Bad games

edited June 2 in Story Games

I get that it’s a major taboo to say that a game that is well-loved, popular, played by thousands of people is bad, is a bad design. “Isn’t it just not to your taste?” Well, ok, sure. That’s what I mean. We’re able to use shorthands here.

If we are going to discuss design, and find out together how to make good games… then finding patterns, antipatterns, code smells etc is something we’ll just have to pull up our sleeves and do, kinda unflinchingly.

Why is LCR popular?

High stakes (often real money), easy rules, no prestige, can do other things while playing w/o really caring, anti-elitist…

What are some issues with LCR to keep in mind when trying to design an even better game?

To make it more engaging, more agential [some choices, and some design elements that lend meaning to those choices], less tedious&rote, more varied…

So when you hear me say “bad” then maybe what I should be saying is “great, good, awesome, fantastic, it’s just that… I have some ideas on how to make an even better, even awesomer game, and here are some reasons why, hold on, let me get out my notes”.

Comments

  • I actually have no issue with someone labeling a game or play style “bad”. I do want them to explain exactly what they mean by that word, though, because all it communicates by itself is that it’s not to their taste. (That can be useful sometimes, if I know and trust the person’s taste, but isn’t that useful for me to figure whether I will like it myself.)
  • Yeah, and hashing out exactly what, if any, the snags are with beloved classics like Lady Blackbird, Burning Wheel, and Apocalypse World is, as you can see, taking some time♥
  • Interesting, I thought decision-less games were a kid thing only, like Candyland or War. These games seem to be all meta-game — Candyland is all about taking turns, following rules, and learning to lose without a tantrum. LCR sounds like a push-your-luck game where the decision to stop is external to the game itself, i.e. you leave the game.
  • edited June 2
    image
    Timeship was an objectively bad game. It came nowhere near providing a useful set of rules for the massive task it claimed to attempt. I own a copy, and I've actually tried running it (twice). Basically, unless you are an experienced improvisational GM with a large collection of support material from every conceivable era, you're up shit creek without a paddle, playing a really dumb positional board game without a real board. I cannot recommend any part of this game, for any reason, to any conceivable person.
  • snej said:

    Interesting, I thought decision-less games were a kid thing only, like Candyland or War. These games seem to be all meta-game — Candyland is all about taking turns, following rules, and learning to lose without a tantrum. LCR sounds like a push-your-luck game where the decision to stop is external to the game itself, i.e. you leave the game.

    The 1959 version (called "Never Say Die") had a decision point actually; you could decide to "retire" chips over three (just getting them right away); obv that means eating up your own dice buffer so that's not an obvious decision. Unless you do math ahead of time.

    "Pass the pigs" has a similar math problem; I saw a paper where they had calculated out the optimal number to always go for / always stop at. The folk game "10000" similarly. By that measure, Zombie Dice is honestly a lot more nuanced since there is no "optimal number" because the dice have bag memory.
  • 2097 said:


    Why is LCR popular?

    High stakes (often real money), easy rules, no prestige, can do other things while playing w/o really caring, anti-elitist…

    What are some issues with LCR to keep in mind when trying to design an even better game?

    To make it more engaging, more agential [some choices, and some design elements that lend meaning to those choices], less tedious&rote, more varied…

    I don't know what LCR is, but it seems to me that your "improvements" run counter to the qualities you identify. Doesn't "easy rules, no prestige" mean that you can turn your brain off? Which you cannot do if you have more agency -- suddenly there are decisions to ponder and you can look like an idiot...

    So you'd need to qualify "bad" or "even better" and when you do, I suspect that most of the time a popular design will be revealed to be pretty darn good for its adherents. Truly improving on a popular design in every way is a tall order. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any examples for RPGs or even video games (though I'd expect there to be some on account of clearer writing and technological advances alone, respectively).
  • LCR is a terrible game.
    LCR can be a fine activity for the right crowd, right environment. Just like small talk and gardening and wrestling-just-for-fun.
    Maybe this is just nomenclature. But an apple is a terrible steak, a car is a terrible bicycle, and LCR is a terrible game.
  • Saying something is a "bad X" still presupposes something about what X is. As we can see from the thread, "game" can be used to mean nearly anything. It can even be nearly divorced from the concept of "decision making" wholesale.

    Fortunately or unfortunately, game is often used as a shorthand for "activity" where the basic functions of gameplay are moving pieces, or following rules.
    Timeship was an objectively bad game. It came nowhere near providing a useful set of rules for the massive task it claimed to attempt.
    (emphasis mine)

    I think this is the best we can really do at least until game design is recognized as an artform in its own right.
  • Johann said:

    I don't know what LCR is, but it seems to me that your "improvements" run counter to the qualities you identify. Doesn't "easy rules, no prestige" mean that you can turn your brain off? Which you cannot do if you have more agency -- suddenly there are decisions to ponder and you can look like an idiot...

    So when you set out to design "better" games you need to understand the strengths of whatever game you're "improving" on.

    "Lady Blackbird came nowhere near providing a useful set of rules for [what had originally appealed to me about the game; which is not necessarily the same that the designer intended or it's other fans expected]"
  • 2097 said:

    Johann said:

    I don't know what LCR is, but it seems to me that your "improvements" run counter to the qualities you identify. Doesn't "easy rules, no prestige" mean that you can turn your brain off? Which you cannot do if you have more agency -- suddenly there are decisions to ponder and you can look like an idiot...

    Lady Blackbird came nowhere near providing a useful set of rules for [what had originally appealed to me about the game; which is not necessarily the same that the designer intended or it's other fans expected]
    By this do you mean that you had some things you wanted from the game and it’s gameplay, and that the things you wanted were not what the game was designed to do, nor the gameplay style the game was aiming to support/produce?
  • By this do you mean that you had some things you wanted from the game and it’s gameplay, and that the things you wanted were not what the game was designed to do

    Yes, that's right.

    nor the gameplay style the game was aiming to support/produce?

    If I understand you correctly, yes—what's the difference?

    There was also something else... I really wanted something out of its game text, out of the way it was written, that it didn't provide. I just had zero clue how to run it from reading it. (I've figured it out by now and it's as you assume, the intended way to run it is not what I was looking for back then nor now.)
  • I think Lady Blackbird is a pretty cool game, but when I’ve run it I’ve also rewritten things a bit, and part of that is having some more “GM prep” and defined fictional positioning. I should probably post that somewhere! It’s a fun mod (which changes up some of the rules, as well).
Sign In or Register to comment.