Stop worring and love the game - Playing the no win scenario

Tom’s review of A Reign of Missiles pointed out something I love about gaming. It is that the gameplay expresses an argument about its subject. Some games are so abstract or deal in subjects where this isn’t that noticeable but in a controversial subject such as Reign of Missiles or Labyrinth The War on Terror the subtext of the rules is more interesting. Tom also brought up Wargames, I love looking at games about Nuclear War especially when designers are confronted with victory conditions.

Nuclear wars now are generally regarded, and I agree here, as no win scenarios. DEFCON and Nuclear War assign a winner to the faction left most intact. I came across a game, First Strike, that added a few other interesting wrinkles. You could be ahead in victory points but if you’ve sustained so much civilian damage that your society collapses you’ve lost. This can easily happen to both sides turning each phase into a form of negotiation by missiles. “See I’m sparing Washington all I’m doing is taking out your Minuteman fields. Remember that when you think about targeting Moscow.” There’s incentive there for a limited exchange rather than unloading all the silos. Of course the game is called First Strike and a side can bet it all early in an attempt to level their opponents strategic forces before the can be used. But, you’ll have to hope for great results because with your enemy that far behind in VPs you’ll see your civilians targeted as vengeance or what is nicely sanitized as a, “Counter Valence Strike.” Games about Nuclear War become more interesting when they’re not simple numbers games.

What controversial topics and specific games do you like to look at? The COIN games are fertile ground here and I love to talk about them but there’s got to be much more.

Tom M

Sort of in the same vein, I love games like FTL, Realm of the Mad God, the survival craze…the thing is, and for about a decade designers seemed to forget this, Failure is fun. FTL at the same time it is being frustrating, watching your ship’s systemic failure usually because you were greedy or pushed it one sector too far is beautiful.
As for controversial topics-I’m still waiting to fall in love. 16 years into the industry and I still haven’t fallen in love. That used to be the bar for NPC’s.We seemed to forget about that bar and just make better combat AI. The closest so far is Walking Dead, and that is more attachment than love.

I think a lot of people here have played Hardcore Diablo.

It pretty much is a death wish game. You have to go into it knowing one day you will die as it just continues to get infinitely harder in terms of not dying.

Starbound also has a hardcore mode, but due to the nature of the game (some discovery and building), that strikes me as not being very fun.

Then there is the superbly designed “The World’s Hardest Game” : , where it is more fun to watch the solution than play it:

These might not fit into your category from a game design perspective, but definitely I believe the mindset of the gamer has to be similar to enjoy the play.