Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Winning isn't everything. Fun is.

So in my gaming principle post "Is everyone having fun?  Including you?" I touched very briefly on the competitive side of the hobby. That sparked a conversation with a friend - Just how important is winning?

The thing is that all formats of tabletop games tend to involve "winning" and "losing" of one form or another; including in cooperative games where the players win/lose together.  This is fairly obvious I suppose given that if it's a game surely there has to be a winner and a loser.  Right?

When I first tried out Magic I knew I was never going to get into the competitive element of the game.  By that I mean I never expected nor intended to enter competitions other than during the latter stages of the 1st Chapter which was only to even up the numbers at Friday Night Magic or whatever.  To play any game that is by design a competition you have to consider whether winning is important to you or simply playing to have fun is enough.

I won't deny it, I don't enjoy losing and when playing in a competitive game I am trying to win, after all that's a large part of why you play competitive games.  Where the balance lies is in whether you're equating "the need to win" with "having fun".  If these are one and the same for you when it comes to playing tabletop games then I think you're missing out on what makes tabletop games great.

Playing tabletop games is about having a shared experience with other players and to quote a friend of mine "it's all about telling stories together".  Ok so that's maybe a little highbrow but I also think it's true.

"I don't want to play X because I'll never be able to win." This is something I used to hear a lot, not just with respect to Magic but in relation to pretty much all of the formats of tabletop gaming including cooperative style games.  The fun comes through playing, if you win then that's simply an added benefit.
Whilst the emotional experience of losing, especially if that's losing more than winning, isn't likely to be pleasant the only true way to learn and improve your game is through playing and the best way to learn what's not working is to lose.  So chalk it up as a learning development opportunity and learn from your mistakes.

As I've said before, not every game is for everyone. I'll go further and say that not every environment for gaming is for everyone. Me?  I'm never going to be a good Magic player because I don't have the deck building skill to do it.  I don't see the best card combinations that can be used to create a great deck. In some respects that may also be why I've steered clear of wargames too.  When I play Magic I create a deck that I think looks cool and be fun to play. That places me in the "casual gamer" camp for Magic which is entirely accurate. I've played many many games over the years where I've lost and played RPGs where all the players have lost (total party kill type events) but each of those games have been fun for a variety of reasons.

All I'm saying is that winning isn't what should be driving you to play tabletop games, having fun is what it's all about.