Friday, June 6, 2008

The Latest Addiction

Oh Lord.

This, my friends. This could be worse than "Settler's of Catan." Much worse, considering the online version of it is free.

Oh the time I will spend coming up with new and brilliant strategies for constructing railroad lines at peak efficiency. If ever someone wanted to "Nerd Snipe" me, a board game with lots of strategic options would be the way to go.

Wow, that's some real Smaug info I just gave you there. If you could just forget all about it, that would be awesome.

But as much as I enjoyed "Ticket to Ride," it brought up an unsettling point.

See, at their best, competitive games serve as a sort of personality test. The point of a game is not to win, but to find out what happens when you try to win. By pitting yourself against other people, you draw out elements of yourself that you wouldn't otherwise see. Anyone who has found an extra reserve of strength in the final moments of a football game will know what I'm talking about, but that's not the extent of it.

Do you go after the high-production spots on the Catan board, or do you build away from them in fear of being cramped by your opponent's roads?

Are you the kind of person who builds a big-point city in Carcassonne? Or do you make a bunch of tiny cities on a field that contains one of your farmers?

In "Ticket to Ride," do you find that you are at your best while saving up cards to cross the continent, out-building the competition . . . or are you like me?

Are you kind of a bastard?

I don't know what it is, but I just can't win through non-combative tactics. My best bet in "Ticket to Ride," just like in Carcassonne, is to secure a few points for myself and then spend the rest of the game getting in everyone else's way. I play for the block, it's how I roll.*

But while competitive games offer us one view of ourselves, the oft-missed co-operative game experience show the other half of that coin. How you react in competition with other humans is one thing, but how do you react when you have to work alongside them?

A few months back, I realized that I've always been one of two things in co-op video games: a healer or an archer. They're not that different really. Both are ranged jobs, away from the main fight. Both are support roles: the healer keeps everyone going, the archer keeps an eye on the whole fight and deals with problems (read: dark wizards).

And when I think about that, it reminds me of how startled I was that I liked teaching, and that I was good at it.

And maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised.

*See? Roll? Like dice? Eh? Eh! Oh. Hmm.

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