October 26, 2012

What Actually Makes The Game "Fun"?

Recently I scaled back my weekly VS System stuff to once a month, and yet people still didn't bother to show up for that. I organize (or try to) near-weekly game nights at my house, and again most of the time the folks I invite can't seem bothered to reply, or don't always show up even if they do reply. I've got board games, card games and miniatures all over the place, most of which I know to be great fun, and yet I can't seem to convince many people to actually sit down and play games with me.

Now to be clear, I'm not painting everyone I know with this brush as there are a few exceptions. However, I wanted to set the stage for what I'm talking about here with some context for you folks that are not local to me.

So these sort of things have gotten me thinking about what makes games actually fun. Is it the rules, the components, the theme, the gameplay, the other players, or some other nebulous concept? Obviously in some cases such as a card game like VS System or Warlord: Saga of the Storm, creating decks and researching cards combinations can provide a great deal of fun and satisfaction. For miniature gaming...constructing and customizing models, creating teams or force lists, and painting your figures and table top terrain can all provide some measure of fun as well. And yes, there are some solo board games available out there.

On the other hand these are games we're talking about here, and a vast majority of them are designed with multiple players in mind. So without those other players, can one actually play a game and obtain a fun experience out of it?

While I can and would argue the answer is "yes," I think I would have to qualify that statement as "yes, but only to a degree." I have had fun playing through some games on my own. In fact, usually the first time that I play a game is by myself. I find it easier to set up all the components and read through the instructions 'playing' through the game and looking up the relevant rules as various situations arise. This is more akin to a simulation as opposed to an actual game however. In addition, the real memorable or shocking moments that can occur in a game when your opponent does something amazing, unforeseen or just plain nuts will never arise in this situation. You see, I always know what I'm going to do before I actually do it, which negates any possibility of surprise. Funny that...

Granted, without opponents I think that most people would say that games really aren't much fun, and I'd be inclined to agree. Do you? Whether in accord or not, what makes a game fun for you?

a) The rules / the way the game works
b) The components (figures, cards, board, dice etc)
c) The theme or story told during play
d) The interaction with other players
e) Something else

Drop me a comment and share your opinion, I'd really love to hear it!

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