Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rules Complexity and Game Theory

Brian Gleichman over at Whitehall Paraindustries has been writing about rules complexity and role-playing games, which has turned out to be an interesting read. But I think what strikes me as an interesting question is why people like complexity in a role-playing game.

In his Friday, October 23 post, Brian muses over whether there is a sweet spot of complexity that offers more satisfaction of game master and thus more user satisfaction. Let me up the ante on that thought.

I propose that part of the enjoyment of role-playing games is exploration of space -- this is an obvious part of the actual content, since exploring dungeons and wilderness has long been the basic trope of the game. But the very structure of game play, in my mind, includes several types of exploration of constructed spaces:

  • The players (including the GM) explore the space of possible activities within the set of game rules.
  • The players explore the fantasy world.
  • The players explore the role of their character, creating personalities, experiences, and potential actions.
  • The players explore a dramatic space through collaborative plot development.
  • The players explore social space through the development of a set of informal and formal social rules, roles, and expectations.

Discovering, uncovering, and constructing these explored and collaboratively created spaces gives RPGs a unique potency as a recreational experience. The exploration of rules-space is the safest, most consistent, and most easily portable beyond the social event of the game, making game complexity an interesting sub-hobby on its own.

At least that's my half-baked off the top of my head thought.