Monday, September 28, 2009

Ancient Co-op Games

Okay. To preface this post I must say I have been absolutely obsessed with ancient board games recently. Like, I have been playing Chess and Go non-stop. I have even been having Go dreams... like I am playing go against myself and losing (don't ask me how I am not also winning if I am playing myself but trust me I am not).

So in most obsessions of mine curiosity is close at hand. I have become very curious about where cooperative play had begun. Where are the roots of cooperative play? What are the best examples of it from ancient games? After asking myself these questions I started searching.

I honestly haven't found a lot of good examples of it. The strongest ones I can find are either puzzles or games like Chinese Checkers where it is possible to have teams but are not what I would call co-op. The only other examples I have found are mutations of solitaire with multiple players trying to accomplish the same goals (which basically boils down to a puzzle but perhaps I am being too much of a reductionist).

So, with these discoveries I have begun exploring potential routes for co-op games to take. I feel that the strongest route a co-op game can take is a game based around construction rather than destruction. What I mean by that can be explained by comparing Chess to Go or even better Solitaire to a jigsaw puzzle. In Solitaire players are trying to deconstruct a chaotic deck of cards and then reorganize it into their rightful stack, or in peg style solitaire puzzles players attempt to reduce the amount of pegs until only one remains. While in a jigsaw puzzle many "players" are trying to construct a picture from a single starting point.

The reason I feel this construction path is stronger is because it would force players to rely on one another to create a solid construction and foundation. In a destructive game one player could potentially do all the work while the other accomplished little to nothing and they could still be successful. This may work for some players but I feel to create a challenging co-op game all players need to be contributing to accomplish the goal.

However, even in writing this I have found that my point of view comes down to casual/social play vs. core/competitive play. If one player falters it may provide unwanted punishment to players and drive away casual players while on the other hand if a single player is carrying the "weight" of the team they will feel like they are being dragged down.

I dunno, I guess it is something I will continue mulling over. I wish to have a lengthy discussion about it in the near future. Anyone reading this with input please feel free to add something. My curiosity hungers for your input.

1 comment:

Dwight said...

I agree with what you have to say about "Constructive vs. Destructive," but can you think of any modern-day co-op games that utilize this? For example, in some modern boardgames you have the option to work with the other players, but the overall goal is single player success. With video games, like you said, a lot of the success can be linked to the strongest player as well. I draw a blank when I try to think of modern-day games that utilize the "Construction" game design.