GeekNights Tuesday - Playing to Play vs Playing to Win

Remember at RIT when we read the rules to Settlers and discovered that there was no “rule” about where to put the robber. They were just all following this ridiculous social convention of never robbing eachother and always moving it to the desert.

The first time I actually put the robber somewhere good, they refused to ever play Settlers with me again.

And nothing of value was lost.

Not knowing the rules, getting rules wrong, having house rules, etc. Is a different issue from being upset at legal plays within the accepted rules. When someone gets mad they got attacked in Risk, they aren’t saying the other person cheated or anything. They’re just mad because their fun has been diminished by someone else’s legal play.

However, it is true that many house rules are created from groups of players who want to tilt a game more towards fun and/or competition. Cash on the free parking. Final Destination Fox only. Same thing.

Have you ever played Offworld Trading Company? It’s a RTS with no physical combat, but only economic conflict.


Oh, they knew the real rules. They didn’t accuse me of cheating. They accused me of being mean.

It definitely makes it -worse- though, when someone ruins it for you then also tells you you suck. And since that is so prevalent even if the good players don’t say anything that attitude becomes assumed. I cannot tell you how much less it sucks when someone on a winning opposing team makes a sincere friendly comment beyond “gg.”

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I heard of the name before, but now I’m gonna check it out.

True, but off-topic.

It’s a really interesting game. There’s nothing else like it. It manages to still be incredibly cutthroat without actual units and physical combat.

I really don’t think it is. The idea of playing to win vs. playing to play is almost a completely social construct, though mechanics can play a large part as shown by the Fortnite example, which goes back to your very salient point that losing should be fun.

Overwatch in my experience is very good about this. Especially in the Arcade.

In competitive, probably one-in-ten games has someone being toxic about their victory. Maybe one-in-three, however, has someone who lost being toxic and salty about losing.

The primary place I run into toxic players is upper-silver. Low-silver, people are friendly and just happy to not be Bronze. Upper-silver is full of “extremely good” players who “should be gold” and they get super salty. But, only as losers. They tend to be quiet or pleasant when they win.

I rarely see the “get gud” stuff from winners, except in response to someone who’s being overly salty on the losing side (and usually from their own teammates).

Is there still some huge benefit to having high APM?

In many cases with board games and video games and card games, especially when playing with my girlfriend and her parents, I have just stated in advance that I’m going to play to have fun, not to win.

And then they get offended by that, as though I’m “playing down” to their level, or whatever. So I say, okay, I’ll play to win, and then often dominate the game, which they actually are okay with.

If I’m going to play to just play and not to win, I don’t let that slip beforehand.

Also: playing three Germans at scrabble in German and beating them twice in a row, when my German is not good, shows that Scrabble has more than just word memorization, but those other skills are only enough to win against casuals.

Sadly I can’t listen to the episode at the moment, but I’m curious how this take differs from… a probably similarly named past episode… maybe about how not playing to win was griefing?

Yes and no. The more actions you can take, the better you’ll do, obviously, but a lot, if not most, of the really aggressive actions are on cool-down timers or require you to spend money to activate.

Oh, it’s been a while, but if I remember correctly, the really aggressive actions like hackers or sabotage are one-time use actions that you have to bid on against the other players, so even if you get the hackers, you’re spending more money than your opponent.

On that note, which is worse, not playing to win or playing to win but being bad?

Greifing is when you decide on an alternate victory condition to the official one. For example: I’m going to play this game of Monpoly, and my goal is to go to jail as many times as possible. There is a very significant difference between this and someone simply not trying very hard to win. The latter is still aiming towards the same victory condition, they are just heading towards it at a leisurely pace instead of running at top speed.

Neither of those things are inherently bad.

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Yeah, I’ve had the same problem. Even if I don’t say anything, people notice if I don’t seriously try to win or otherwise back off. If I do say anything, it makes people feel bad.

The only time I’ve ever gotten away with this is when I say “it’s a teaching game.” As in, “I’m going to do things that will help you understand the game, but may not actually help me win.”

I can only get away with that once per game per person though.


Most often I experience this problem via empathy. If I witness competitors allowing someone else to win, or witness someone unfairly dominated, it feels much worse than when I’m personally involved.

For example, whenever I see some pro players let a kid score on them. It’s cute and heartwarming. But simultaneously, I can’t understand how the kid is feeling good when it’s obvious that he was just allowed to score. If I was a kid and the pros let me score on them, I would feel no joy in it.

I think this is why LoL is popular. Towers enforce (to an extent) a certain power breakpoint before which they can’t realistically be destoryed and act as a barrier for team incursion. They also act as a defense mechanism that allows players to passively level up. You could have a similar enforcement in an RTS with a unaligned nuetral defender that separates the enemy teams and provides valuable resources when destroyed.

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