Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Numbers Crunching: The Game within the Game

Some people naturally play every game on several levels. There is the first level, in which we are with our friends having fun and the second level, where we are determining the nature of the game. The second level is fun for us, it adds depth, it lets us exert control over the game. Many assume that we play this secondary game to be better than others, that may be true for some, but I play this game to make myself better. Analysis and comprehension, understanding and completion the game within a game provides an outlet for out competetive spirit. Within a LARP setting may find these people useful, they are the ones people go to when they want to know how to improve their combat effectiveness. They have built spreadsheets to determine optimal builds, they understand the proper itemization for a fighter and they can tell you why rogue is the best class past level 40. It is important for those who only play the first game to remember that our game has value too.

The first step to playing the secondary game is the breakdown. Every game has fundemantal components, after you remove the fluff, the remaining rules and statistics make up the core of the game. Most games have a value system built in and the most obvious exploitations occur in misvalued skills, abilities and equipment. This is where we look first. A good example of this is spell points in one of the offshoot games from NERO. Spellpoints in this is system are the equivalent of one first level spell per point, they cost 3 experience points, potion making has a mana potion that can be produced with one level of the skill, the skill costs 2 experience and the potion restores one skill point. Fom this example you can see that it is more effiecent to buy a few spell points and a more potion making than to buy a number of spellpoints. The immediate outer game players response is that they do not wish for their character to be a potion maker, they want to be a wizard, the inner game player does not care he will still play as a wizard but have more spells available. Both of these options are correct one just has mathermatical analysis behind it, the other is primarily feelings based.

The second portion of the inner game comes when its players become aware of the physical skills necessary to excel at the game. Some players never get to this point, content with the numbers crunching portion of the inner game. Being the most efficent at a game that involves a physical component naturally invovles physical work. A classic example of this is the players who practice fighting with boffer swords between games, or begin a workout regimine to be better at a LARP game. The physical portion of the inner game usually follows teh mental portion as the players master the game system itself and begin to realize that the mechanical aspects can alo be optimized.

Combining the two parts of the inner game produces the power gamer. The player who bth physically and mentally dominates the game. This player is not naturally a detriment to the game. The game can be equally damaged by an aggressive roleplayer or a pvp player who preys upon the weak. The power gamer is just playing a second game, next time you see one, ask him how his game is going. Maybe he will help you with yours.

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