Boardgamers and Online Learners Play Styles

tmax sent me this note and I asked if i could post it up in the forum and blog.

tmax opines: I just wanted to mention that it occurred to me that there are now a number of people who picked up the game from the online version and then became curious about the ‘real’ game. This is opposite to my experience and my instincts, I guess, because I started noticing that those who started online (most have yet to move offline, given the relative difficulty of finding a good CE set) seem to play a bit differently. For all their worth (precisely nothing, but perhaps they’ll at least make some sense) here are some thoughts on this pattern I’ve noticed (or imagined?)

I was struck with the realization that those who learned CE online might well have a very different perspective, more so than I would have thought back in 90s when I was playing that Java applet. More than a shift in strategy, as required by fewer planets and online-version powers, it is a shift in attitude.

Like all of us, online-first players seem initially attracted by the
complexity of the game. Complexity amongst simplicity, challenges and turns and bases, of course. Moving the ships around has a slightly different appeal to these inverted learners. Overall, I believe, they see the game as an amusement more than a competition. Winning is just when the game ends, not a personal loss. Having only ‘virtual’ opponents, bots or not, they honestly have more of an ‘enjoy the experience’ perspective than one based on strategy.

They are willing, even eager, to ‘throw the game’ or take actions which are demonstrably counter-productive to their position, if it is interesting and novel. The other players are other participants on the site, more so than opponents, and they are slightly bemused by the ‘whining’ that ensues when they seem to be successful at enjoying themselves.

I’m not whining, myself. The reason I write is to impart my realization that this attitude is not entirely a bad thing, and can be very productive for the site.

The only reason I thought this worth mentioning is that I’ve become convinced that it is a mistake to see this type of behavior as simply naive or inexperienced. I still don’t like playing with these types of “newbies”. Some have at least a years experience, and though they may not be highly skilled, they are not inept. But I wanted to point out that I think this is a matter of style more than skill, at least to some extent. I think you should try to keep this in mind if any opportunities or any problems arise in the future concerning player behavior.

One possible impact of this perspective is that you might want to think more about the interactivity and presentation of the game for future enhancements. These people seem to enjoy the actual visuals and audio much more than those who see it as only a poor approximation of the fun we had in our dorm rooms. For those who know the game, there can be no better improvements than more powers and stuff like that. But I guess this is me urging you, against my own better interests, mind you, to not avoid thinking about improvements of a more “slick” nature, since more and more people have only been introduced to CE by your fine online efforts. A bit of “wheeeee!”, more so than us old fogies might even like let alone require, might ultimately serve our ultimate goal
(to convert every man, woman, and child in the universe to our cause) better than the instinctual reaction.

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