Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cooperative Board Games Take Some Getting Used To

I'm sure getting together every two weeks to play board games and calling it research isn't anything new, but it's definitely something I need to do. I pride myself on work-life balance, but unfortunately this makes it really difficult to find time to sit and play games, particularly those requiring other people. (If that sounds weird, consider that I also just got my second degree black belt in Taekwondo, have a big garden, etc...) That's why I set up a biweekly games afternoon at school so I could do just that.

Last week, we played a game called Pandemic. As a game, it seems like one of those concepts that's somewhat obvious (stopping several diseases from spreading around the world), yet pulled off very well. Now that I've been trying to sort out a game of my own I can appreciate how difficult it can be to get these things right.

The thing that's really interesting about Pandemic is its cooperative nature:
The game is unlike most boardgames as the gameplay is cooperative, rather than competitive. Through the combined effort of all the players, the goal is to discover all four cures before any of several game-losing conditions are reached.
I've never played a cooperative board game before. I'm trying to remember if I've even played a cooperative video game before (other than being the second person in Super Mario Galaxy, where I really didn't have to do much). The experience was really... different.
In a cooperative board game, players work together in order to achieve a goal, either winning or losing as a group. As the name suggests, cooperative games stress cooperation over competition.[1] Participants typically play against the game, and sometimes against one or two other players as well, who take the role of traitors. In many contemporary cooperative games, cards are drawn each turn from a deck of random events. These provide the conflict or challenge in the game, and make it progressively more difficult for the players.
I guess I have a more competitive nature than I realized because I just didn't get into the game as much as the others. They commented more than once that they were feeling stressed when the situation was dire. I didn't feel the same way, even though I was enjoying the experience for other reasons, such as liking the mechanics of moving around the board eradicating diseases.

Probably the most pleasurable part of this game was simply spending time with colleagues whose company I enjoyed. In other games we'd played in the past, I got quite excited about actually trying to win as well. This reminds me of why I wanted to make a hybrid iPhone/card game (which is currently in progress, by the way) - I wanted that face to face interaction, but with a game that could be complex without so many pieces.

Really, though, I think the honest truth is that I just have to get used to the cooperative game idea. I have to make the outcomes more important in my mind, even though I can't be an individual winner. Luckily, I'll have another chance during our next games session, when we'll apparently be playing another cooperative title. ;)


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