Computer Games vs Tabletop Games: Learning Curve

Why is it easier to get someone to try a computer game than a tabletop game? And by tabletop games we're including them all, board games on up to RPGs. Ignore the fact that you need a group of people (in the same place, at the same time) to play a tabletop game, and ignore the fact that tabletop games require social energy.

Computer games enforce their own rules, so participants can try the game without expending energy to learn or enforce the rules. You might play a computer game badly because you haven't figured out the best strategies, but it's impossible for you to actually break the rules and not play the game right. Unless it's a bug (or subject to odd MMORPG social rules) anything you can do in a computer game is technically legal.

In tabletop games, rules are accidentally broken all the time. You play a few rounds before someone notices that you've been doing the movement rules wrong, and that's after you all sat down and read the rules two or three times before starting. And because there is no omniscient arbiter (the computer), tabletop games grind to a halt when people disagree about what the rules mean.

Even after years of experience with a game, tabletop gamers have to watch and think to make sure no one is unintentionally breaking the rules, and that takes effort.

    Ben Robbins | November 27th, 2006 | game theory | show 4 comments