Friday, February 14, 2014

Classics Lecture Series: Real Time with Simultaneous Moves - Soccer, Speed, & Boggle

Taking turns is as old as board gaming, I go, and you go, wash and repeat.  Chess - I move my pawn you move your knight.  Tic-Tac-Toe - I mark X, you mark O.  Pretty Pretty Princess - I put on my earing, you put on your necklace.

But the most popular game in the word--soccer-- is played in real time and has simultaneous moves.  But wait you cry, soccer is a sport.  Sports have rules and victory condition just like any other board game.  Sports tend to be dexterity games that happen to be played on some of the largest tabletops in existence.

Soccer, like other board games, relies on players making simultaneous moves and a clock to increase pressure on players.  Great real time games with simultaneous moves use either simultaneous moves, a timer, or both to increase pressure on players. What are the benefits of pressure on players?

Rewards Quick Thinking And Punishes Analysis Paralysis

Simultaneous moves in real time are the anti Analysis Paralysis.  In Soccer you have to make strategic decisions in real time.  Real time games with simultaneous moves rewards players who can read a situation quickly and act.  If you pause, your opponent will jump and take advantage of your hesitation.

Mental mistakes are more likely in real time simultaneous games like Soccer and Speed than a sequential move game because pausing to think gives your opponent time to react.  In Soccer, if you pause to think, you risk missing your opportunity to act, it gives your opponent the time to get back on defense or prevents your defense from reacting fast enough to counter your opponent's offense.  In Speed if you hesitate your opponent might play a card and take your spot on the discard pile.

In sequential board games a mental mistake only results from you making the wrong move.  You never lose the chance to make the move in a sequential board game.  Unlike a real time simultaneous move game, an opponent or a timer does not take away your opportunity to act.  The game sits and waits for you to make that move.

Mental mistakes are so prevalent in real time games that players even devise strategies to increase the probability their opponents will make a mistake.  Soccer players understand that their opponents are more likely to make a mistake when they are forced to play a style they are not comfortable with.  Soccer teams built on speed and athleticism are not as comfortable methodically moving the ball down the field.  Opponents that recognize this will attempt to force the speed team to be slow and methodical. Why?  Because when you are force to doing something you are not comfortable with you are more likely to hesitate and make a mistake.

Creates Moments of Tension And Relief

Soccer, like all simultaneous moves games, perfect the art of tension in game play.  A clock is ticking, a team is down by one goal and is throwing everything they have to get the equalizer.  Even their goalie has moved out of goal to help his team as it desperately fights for the tie.

The crowd is tense.  The players are tense.  And whoever wins the battle, be the team up or the team down, is going to be in a state of euphoria when all is said and done.

These moments happen in sequential games, sure.  But not at the frequency, and rarely with the intensity as a simultaneous move game.

Just the act of having to reveal a decision at the same time creates tension and relief. In The Resistance players negotiate with each other in real time and the leader selects who will make the team for the mission.  After the team members secretly submitted whether they will support or sabotage the mission, the room is tense until it becomes apparent if the mission succeeded or failed.

Putting it All Together

Look at the real time simultaneous move game Boggle.  Boggle has a sand timer.  You are on the clock racing with the other players to find words.  If you panic and just sit staring at the board you give your opponents an edge by giving them more time to put words together relative to you.

As the timer starts getting close to the end you feel tension as you try to fit in as many words as possible before time runs out.  At which point the score is reviewed and the tension of the moment is relieved in either glorious victory or humiliating defeat.

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