What Made That Game Great?

“That game was amazing!!”

Ah yes, those games you played that you’re still talking about days, weeks or years later. But when someone says they played a really great game session, what does that mean? What actually makes a session great? It might seem like there should be a universal answer, a game theory definition of what makes a great play session, but I think the answer is entirely personal, not universal.

For some people, it might just be spending time with people they like. They had a good time socializing, drinking beer and kicking back, so it was an amazing game.

For others it’s the magic carpet ride, where everyone is on the same page and things just flow effortlessly. We didn’t even need any rules!

Other people love the spotlight. They got to create big things that amazed the other players, or had a dramatic moment that held everyone else spellbound.

Or they cherished a game because it had emotion. It tore them apart or nearly brought them to tears.

Or they got so caught up in the moment that they forgot about their day-to-day troubles, and maybe even stopped thinking about the game as a game. Classic escapism.

Or maybe they just rolled a 20 at the perfect moment

And that’s just to name a few. Ultimately, I think someone’s definition of a “great game” tells us why they come to the table in the first place. That’s what they want out of these games, even if they don’t recognize it in themselves. Because we don’t all play these games for the same reasons, or want the same things or get the same things out of them. Different people at the table might agree a session was a classic, but never realize they loved totally different aspects of the same game.

Transforming “Me” to “Us”

The inevitable question (which I’m asking myself right now, but pretending you’re asking as some kind of rhetorical flourish) is, what makes *me* say a game is great? What ingredients have to be present for Ben to bask in the afterglow and say “Awww yes! That was a great game!”?

In other words: what am I looking for when I play games? What am I doing this for?

Looking back at the games that have stayed lodged in my cranium for years on end, I can detect a common thread. The magic ingredient, at least for me.

What I love is seeing disagreement turn into agreement. Where people start off with very different ideas of how things should go or what they like, players who think they have no common ground, but then the game helps them create something wonderful together.

The process of play brings the table together, replacing their skepticism with camaraderie and trust. It makes everyone love and respect each other more.

That transformation from “me” to “us” is what makes me say “Now that was a great game.”

What about you?

    Ben Robbins | January 25th, 2022 | | leave a comment