Enjoying Randomness

01 June 2018

So, what if uncertain factors in game are handled properly? It enriches the game, Amazing! This is a rant about pokemon, slay the spire, and then casino addiction.

[The “Operant Conditioning Chamber”]

Do you know what a skinner box is? For our purposes, it’s a fancy name for games that reward you predictably, but only after you put in work. When you reward or punish a player (or test subject) you can influence their behaviour. Typically for a game, that simply means encouraging them to continue playing.

Of course, if you just praise somebody for watching some ads that make you money, you’ll have zero customers. Players don’t want to be arbitrarily pushed around a game by silly rules. Playing the game should not feel like a chore, or like some punishment.

[Pokemon secretly gives you the choice of game difficulty]

A nice healthy example is pokemon. You have choices to move around in the game world, and during a pokemon battle, you can choose what actions to do or items to use. The game doesn’t reward you for the best choice, just for making enough decent choices. Theres a leniency. Because not everyone can just pick the best choice 100% of the time.

With that leniency also comes the potential to add some random chance. You can make the game’s result become affected by some random factors, as long as they don’t punish a player for having the right idea.

You see, the greatest sensation in these types of games is that you have an idea or potential solution to the problem. You try out this idea in the game and if it was smart enough, it should work! The game can’t betray that.

If you lose to something random at least it’s not your fault. If your pokemon got frozen or put to sleep theres a fix, but it’s also just bad luck and won’t happen often. Of course, tuning is important. Pokemon put to sleep is more punishing than paralysis, so it’s harder for the sleep status to be inflicted.

[Game difficulty can’t be felt past some random systems]

I talked about slay the spire a while ago and it’s not very different to pokemon in this case. You are going to have a variety of enemies, and some of them are simply easier than others. The only necessary tuning is that each time you play, you need to feel like you COULD win.

It’s a strange test of a player’s faith in themselves, while at the same time the game is trying very hard to convince the player they can win if they just try!

Another game that really encourages the player’s faith is… just about anything at a casino. You make sure the player can understand the rules, and how much money they could win.

Some games allow experienced players to potentially make money, professional poker players exist. Then there are videogames like slot machines.

Slot machines are like arcade machines but they might give you money. They are also great at taking money. As far as the gameplay is concerned, again, it’s all about convincing the player they COULD win.

I haven’t played them enough to really give an analysis. Forgive me. Since they’re profitable, we’ll just assume they’re well designed.

[Deliberately unlikely game addiction]

Sometimes you don’t have the ability to affect the outcome, and the game truly is unfair. This would be the case for most casino games.

Theres some weird psychology where if the chance of winning is low, some players want to play just because getting an unlikely victory is something not many other people will be able to accomplish… this is a potential expression of individuality. (if you won)

Of course, theres a difference between enjoying randomness and craving the thrill of winning something we’re not meant to.

Sadly while slot machines might not necessarily be “good” games, the design is done well to keep certain players addicted.

Unlike a real life casino however, pokemon’s main quest typically pulls players away from its in-game slots.

Was the pokemon slot machine designed too badly? Clearly the rest of the game was designed too well in comparison.

Have fun out there, won’t ya?