Handicaps are a regular feature of some games and sports, go and golf being two prime examples. Often among game players it is resisted, however, because if they play at an advantage and win – well – it isn’t really a victory. I used to be in that camp, but became a complete convert a long time ago playing squash.
My experience playing squash was that of being crushed repeatedly by my more advanced opponent, and while I enjoyed the game it was a bit depressing. We talked about handicaps, but I was resistant because I felt like that would take away the value of the win if I did win. Eventually we tried it though, and I immediately started having a much better time. I realized my resistance was founded on a false premise, that if I win without a handicap it was a glorious victory. In fact, if someone is much better at squash they will expend less energy beating you, and how glorious is it if your victory was based on your opponent slightly underestimating how much energy he had to expend? It was wonderful seeing that my opponent was working now as hard as I was every game, and that if they slacked I could take advantage of it.
Level up with game designers Tyler Bielman, Richard Garfield and Skaff Elias as they discuss the Ding. Is this podcast skill-based? Why are undead the only real enemy? When is persistent chunkiness a good thing? And how is karate like frequent flier miles ? Listen now and feel yourself get more powerful in one quick session as Games with Garfield gets down with the Ding!
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I have said it before and I will say it again. Most game designers are avid gamers themselves. Many have game libraries that would keep you busy for weeks. Much to my wife’s dismay, my game collection now spans the entry room outside of my office, three large shelves in the garage, the armoire in the guestroom, and 8 shelves in the closets downstairs. Added together there are a lot of games.
While this may be a big collection, most of them never leave the shelves. There are a number of the games that I have not played in years, and there are probably 20 or so I have never played. One of the many perks of being in the field is that you often get free stuff from game companies. I also make it a point to pick up copies of popular board games to analyze them to see if there are any interesting mechanics that I can potentially use in future projects. It is hard to invent the wheel these days, and most games are merely new combinations of existing mechanics with various flavors thrown on. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and game designers, while arrogant, are more than happy to flatter in this way. Almost every designer if asked about a particular game will cite prior references that influenced their work on that particular project.