Tuesday, August 30, 2016

LS: CO-OP Gaming


LS: CO-OP Gaming

Have you ever sat down to play a game, and instead of walking away having enjoyed your night, you feel the need to storm out of the room?  Or perhaps spent a portion of the night listening as others joked and laughed while you quietly brood in the corner, plotting your revenge as soon as the dice/cards/gods of tabletop games finally turn in your favor.  Maybe you like spending your night that way, but for me, I’ll pass.

 Now I know that the essence of competition is having someone win and someone else lose.  I get it.  But that doesn’t mean it feels good, and sometimes it can feel downright awful.  I mean seriously, why does the exact same person always win? And why does he have to do it with that stupid little smirk?  We get it.  You won.  Again.  Good for you.

It doesn’t always have to be this way.  

Things have changed a lot since I was a kid.  Somewhere along the line, some really creative people jumped in the mix and we all get to reap the benefits.  Gone are the days of simple roll the dice and move your colored pegs until someone reaches the end.  There no longer need to be winners and losers in every game.  No, now is a time that includes cooperative gaming.

Now, I am not certain if there is an official ‘tabletop gaming’ definition of a cooperative game, so you are stuck with mine.  A cooperative game is exactly like it sounds; all players are working together towards a common goal.  As a team, you either win or lose.  Everyone celebrates together, or you all get to pout in the corner together.  Yea team!

One of most widely known examples of a cooperative tabletop game is the game Pandemic.  Quick overview, a plague is taking over the world.  You are a team of scientists, engineers, and doctors that must find a cure and distribute it in order to save the world.  If you win, everyone lives, if you fail the world is doomed.  So you know.  No pressure.  

While you play, each player has an opportunity to make their own moves.  If I want to travel to Australia and build a hospital, I can do that.  It is advised however that everyone discuss what is happening and make decisions that benefit everyone.  I mean, lets pretend this is real life for a minute.  If you find a cure in real life it is in everyone’s best interest that everyone is healthy, right? 

Cooperative gaming is great when you want to play a game, but you don’t want the drama.  Everyone is strategizing and plotting their moves, but they are doing it together.  Do you have a child, or an adult in your group who falls apart when they lose?  No problem tonight.  

Now I know, there is at least one person out there working themselves up into a good rant about how this is what is wrong with children today.  Everyone is a winner all the time, no one is ever allowed to lose, and we are all expected to walk around like the world is made of rainbows so no one ever feels bad.  

First of all, calm down, that isn’t what we are talking about today.  

The benefits of cooperative gaming are for everyone.  From a educational standpoint, this type of board game can promote problem solving skills, teamwork, and organization.  Using Pandemic as our example again, we have a disease to cure and four players.  We all know what cards we have and what our personal in-game skills are.  Problem solving and teamwork come when all four of us work together.  We list our skills, and organize a plan.  Here is where is gets a little more interesting.

Anyone who has ever played chess has heard the concept of looking at the board and planning several moves ahead.  If I move my knight here, they will move their rook there, but if I move my pawn, their rook will likely stay where it is.  This type of planning was one of the large lessons in teaching children to play chess.  It was more than just being a classic game, it was learning to look for the patterns, the potential cause and effect, and planning for the most likely scenario.  

Cooperative gaming also requires planning several moves again.  If player one goes here, then player two needs to go over there.  Or if player one does not go over there, the game might be over before player two gets a chance to go to the other place.  You need to see what needs to be done, and plan out what everyone is going to do each move and ready to adjust if things start to go south.  

There is no room for ego in cooperative gaming.  If doesn’t matter who puts the final piece on the board, and everyone needs to be willing to let someone else have the glory.  Sure, I might want to be the one who eradicates an illness, but if I push it too much it might actually cost us the game.  So what if someone else played the cards that cured the disease.  I still win.  But that is the point of cooperative gaming, isn’t it?  We all win.