Oct 08

Are “Casual” and “Competitive” Gaming Styles Mutually Exclusive?

We’ve all come across them: the people who take their games to a serious level, and for whom losing is never an option. This can be incredibly annoying to those who play against them and aren’t of like mind, but can also make a game more challenging (and ultimately more enjoyable….?)

This post mainly concerns players of board games and card games, as these are the most common face-to-face turn-based games people play. While it could apply to video games in some respects, it’s not often that a video game will allow players to change their minds if they feel like it, or concede certain things; it just carries on without them!

Casual Gaming

While these people may look like gawking  slack-jawed goofs; they’re clearly having a lovely time

I, and many like me, play games for no other reason than to have fun. For the most part, i don’t care if I win or lose; I’ll take the fun, silly, and oftentimes tactically unsound option if the mood takes me, or if I think it would make the game more enjoyable and memorable. Sure, I like winning. Who doesn’t? But honestly, it’s not the main focus of the game.

As with anything people practice at; with time you’re bound to get pretty damn good at it. If, after all that time and effort, you do become really good at a game; do you seek to prove yourself against others, or are you content to just carry on? If you need to prove yourself, does that take away the original fun/enjoyment of the game?

Competitive Gaming

“Bow, mortals! Bow before the unbridled fury of the card I just played!”

Learning how to use the rules to your advantage, exploiting your opponent’s ignorance and using superior tactics to win a game. This can all be achieved in a friendly environment, but as we all know, often doesn’t. To some, the fun of a game is in the winning of it, pure and simple. In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be as good as you can be at something (and take every opportunity to prove it); but when you ruin others’ enjoyment in the process, that’s a bit dickish.

I’m by no means saying that anyone who plays a game purely to win is no fun to play against, but there’s a very thin line between “aggressive play” and “aggressive player”, no-doubt brought about by the need to deprive an opponent of opportunities in order to gain some yourself.

My question is: can you be a competitive casual gamer?

If you’re playing competitively at anything, your objective is to win, whichever way you look at it. If you don’t mind losing, you’re not “competing”, you’re just playing.

In any game where you need to win, there’ll always come a moment when a player does something they immediately regret and wish to undo. Personally, I will always let my opponent alter their move/turn/whatever unless an amount of time has passed that means it’s just plain cheating. Even if that means I’m worse off, I put myself in their position and think how crappy I’d feel if my stupid mistake went uncorrected.

If you’re playing competitively, you wouldn’t (or at least, shouldn’t  have that kind of concession. I know a lot of people at tournaments and things allow their opponents to change things in the spirit of sportsmanship, but as I said above, that means they’re playing, not competing. In order to compete, you’d need to deny your opponent the chance to amend their decision, as this would deny you the opportunity to take advantage of the mistake (the usual way of winning any game, when you think about it?)

Those who have been reading my articles for some time now are used to me asking myself questions and then answering them, but I leave this one completely open. Internet, tell me what you think!

About the author

Mr Llamatastic


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  1. brindy

    I’m the same about letting opponents change or complete certain aspects of their turn ‘after the affect’ so long as it’s not in direct reaction to another player’s actions. I’m quietly competitive and pretend not to care, but secretly I’m all “FU MAN!” or “HAHA SUCKER!” depending on the situation. 😉

    Website is still needing some TLC, but you might be interested in the board game I’ve designed http://www.trade-frontiers.com – competitive yet casual gaming was a (low priority) design goal.

    1. Mr Llamatastic

      Loving the shameless promotion! I took a look at those rules when you posted them last and have to say, I think it sounds really good. Are you going to be going through people like http://www.thegamecrafter.com or will you by kickstarter/indiegogo-ing?

      Re: letting people change their go, something I’m known for at my local game store is saying “are you sure you wanted to go there? If you went there, you could totally screw me over!” I rarely win….. but damnit, I enjoy the game!

      1. brindy

        Kickstarter – aiming for mid-March. I plan to have a near-production quality prototype by then (just waiting on art and graphic design at the moment). Then I can video a real game in action.

        Yeah, I have a friend who does that, “Are you sure…” or “You could do this…” and somehow he always seems to win when people take his advice! 😉

      2. brindy

        Hadn’t seen http://www.thegamecrafter.com btw, so thanks for that. Might use them for the prototype as the Chinese company I am wanting to use are on holiday for a good chunk of Feb, hence the March target.

        1. Mr Llamatastic

          I hadn’t heard of them until my friend @burtonearny and I were bouncing around ideas for card games. The Game Crafter people will essentially host and manage the sales of your games for a commission, but you can buy as many of them as you want for yourself at trade price. Long story short, for an in-depth board game with a bunch of pieces, cards, rulebook and sexy box, you’re looking to part with around $40. (not bad!)

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