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Friday, January 15, 2010

~How I play strategy games

How I play strategy games

Every Tuesday at 7:45 sharp, I run next door for Avri's Game Nights, where a bunch of us sit around and play board games. I have at times been accused of being an agent of chaos in these games, and some people have even expressed concern at playing with me because they can't predict what I'll do. But actually I'm a very methodical player. It's just not the methods other people would use, because my goals aren't the same.

I always aim to amuse myself, and I am easily amused. I might do something that gets me into trouble, and I know going in that it's probably going to get me in trouble, but I do it anyway because I know that if by some small chance I should pull it off it'll be glorious. Other people take a long time to consider each little thing they do; not me. I might spend lots of time analyzing what I did later, but the decision itself rarely takes more than a few seconds because I'm going by instinct. I think the fun is in the doing, not the planning. If it goes badly, it goes badly. But I'll have at least amused myself with the idea that I could have pulled off something ridiculous.

Other people don't think like that. Focusing on goals is very popular. It's what gets you ahead, if that's what you want to do. And there's always a goal to work for. Some people are going to be on top in the end, and some people will be failures. That's life. But that's not particularly important to me. There's only one ending. But there are so many little joys to be found along the way! If I can do one little thing that no one saw coming and totally reshapes the landscape, my work is done. That's such satisfaction already that it barely matters whether I end up a loser.

Now I'll admit, moments that great are few and far between. But like I said, I'm easily amused. Something doesn't have to be crazy to seem like a good idea, and I'll pursue what I consider good ideas to the ends of the Earth. Even ideas that are purely functional, I'll go after them if it seems like I might enjoy the function. If something's missing, I'll try to fill it in. If something's wrong, I'll try to fix it. These moments are in themselves satisfying, more because they feel right than because they are right. It's satisfying to make plans and stick to them and see them come together, even if at the end of the night it turns out those plans were ill-considered. Following some intricate plan with aesthetic appeal is more entertaining than forming a plan that makes sense.

I might not make it in the real world. My father wants me to start investing stocks; this seems like a very bad idea to me. At the end of my life, I'm not going to have more money than anyone else or be more famous than anyone else. I don't know if I'll even reach all the goals I've set for myself. And these things do matter to me, don't think they don't. But on a moment-to-moment basis, none of that concerns me at all. When I do a thing, it's because I think it's going to amuse me. Usually it does.



I try to find a balance between playing purely by instinct and purely by planning. I think it may also depend on the game. Some games just fit better into "telling a story" which pull me stronger into playing by instinct, and some games are rather dry and only reward planning. There also might be some correlation between this and the amount of randomness in a game. The more randomness, the easier it is for me to play by instinct, and vice versa.

So a game like Puerto Rico with basically no randomness is a game I play almost entirely by planning and hoping I can figure out what the other players actions will be by using pure logic.

Games like Last Night On Earth, where any 'ol random thing can happen, I try to play to maximize the story line. It's all about going out in a blaze of glory... sometimes literally.


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