Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dislike of Losing a Turn

Many board games of the past included an "opponent loses turn" card. I have learned recently that many people strongly dislike a "lose turn" card or any other mechanism that causes them to lose a turn. Gamers today often "hate" to lose a turn, and are less likely to play a game with that possibility. Why? 30 years ago "lose turn" was regarded as part of the competition of a game, just another way to achieve a goal. Today many people have grown up with video games where they're constantly active, and strongly dislike not being able to do anything. In some cases, one of their primary motivations for playing the game is to DO something, and when they lose a turn they cannot do anything.

Further, games are entertainment, for most people. People today are much less likely to accept frustration as part of their entertainment than they were 30 years ago. "Instant gratification" and "convenience" and the "Easy Button" have changed expectations. People are likely to quit any activity they find temporarily frustrating.

When people are focused on being active and not on winning and losing (you can't lose a traditional one-player video game), it's a different experience entirely. They're not so concerned with succeeding, they're concerned with DOING something (passing the time). Similarly we have a dislike of "down time" in board and card games, even though, for the more cerebrally inclined, that "down time" gives players opportunity to *think*. Because so many modern games don't require deep thought, players don't use the time to think the way people would have 30 years ago. My guess is that intuition (which doesn't take much time) is more often used in all walks of life today; certainly, when a person isn't doing their job, they're more inclined to rely on intuition than logic.

Whether you think this way or not--as an older generation person I don't--as a designer you have to take this into account. If you choose to design a game that includes down time, lost turns, and a need to spend time thinking about what you're going to do, you necessarily limit your market.


Mike said...

I HATE losing turns, or being skipped, or being limited in what I can do. Too many games I play are centered about what the player can't do (either during the current turn or in the strategy) instead of choosing from a multitude of possible moves or strategies.

In my opinion, choices make the game more fun from a logic stand point. What will I choose to do by taking risks or evaluating the worth/value of a move?

If I play a game that limits my abilities or thought processes or skips my move entirely, I almost never play it again.

Lewis said...

I confess I'm puzzled by this, Mike. ALL games, by their very nature, limit what people can do. No one can do everything he wants, and in fact, the essence of a competitive game is to put the player "on the horns of a dilemma", where he can't do everything he wants to.

Having said that, I dislike "Card Driven Games" because if you don't have the right cards, there are things you could do but you just aren't allowed to (e.g., attack on the right flank).

Further, a great many people nowadays don't want a game with a large number of possibilities, they like to choose from a limited set of choices. When confronted with something like an old-style wargame with dozens of pieces moving at once, and lots of possibilities, these folks tend to freeze up, and just don't play.

So maybe we should say, the player should be able to choose some things he wants to do even though he cannot do everything he'd like to do?

Anonymous said...

The oddity of this is that lost turns are a really good penalty, exactly because they avoid downtime. A lost turn means that it immediately becomes the next player's turn. A smaller penalty, on the other hand, does slow the game down, because it takes extra turns (or some fraction of a turn) to overcome it.

But the central point is still correct. A lot of players feel victimized by a lost turn, in way they do not by other penalties -- even ones which take a full turn to overcome.