Symmetrical Enfolding

The simplest kind of game you can design is a symmetrical, procedural, player-versus-player game. I tell students this; if all the players engage with the game the same way, you have to design one system that can be properly positioned to oppose itself. Any race game is like this. Almost all traditional poker-based games are like this.

I have been designing, in my opinion, too many symmetrical, procedural, player-versus-player games.

At the time of this writing, this year we have released LFG, Winston’s Archive, Downspout, The Roads to Springdell and Burning Daylight. Of those games, only Burning Daylight is non-symmetrical, where you pick your gang at the start of the game.

One element in all this is that I have of late an audience of two kids, kids who can’t really handle social deduction games, but who can grasp spatial games, and who can handle ‘the rules work this way,’ not ‘your rules work this way.’ When designing for kids, I absolutely recommend symmetry and consistency in your rules. Player versus player is weirdly, an area where they can get along better, because cooperative play involves them arguing and creates space for quarterbacking where one or the other refuses to go along with their plan.

I don’t really have anything more to say about this at the moment except, as of the time of this writing, I really want to make more cooperative games, more asymmetrical games, and more non-procedural games.

We’ll see how that goes.

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