PLAYING TO WIN: BECOMING A CHAMPION BY DAVID SIRLIN #2
Why do we enjoy competitive games? A game like Warmachine is a zero sum interaction. There can be only one winner of the game. What is the appeal of this type of interaction? David Sirlin believes that these games are a type of debate with each side putting forth arguments that go back and forth until one set of arguments is finally validated. Lets explore how this plays out in Warmachine.
Your debate starts at list construction. When you create a list, you are saying that these models will interact with each other in a way that will give you the best chance to play to win. For example, if I decide to build a Cygnar list, I may include a unit of Boomhowlers because I believe that they will help me hold my position in scenario play.
The debate continues after lists are selected and play commences. I may run my Boomhowlers into a zone with Cry of Defiance. When I do this, I am saying that I believe this is the optimal strategy at this point in time. My opponent is then faced with a decision on how to react to my argument. He may decide to focus his attacks into killing the Boomhowlers. If he does this trivially, then his argument was superior to mine. If he spends too many resources attempting to kill my Boomhowlers, then my argument was superior. Alternatively, he may decide to ignore my Boomhowlers and argue that another objective is more important. The player’s arguments will war back and forth until the game is decided and the winner’s arguments are then found to have more merit.
It is difficult to have an engaging debate when the arguments on one side clearly out match the arguments on the other side. Two debaters that are closely matched with each other can elevate each other to unexpected heights. Even when your arguments are ultimately shown to be inferior, the process of the debate can be exhilarating.
Why are these debates entertaining? The answer to this question varies from person to person. For myself, the process of refining my arguments and attempting to maximize my advantages lead to a type mental stimulation that cannot be replicated. Competitive Warmachine has also provided me framework to travel and forge new friendships. The common bond of this game has made it easy for me to start relationships that have grown far beyond Warmachine.
One of my favorite series of books from my formative years was The Belgariad by David Eddings. Book one of this series is The Pawn of Prophecy. Garion is an orphan that is unaware that he has been chosen by a prophecy as its champion. It is his destiny to confront the champion of the other prophecy, the evil god Toruk. Garion is bound together with a group of companions. Their actions will decide the fate of the universe.
This series obviously employs many fantasy cliches. I was unaware that these cliches even existed when I started reading these novels. I fell in love with this series for two reasons. First, the characters that Eddings created had distinctive personalities that were easy to fall in love with. Second, Eddings succeeded in creating an interesting world with many nationalities and gods. The books are fast reads that are fun and enjoyable.