I want to expand on to the idea of the Social Action and Solitary Action from my previous entry. They both currently have a very limited definition, pertaining primarily to games that involve a limited number of actions or time. You could think about it in terms of actions: you get X actions per turn, and N turns in the game. For example, you get four actions per day, and three hundred days of actions.

Limiting the number of actions the player can perform injects strategy into the game, but to mean anything, it needs support either in opposing actions from an antagonist, or a scoring system to rank the player on how well they chose their actions. Harvest Moon for the Super Nintendo, lacking a proper antagonist, uses the latter. You get a score at the end, based on how well you choose your actions in the game.

If you have an antagonist with opposing, like in chess, your actions are limited as your opponent removes your options one-by-one. That makes it so that choosing an action at one point can be more valuable or effective than another, because it could mean playing the game that much longer, or retaining a powerful option (like a queen).

We can potentially derive satisfaction from either. Games without antagonists like Harvest Moon, The Sims, and Angry Birds allow us to challenge ourselves, whether it’s our skills being tested, our patience, or our self-control (just try to tell me you haven’t tortured at least one Sim in your time playing the game). An antagonist gives us a specific hurdle to clear, and in doing so, we please our drive to achieve mastery.

“Mastery” is a concept that I’m going to “can ‘o worms” for the moment, and come back to at a later date. It’s one of the things that makes games that require strategy fun in a way that’s different from games that require chance. Let’s call it at a measurement of personal growth for now, and we can discuss it at length in the future.

I think the next point in this tangent will have something to do with the complementary roles of the hero, the protagonist, and the main character, and their effect on gaming.