as it serves your goals.

The Way You Play is the real key to any success in playing competitively with friends/family members/significant others.  This is not a “success” in the terms of “Oh, look, I got the most kills that deathmatch game,” but more a “Oh, we really enjoyed playing today.  We should do this again another time.”  One needs to remember the Purpose of this sort of gaming at all times.  We’re gaming together to have fun, and specifically to have fun together.  I might beat Cynthia in Call of Duty 100 times, losing 0 times.  She might (and probably would) beat me 100 times in Halo <insert number here>, with me winning close to 0 times, but, well, neither of those would be fun.  Even supposing that we could enjoy such a single-sided battle, from either side (which neither of us do), the other member would probably be having little to no to some sort of negative enjoyment.  We need to have a sort of fun that fuels both our interests.  This is why you play games (or a game) that both of you are good at (alternating Call of Duty and Halo, or maybe playing some Tribes if both of us are good at that).  Playing in larger groups of shared friends in shifting teams is really the best experience I can describe, since you have people working with and against people they know.  There is a set-standard for the way you respect each other.  This doesn’t mean you can’t have a little trash-talking on the side, but it must be understood to be non-malicious and non-offensive.  When I frag Cynthia, I should probably say something along the lines of “Hah, didn’t see that one coming, did you?” instead of something like, “Hah, you fucking n00b.”  I never really endorse this latter discourse, but it’s most damaging when its directed at people we care about.  When she kills me, I might swear “Goddamnit!” but it’s because I probably did something idiotic (or, more likely, she surprised me from around a corner I wasn’t paying attention to), not me implying she’s a cheating or denigrating her success in anyway.

All in all, this probably seems like common sense to many of you.  I very truly hope it is.  Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many people try to play together who don’t understand these things and the results are never pretty.

Oh, and by the way, today is my birthday.  Hurrah. 🙂

~ Mr. Pacman

(William/Raparth)

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