Thursday, January 2, 2020

From Chaos to Order

Why would a player cheat at solitaire?

In trying to answer this interesting question, I’ve realized a way to enhance my next game design.
So how to explain this odd if common practice of cheating at a game where no one but you cares if you win or lose?  I think I have the answer.

Achieving Order in Solitaire

In the well-known Klondike Solitaire, the cards are first randomized by shuffling and then dealt into a layout with seven columns (the tableau). I’ll call this beginning state of the game Chaos. To win the game, all the cards must be moved to the four home cells, sorted by suit, and in ascending sequence. That winning state is the ultimate Order.

There’s no denying the satisfaction of attaining that order, that definitive organization on finishing the game, even if one didn’t win legitimately.

Achieving order can add satisfaction to games with an opponent as well.

Gin Rummy and Other Games

My wife and I spend many fun evenings playing Gin Rummy. We just call it Gin (and often drink gin while playing.)  The satisfaction of turning a chaotic ten-card hand into the fully melded order of a gin hand goes beyond accruing points.  Points can be gained by knocking, that is going down with a less-than-perfectly melded hand. And knocking is often a wise play, but it’s not nearly as satisfying as ginning.

Gin is a two-player game, but Chinese checkers can be played by up to six players who move their marbles from beautiful symmetry and order, through chaos, to order again to win.

Of course, many, maybe most, games do not involve mechanics for creating order at all.  I’m thinking of Monopoly, checkers, Chutes and Ladders, etc. Chess begins with order which is lost as the moves commence.

Players Who Enjoy Order 

I suspect that “order building” appeals more to certain players, those who enjoy puzzles for example. Jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, and Rubik’s cube are about nothing beyond the satisfaction of producing order.  Collectors of stamps, coins, and fancy china as well as children who love to sort out their Lego bricks probably enjoy games that include this mechanic.

The Order Mechanic in Game Design

I’m currently brainstorming a new board game and have decided to build a “creation of order” mechanic into the game play.

Please share your thoughts.  What games include creating order?  Would you use this idea in your game designs?


Carlos E. Ferro said...

Yes, there is a neuroscience explanation for that mechanism.
Human brain has evolved to be very efficient at finding patterns.
Even when there is no pattern, that is the explanation of pareidolia; people sees figures or faces in the clouds, in the moon, in rocks on a landscape, etc
And then , there is a chemical satisfaction to give positive feedback to the brain when it is finding patterns.
That explains, for instance, why Candy Crush and similar games are so addictive. Or the example you mentioned, Sudoku.
I think it is a very interesting thing to explore in a game.

AaronJV said...

Is there a corresponding desire for chaos? Smashing a sand castle into clumps, destroying buildings in the arcade game Rampage, Pie Face, water dunk tanks at carnivals, etc.?

Are there fewer such games because chaos --> order is more pleasing?