Friday, December 17, 2010

Playing The Game Your Way

One of my favorite things to do in any kind of game is to find my own way to play it. In board games, this usually comes in the form of a house rule or an unspoken code of etiquette. In video games this usually involves finding a bug, an exploit or just deciding to achieve goals not stated in the game.

Why Bend The Rules?
Finding new ways to play a game not only keeps the game feeling fresh, it's empowering. There is a real sense of accomplishment when you design a house rule that makes a game more fun or find an exploit that makes a difficult section of a game much easier. In video games, choosing a goal for yourself can also be a way to add challenge without getting frustrated.

For Example, Mario Games
When playing any of the 3D Mario games, I usually challenge myself to see where I can triple jump or long jump to without hopping along the guided path. It makes the game harder, but more satisfying when I beat a level. If it ever gets too frustrating, I can simply stop playing that way. The game isn't making things hard on me, I am. As a result, I tend to train myself to make difficult jumps early on when it's easier. It has the added effect of making the harder levels towards the end not such a daunting challenge.

Final Fantasy Tactics Multiplayer
This was one of my all time favorite instances of changing a game and playing it the way my friends and I wanted to play. The original Final Fantasy Tactics for the Playstation was not a multiplayer game. While some Final Fantasy games allowed a second player to sort of lamely control a character or two in battle with a second controller, FF Tactics did not even include this option. However, FF Tactics did have turn based, tactical battle system where you controlled 5 characters at once (a main character and then 4 other random class based characters).

The most fun I've ever had playing that game was playing it 4 player with my friends. We each decided on one of the random characters in the party to be "ours." We passed the controller around so that we could each make a move for our character. When it came time to level up, we each leveled up our character how we saw fit. We coordinated our classes to compliment each other. We discussed group tactics on the battlefield. We decided by committee what the main character should do and how he should develop. It was an incredibly satisfying way to play and more effective than playing by myself. When I played the game the first time by myself, I barely beat the last boss after a long and grueling battle. When we we played as a group we beat the last boss before he actually got to hit any of us.

A Noble Pursuit
I think there is often a reluctance to start making house rules to board games and modern video games are getting better and better at leading players down a set path. It's important to remember that no one that designed the game you are playing was thinking about you and your friends. The designers don't know you. If a game you like has a few rules that just grate on your nerves a bit, change the rules. If a video game you are playing gets a bit stale, see what you can think of to spice it up or challenge yourself. You know what you enjoy, the designers were just guessing at it. Try out your ideas and your friends ideas to add some fun to a game. Games can be more fun for everyone when you take a chance, and play your own way.

Feel free to share house rules and game tweaks you have enjoyed. And check out my friends at Growing Up Gamers as they discuss an intricate twist on Magic the Gathering that sounds like lots of fun.

1 comment:

  1. Again, I am in total agreement with you. Games are meant to be fun and enjoyed by you and your group. Changing the rules to best suit your group or the things you enjoy is just a no brainer.

    I am big into board games now and it amazes me how many people are more interested in the exact ruling the designer came up with instead of whatever works best for them and their group. It's like they are worried the designer will show up at their house and chastise them for playing the game "wrong".

    Good post.