A good question

Rob asks:

What should the metrics for a successful (or failed) game be?

I stared to write a reply in his comments section but it got so long it seemed like a blog post all its own.

A successful game:

  1. We had fun.  Fun = surprises, laughs, and cool moments that made us say, “Dang! That was awesome.
  2. The game helped us have this fun and didn’t just sit there like a limp fish or actively get in our damned way.
  3. We sought the game’s mechanics out and interacted with them aggressively.
  4. When we weren’t sure what to do next we had an easy reference that inspired us:
  • Aspects
  • Beliefs
  • Demon’s Needs
  • the next room in the dungeon
  • exciting consequences to player actions
  • a complication due to a failed roll

A failed game:

  1. Whenever I feel like my time was wasted or that creative input was wasted.
  2. When the game get’s in our way of having a good time and making up cool shit.
  3. I don’t have fun when I feel like I am avoiding the mechanics.  Sometimes this is because the game is weak, other times I just don’t know the game well enough and need to brush up on things.

5 thoughts on “A good question

  1. There’s some ambiguity here: By game, do you mean a particular product (like Dogs in the Vineyard, say, or specific edition of D&D) or particular people playing some number of sessions together (e.g. the two session Mountain Witch game or that one campaign that started as D&D but was changed halfway through to use our house system)?

    We played James Raggi’s module Death frost doom. It is very atmospheric, but has little in the way of action. Some players noted that they were dissatisfied because nothing much happened and rules were not much used. In spite of that, people seemed very engaged when we were actually playing.

    We played Universalis (different we). Some people felt necessary to push for conflicts even when the game was functioning just fine without them, because the conflict rules are somehow the focus of the game.

    I’m not quite sure that there is a point to this rambling. Maybe that sometimes engaging the rules does not matter (which does not preclude the rules from mattering). In my experience, anyway.

    • Tommi,

      It is definitely a matter of taste. I would imagine there are a spectrum of tastes as to how much gamers want to engage the system. I totally get that.

      • Hi Judd.

        Yes, there’s different tastes, but I do think there is something more here.

        Suppose you have some random group playing D&D and there comes up an armed conflict that is not particularly interesting story-wise or by the mechanics. They’ll probably still play it by the combat rules.

        I was (finally) game mastering Dogs for some friends. A few times I noticed that what we were should have been a conflict. Why should, and not could? I dunno.

        Are these the same phenomenon? Where does it come from?

        Maybe it is simple: having a set of rules creates the expectation that they are used (whenever possible or applicable), or maybe there is more to it.

  2. Yes! You know it’s been a good game when everyone’s primary concern is when the next session will be and nobody can stop talking about what just happened.

    As a GM it is a great game when the players are all excited and talking about what they want to do next. If you’re not drained from the effort of running that game then you’ve found a games system that works for you!

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