Tag Archives: social

3 Ways to Be A Fun Opponent

All of us gamers, whether we’re casual gamers or tournament players, have probably met the “un-fun” opponent. This is the guy or girl who can’t seem to lighten up and just play the game, who either loses and rage-flips the table, or wins and rubs it in everyone’s face for the next few hours. The un-fun opponent can also manifest as a player who overthinks every move for fear of losing the game, or who quits a game when the mere shadow of defeat falls across the table.

None of these all-too-common gamer attitudes make a game fun to play for the other person. I should know; I’m one of those who quits before I lose, and overthinks far too often, and so I see how my negative reactions suck the life out of a game for my opponents. So, today, I thought I’d challenge myself and all of us gamers to try being a little more fun–not necessarily playing more casually, but making all gaming more entertaining and less draining.

#3: Dare to Smile a Little More

A simple smile at your opponent can work wonders for a gaming atmosphere. When you’re both (or all) super-focused on the game, smiles can fall by the wayside, easily forgotten in the heat of tabletop battle. But if you take the time to smile at your opponent, you’re reminding him or her that you’re human, and that this is a game rather than a life-or-death situation.

This little jolt of positive emotion in the middle of a tense game can lighten the mood and help everyone have a better time. You don’t have to tell a ton of jokes or make silly faces, nor do you have to lose all concentration on the game for a moment…just smile. You wouldn’t believe what a positive effect that can have on another player.

#2: Dare to Try New Strategies

If you’ve got an amazing, butt-whooping deck or team of figures which you love to play in tournaments and casual games alike, that’s wonderful. But don’t limit yourself to playing only “the stuff that wins.” The best gamers are not the ones who have flawless win/loss records, but the ones who try out all types of strategies to discover new ways to win, new combos that work, and new modes of self-expression.

When you attempt new strategies, you flex your gaming creativity muscle, which makes any game more interesting. No longer do you have to rely on the Internet to tell you which hot new strategy is winning everything this month (AHEM, lookin’ at you, Friday Night Magic tourneys). Instead, your strategy comes from within you, and can be tweaked in any way you personally wish. It gives you a certain amount of freedom, even within a tournament format!

#1: Dare to Lose

“WHAT?!” you’re probably thinking. But just as in life, losing in gaming can teach us quite a bit more about our strategies, if we don’t allow ourselves to stew in anger and misery first.

This might be hard for some of us gamers to grasp (it’s hard for me!), but winning all the time doesn’t make us the best human beings on earth, nor does losing all the time mean that we are wastes of space. When we win so often that it seems like a foregone conclusion, it can suck the interest out of the game, both for us and our would-be opponents. No one wants to play us in a “quick game” because both parties know how it will end; the game is no longer fun for us because there is no challenge in it anymore.

That’s why I suggest being willing to lose a little more often. This does not mean “throwing the game,” but perhaps using your old favorite strategy pieces in new ways. Maybe avoid using that old reliable combo of figures that wins the game every time, and instead rely on some of your backup figures, to see how well they perform. Maybe change out a card or two in that well-oiled deck you lovingly use in tournaments, and see what results. If you lose, so what? There’s always another game. (Plus, when you play against newbies, it’s important not to thrash them in their first game–who would ever want to get soundly defeated by an expert when you’re still learning the game?)

Bottom Line: Be Human, not a Winning Machine

All three of these suggestions boil down to allowing humanity to creep back into our gaming. We likely game among friends, so why not treat them like friends instead of opponents? We likely started playing these games because they were fun, so why let gamer-rage and overthinking take the place of fun?

I’m stepping all over my own toes with this post, because I’m still working on becoming a more fun opponent. But I think if we all really worked on behaving more humanly toward each other, we could end up having a lot more fun even at “serious gaming” tournaments. Isn’t that a worthy goal?

Taking Back Social Console Gaming

Last week I wrote about how gamers have started getting away from console gaming and social gaming in general. Gaming has transferred itself from arcades to homes, and from homes to online, in a matter of a few years rather than decades.

What online gaming has done to social gaming may be irreversible–it has taken gaming out of the more social environment of the home and placed it in a virtual zone that is nearly unreachable except to the single player. Along with becoming more and more online (and yet more and more isolating), gaming has become uber-competitive. The fallacy here is that games must be won to be enjoyed.

But gaming does not have to be competitive to be fun. Nor does it have to be won to be enjoyed. That is like saying that food has to be eaten to be enjoyed–and anybody who’s ever stood outside the kitchen smelling cookies baking can tell you food can be enjoyed without ever being eaten. Sometimes, it’s the gossamer touch of experiencing happiness that is all you need, like the scent of cookies wafting toward your nose.

My Social Gaming Anecdotes

Some of the best times I had with friends back in the day was just getting together and beating face on games like Soul Calibur and Super Smash Brothers Melee–me and three or four guy friends, all madly tapping buttons to do fighting moves and directing our characters around the screen.

More shouting and laughing went on than cussing and ditching the controllers aside, thankfully, and we all managed to have fun. It wasn’t about winning so much as just playing around (even if we did have some mini-competitions going on). The most prevalent emotion that veils those memories is camaraderie; I knew these guys well and we were all great friends, both within the games and outside them.

These days, I don’t get together with that old group as much ( 🙁 ), but I do play some cooperative video games with my boyfriend. Playing some Gauntlet II: Dark Legacy or Marvel Ultimate Alliance gets us working together, and we have a lot of fun whomping up on imaginary bad guys. ^_^ Not only do I get to spend time with my love, but I get to show him how my knack for screwing around and not getting the mission done can actually lead to finding secrets within games. 😛

Getting Back that Gamin’ Feeling

Because of my experiences, I don’t think social gaming is lost to us forever. As long as we have real-life friends who can come over to our real-life dwellings, and as long as we still eat real-life food with these friends, we can still game socially. Here is how I think social gaming can be won back from the brink:

Building a Social Gaming Night

  1. First, invite a few friends to get together at your house/apartment. However many is comfortable for your dwelling–no need to have 20 people at your apartment if you can only seat 3, right?
  2. Make or get easy party food, like nachos, wraps, chicken fingers, vegetable trays with dips, mini pizzas, etc. Pretty much any finger food you and your friends like would be great. (Good food + gaming = good times guaranteed.) And don’t forget drinks–ask ahead of time what everyone would like to drink so that you have it on hand, if possible. (Alcohol isn’t preferred if you’re going to be using kinetic controllers…just sayin’.)
  3. Make sure you have comfortable seating for everyone, or at least clear floor space in front of the TV you’re going to be using for game night.
  4. Bring out some of your best multiplayer console games. If you don’t have any games like that, renting or borrowing some games would be the next best option. Great options for multiplayer game parties would be:

Conducting Your Gaming Night

One of the best things you can do is to keep your computers and phones off during gaming night. I know, I know, we’re all welded to our personal gadgets these days, but just for a night, put them all in a safe place away from stray gamers’ flying feet and hands, and just enjoy being with your friends in the same room. Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the Interwebs will not miss you for a few hours while you enjoy yourself, and you’ll be much more fun and have much more fun if you’re completely engaged in whatever’s going on. (Take it from me, just writing a status about what you’re doing is lots less fun)

Second, if you have more players than can play all together at once, make up rules for taking turns on the controllers. With my old group of gaming buddies, we used to take turns on fighting games with the rule of “Loser of this fight gives the controller to the one who isn’t playing.” Whatever makes sense for your group and for the game you’re playing, just make sure everyone gets an equal chance to play.

Third, switch games every so often. Smash Brothers is awesome, but not for five hours. Change up the game discs about every 45 minutes to an hour or so, just to keep things fresh, unless you all are really having fun with the one you’re playing. This way, nobody gets bored or tired of the games, and the group keeps trying new things.

Fourth, resist the urge to go online with your gaming console. When you have four or more real live players in the same room, who needs the online world?!

Fifth, keep paper towels and wipes handy for drink/food spills and greasy hands. You might not think you’ll need them–you will.

Sixth, make a rule: “No drinks on top of the console/TV/anything electronic.” Speaking from sad experience here. 🙁

Lastly: make sure that you’re not keeping anybody out too late. Between jobs, family, and personal time, not everyone has the ability to game all night–be considerate of each other’s time, and you’ll be more likely to get another gaming night together sooner rather than never.


If we work at it, social console gaming can come back in a big way. Not only is it freer entertainment than paying to play an online game every month, but it’s a great way to get back in touch with your favorite examples of humanity in a relaxed setting. It’s just more fun with everyone in the same room!

Getting Out of Console Gaming?

Time was, consoles were how gamers passed the time. From the time Atari made its first console, to the early 1990s when Nintendo created the SNES and Sega crafted its Genesis, and even on to when the Playstation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube warred for market dominance in the early 2000s, consoles have all but ruled gaming life.

But now, that is increasingly no longer the way of things.

With the advent of gaming on the Internet, consoles are not often needed to play games anymore. People are now able to use computers as TVs, media creators, Internet browsers, and now even gaming consoles. It’s possible to play monthly-fee online MMOs like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and City of Heroes (OMG LINK) as well as single-player online Flash games for free. Indeed, gamers of today can get their gaming fix without ever buying a console or its games (especially due to the pirated game downloads and emulators).

I am one of the gamers who has all but ditched console gaming in favor of online gaming. Though I buy and use my games legitimately, turning on a separate machine besides my computer just to game seems almost alien to me now, even though I literally grew up playing video games on systems like the SNES, Playstation 1, and N64. I haven’t touched my Playstation 2 in weeks, and my Wii sat so long unused that it doesn’t even turn on anymore. And, from what I can tell, I am not alone; many old-school gamers have turned to computers as well.

Why Might Consoles Go the Way of the Dodo?

  • A computer keyboard can be easier to manipulate than controllers (especially for kinetic controllers like the Wii–I still can’t completely figure ’em out)
  • Games online are free or small-fee to play, and can be played anywhere you can set a laptop; console games require special equipment, a set place to play, etc.
  • We increasingly require more and more online components from our consoles, so they end up being small computers in and of themselves
  • We are living downsized lives economically, and people can better rationalize paying for a new computer rather than for a new gaming console

But Wait a Moment: The Social Gaming Perspective

As much fun as online gaming is, there is a vital component of gaming that it’s still missing: true social gaming.

Much of online gaming is single-player, unless you get into MMOs (Massive Multiplayer Online games). And even with MMOs, everyone is hooked up to different computer screens and communicating via typed or voice chat. It’s just not the same as playing with three or four of your buddies in front of a single TV screen, with controllers hooked up and a ton of laughs (or muttered curses) going on.

There’s something about playing a game with others in the same room and on the same screen that engenders more honest, real communication and socializing, much more than playing online with others does. Even playing an online game with someone while they’re sitting in the same room with you is different; you’re still looking at different computer screens, still disconnected from them somehow. Social gaming–the kind only seen in console gaming, 4 players at a time–is in danger of dying out.

I found an XKCD-style, long comic panel about a year ago that really explains this all visually, but I’m darned if I can find it again. (Hating dialup a whole bunch right now for not letting me search faster!) Basically, it showed how computers make many facets of modern gaming easier (buying, stealing, playing multiplayer), but the social gaming aspect, the “playing on my couch with a bunch of my friends” concept, is woefully lacking. Poor little stick man just cries alone in his room, with only fond, poignant memories of gaming with friends.

Next Week: What’s So Special About Social Gaming?

As wonderful as social console gaming is, it deserves its own blog post. Tune in next week to hear the rest of this story, full of personal anecdotes and nostalgia. 🙂

Why I Don’t Bother with Farmville Anymore

I used to like Farmville quite a bit–actually, I played it for months and got addicted to it (I wish I was kidding). I even wrote a post here showcasing it…but I could not in good faith keep recommending a game that I know now is too ridiculous to get involved in.

Why might I say something like that? Well, there are 3 big reasons for me:

#1: It’s Time-Consuming/Isolating

When I started playing Farmville, it was pretty easy to manage–I had a few neighbors and a few crop plots, and I could usually take care of it all in a few minutes. But once I had played for a while, it got to where I was spending an hour a day just visiting other people’s farms and trying to help them, not to mention time spent “harvesting” and “using” virtual crops. (Also, during the time I played, I didn’t have internet at home, so I ended up having to play at the local coffee shop or friends’ houses–which meant that for at least the first hour of hanging out, I was isolating myself staring at the computer screen. Not really conducive to conversation, you know?)

#2: You Really Have to Spend Real Money to Get All the Best Stuff

Farmville and games like it have really become “pay-to-win” games. When I first started playing, you could end up getting “good” stuff if you were just patient and saved up your Farm Cash from leveling up. But after a while, the amounts of Farm Cash you had to spend just to get the essentials for operating larger virtual farms became ridiculous. There were plenty of ways you could pour real money into the game to get more Farm Cash, but I was simply not willing to invest REAL money in a fake farm!

#3: Clogs Up Facebook Feed with Notifications, Bogs Down Computers

Since I purged Farmville and other such games from my Facebook life, my notification feed is about 1000 times less congested. How liberating! When I played daily, my Notifications would overflow with people asking for Farmville help, requesting materials, etc.–there was literally so much to do on Farmville that I ended up accidentally ignoring the friends who didn’t play!

The other thing I noticed was that my computer would perform slowly while on Farmville. One wouldn’t think a Facebook game could eat RAM like that, but for whatever reason, my computer did not like it one bit. (One more reason I felt liberated when I got out of playing–suddenly I had a fast-performing computer again!)


For a while, Farmville was a delightful diversion…but it quickly devolved into an obligation, and then into a huge pain, especially when I realized how addicted to the game I had become. I got out of it before I had started paying real money, but I know folks who have gotten into serious money trouble this way. Take it from me: don’t even get involved with this kind of “pay-to-win” game; it might seem fun at first, but that’s how it hooks you. It’s just like gambling or any other kind of addiction–it’ll eat your life if you’re not careful!