What makes a game good?


How do we know when a game is good, great, or transcendent? What do you look for when judging a game? What makes a game good?

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Supporter13 months ago

I don't know if this is really the kind of answer your are looking for. But I tend to look at this in terms of the people this game(s) appeal to. 

Good, for me, is very personal. I like x game even though I shouldn't.  Even though it might not be a good example of that sort of game. 

Great: means that it is outstanding in its field. For example, Many? Most? Eurogamers like Castles of Burgandy. I strongly dislike it, even though I do enjoy Euros. But I still consider it a great game. 

Lastly, transcendent. I feel like a game is transcendent when it appeals to multiple groups. Many of Lacerda's games appeal to both Eurogamers, and those that want more theme in their games. There are some who enjoy heavy games while disdaining family games, yet they love wingspan. These are games that defy the normal "boxes" that we put games in. 

Unfortunately there is no crystal ball that can tell us of a games staying power. But I do believe that time is also a factor. Seafall was a transcendent game when it was released. But it turned into a disappointment for many many people. Now it is a good game, for a very few people. 

Supporter13 months ago

“Good” is incredibly subjective.

Each of us has our own definition.

Many of us are strongly influenced by content creators. If enough influential people think a game is good we feel pressured, to some extent, to also think that game is good. 

Those feelings are even stronger when talking about great or transcendent games. 

I often wonder what games would float to the top of the heap if there weren’t Dice Towers and SUSD and the like. 

Supporter13 months ago

Part of this subjectivity comes from the fact we all look for different things in a game. Sometimes we are looking for a social experience. Sometimes we want a deep strategic mind melting experience. Sometimes we want a game heavy on the tactics. Sometimes we are looking for art, or theme, the new hotness, or.... Most of us are looking for some blend of the aforementioned elements. 

To complicate things further, the mix that we want, while it stays decently stable, does change. Our tastes do evolve, sometimes along drastically different lines. 

So, the question, so along is, "is X game fun?" if the answer is a yes, then it was a good game. 

As for reviewers influence. I think that many people abuse the information that they share. They hear about a new game, so they must have it, NOW. But the original intent was so that the consumer could be informed. If course it is sadly true that many games, some of them good games, come out that don't get celebrity coverage. And those often get ignored. The other side is that small game publishers can exist in this market like they couldn't when you had to order from a catalog. 

Supporter13 months ago

Indeed! The content creators can also work for good as well. I find myself guilty of being too influenced by content creators, but as you mentioned this isn’t always a bad thing. 

You are correct with your definition of good as fun too. But can a game be good if it isn’t fun? Can a game be admired for its mechanics or design but not necessarily enjoyed by yourself?

13 months ago

I can admit a game is "good" even if I don't personally like it. I think it has to do with the mechanics (and theme, if applicable) accomplishing what they set out to do. Just like some movies are "masterpieces," they can still boring as all get out. As mentioned, Castles of Burgundy is a "masterpiece," and yet it falls all kind of flat for me. To each his own, as they say.

But you can also tell if a mechanic simply doesn't work. I reviewed a game a year or two ago that really didn't work. I didn't think it was a good game, despite trying to see past its flaws. The mechanics didn't work as I felt they were supposed to (I triple checked the rules time and time again), and it was more of a hassle to play than anything else. The Kickstarter for it didn't fun, but after some time back at the drawing board, they relaunched it and it did fund. People are enjoying it, but I'm still scared to play it again (I use the pieces as prototypes for my own designs haha). I'm glad they reevaluated the game, and hope the tweaks work better. I use this example to illustrate how I game should have been good (and I really wanted it to be), but the mechanics bogged down the fun-factor.

It's gotta be smooth. Even deep and difficult games with convoluted (for lack of a better word) rules can be very good. It's all in the execution.

Not sure if I even answered the question, but there you go haha

Supporter13 months ago

I think this is a good approach. 

You are totally right - each year the Oscar winning movies are all considered good but how many of them are actually fun to watch? It’s a rare year when a film that I personally consider good makes the Oscars. Those “great” movies sure are boring. 

Can this same principle be applied to board games?

Supporter13 months ago

I agree about smoothness. But I think some can make a game so smooth it has no bite to it. For instance, I think that Castles of Burgundy is smooth, chess is smooth, but they are so smooth as to be bland. 

Sometimes it is a element that is just a little forced that gives the game its flavor. For instance the combat in Scythe feels like a bit of an afterthought to me. Maybe Jamey felt like he needed it to for his artist. But that single slightly jarring note makes me love it. It gives this otherwise engine building euro a real air of threat and menace. It objectifies "playing the player" in a real tangible way. 

13 months ago

Good point, and that was implied in my thoughts, however I failed to actually express it with words haha Thank you for bringing that up! And Scythe is a great example.