Lights, Camera… Fraction!

Getting into gaming isn’t easy. Most games involving high amounts of luck are frowned upon by gaming communities as “casual”, but those with steep learning curves are intimidating to newcomers. On one side of the spectrum we have games like Snakes and Ladders, which is entirely based on the roll of the dice, and on the other we have Chess, a game leaving virtually nothing to chance. But there must be some kind of middle ground, right? A good game should balance skill and luck, meaning that it’s not impossible for a complete novice to win but that those who work on their abilities are able to overcome a bad dice roll, or two (or ten).

Casual gamers take up a huge percentage of the online gaming community, and if you’re new to gaming the chances are that you’ll want to do well the first time. No-one enjoys playing a game they consistently fail at — that’s no fun at all! But winning at a challenging game is so much more rewarding. The success of the Facebook game Farmville is an excellent example of a casual game with high rewards that requires a minimum level of skill, whereas playing the best casino games online often comes down to a case of psychological warfare and probability-based planning Vs a small element of ‘Lady Chance’. Backgammon is often described as a game which takes five minutes to learn but a lifetime to master; the luck of the dice work as a counter to the strategy, risk management and mental arithmetic a pro-player would use.

Have a look at board games and you’ll see. Settlers of Catan is a classic game which can be won entirely through lucky dice rolling, but tends to be more enjoyable at a higher skill-set. The same can be said of Carcassone, a game in which you cannot control what tile you select but can choose where to place it so as to best benefit yourself and damage others. The Battlestar Galactica board game is largely cooperative, fighting against the game itself and while it can be disappointing to play a game in which you are thoroughly destroyed, it’s always possible to take comfort in the fact that the odds were against you to begin with.

It’s difficult to determine in some games how much is skill and how much is luck, or chance. We’ve all had those times playing games where things just don’t seem to work out our way, no matter how hard we try — enough experiences like this and the game can lose all entertainment. The balance is important, so we can justify to ourselves that winning a game takes skill, but losing is just bad luck.

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