Thursday, June 5, 2014

June 2014: Luck vs. Skill

On certain PvP forums, players may argue about whether a game is more about luck or more about skill.  Not surprisingly, players routinely attribute wins to their inherent "skill" whereas losses must be due to the opponent's "luck." Some games, like chess, people readily agree have more "skill" components whereas casino games like roulette definitely requires more "luck."  A big debate rages on about poker, because if considered a game of skill, poker could arguably not be subject to gambling laws.

The luck vs. skill debate is also of interest to economists and sociologists, especially in regards to investment strategy, capital management, and entrepreneurial studies. For economists, distinguishing between luck vs skill helps prevent decision-making biases.  Sociologists understand that the more people think they're in control, the more they believe they can influence "luck."  That's why some people throw dice harder for a high number and throw gently for a low number.  Yet, the act of throwing dice comes down to pure chance.

How does this luck vs skill ratio affect game designers?  I think when designing for certain demographics, we might consider whether the audience would appreciate a higher or lower luck vs. skill ratio.

Some questions to consider:
  • When designing a game, do you take the luck vs. skill ratio into consideration?  How does it affect your design?
  • What audiences do you think appreciate a higher level of skill? Or a higher level of luck?
  • What sort of decisions in the game would you leave to luck?
  • Is a game that is mostly luck-based a satisfying game?
  • Do luck-filled elements in a game increase game addictions?
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