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Think You're Good? You Might Just Be Lucky

Gabe Kakitis | 23 Sep 2015 15:00
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Have you ever been sitting there playing a game with your friends, getting ready for a guffaw and dance as your perfect plan plays out, only to have everything spin on its heels and victory yanked out of your hands due to a seemingly random roll of the dice? Such as those bonus stars in Mario Party or that troll bomb in Binding of Isaac? Ripping away victory from the more skilled players in favor of chaos seems to be an absolutely insane notion, yet it's a tradition in certain games. But luckily for you, it's not all nonsense, It's a well thought-out and designed plan for the player to take advantage of.

Some games become predictable, like a well coordinated dance routine.

Some games become predictable, like a well coordinated dance routine. Certain events going off one-by-one the same way every single time like fireworks popping off in a line, while others sway back and forth according to the almighty dice. Some of them take a different route, a more interesting and scenic route: controllable luck. Luck that takes skill to tame. Akin to a wild stallion with mane majestically swaying in the summer breeze. These games are more interesting and have longer life-spans. It's a pretty interesting concept...at least it is to me. To understand the luck/skill Divide, we need all the pieces of the puzzle, so let's scan over the toy box and pick up the pieces.

Let's begin with pure skill. Pro-gamers thrive off these types of games. A common example would be Leauge of Legends. I mean, have you seen those tournaments? It's a crazy spectacle. The game is comparatively slow and deliberate, when compared to other competitive games. Everything in League is fixed. Enemies spawn at the same times, items demonstrate the same effects every game, and the champions have the same abilities. Predictability is what makes Leagueand other MOBAs such a magnet for competitive gaming, and a good place for the medium to grow. Making the game most similar to traditional sports, I mean, you don't watch a football game and suddenly you've got a raging bull that enters the field. It's all skill, and all training. It makes training for the game worth it, where the only things you have to consider as threats are the skills of your opponents... and maybe Gromp.

It's not restricted by genre, either. The Rhythm Heaven Series, The Monster Hunter Series, or anything else featuring Dark Souls-like animation locking needs that skill cap to keep players interested and to continue the game, even if there is no one to usurp as "The Best."

The FAR FAR other end of the spectrum are the luck games... sort of. See, playing a game based completely on the roll of the dice doesn't exactly make for fun experiences. Every game must have at least a modicum of skill required to be fun. Take my Mario Party example. The game is nearly decided by the flip of a coin. However, the game gives you some control over your actions, but not 100%. That bit of control is what makes the game fun, and is what makes players invested in it. It's why thousands upon thousands of people visit casinos to try their luck at Blackjack or Poker.

However, combine the two: Luck and skill makes for a pretty interesting game. An example I love to bring up is the fresh off the presses Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. Well...I say fresh off the presses, but what I actually mean is that the game was recently released for Xbox One, Wii U, and 3DS. Introducing a whole new audience to its juxtapositional artstyle and roguelike gameplay. Isaac is procedurally generated, with over 5000 possible rooms and 340 items.

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