Friday, January 14, 2011

Types of Challenge - 1: Real Risk

If there's one thing the rise of Facebook games like Mafia Wars and FrontierVille have demonstrated, it's that not all people who want to play games are looking for the same kind of challenge. It's incorrect to suggest that these games carry no challenge, it's just not the type of challenge that some gamers recognise as challenge. So what are the types of challenge that do exist?

My first entry into the list of 'Types of Challenge' (ToC) is Real Risk...

Real Risk is the type of challenge that only comes when you lay something on the line, other than time. It could mean your well being if you're a fighter of some kind, although most real world fighters don't mind the hits too much, just so long as they don't lose. It could mean your heart, in the ancient and shiftingly beruled game of luuurve. It could mean your life, if you're unlucky enough to find yourself being Christopher Walken's character in The Deer Hunter.

When it comes to video games this normally means cold hard cash, mostly because it would be morally wrong to tap into other realms of loss, simply for entertainment. You aren't allowed to market games that can electrocute a losing player to death, like the one seen in the James Bond film, Never Say Never Again. And I can't see you putting your love handles on the line anytime soon in a crazy Chris Crawford retelling of the Merchant of Venice, as a Facebook game with a new type of micro-payment.

When you lose in a game with Real Risk you lose something of value to you. Gambling is the most common form of this type of challenge in both the digital and non-digital world. There is no challenge, as gamers understand it, in a game of chance but to the gambler there is a wealth of game-play, whether it be in their head or not. It's not hard to find someone who plays slot machines and firmly believes that the trick is knowing when the machine is ready to pay out. Their challenge is to outsmart the system, to divine the future and if they don't, they lose their shirt.

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