Speed in/of Games

23:53 Tue 06 Mar 2007
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I showed Seth how to play Set last week. He didn’t have much interest in it, and this made me curious as to why I liked it so much immediately whereas he just didn’t get into it.

We talked about it for a while, and the key seems to be speed. In going through other games, we noted that I seemed to like games involving a lot of speed—Spit, for example. Hand speed is important there, but so is speed of thought, and that appeals to some part of me. Even in FPSes, we had that difference: Seth likes to play games like Unreal Tournament, where the pace is slower and sniping is more profitable, whereas Q3A/CPMA is absolutely my favorite: a crazily fast FPS involving constant movement and high-speed action.

This even extends to some of our tendencies in computer use. Seth has for years tended to automate any tedious task. I, on the other hand, like to automate also but am also likely to simply learn the requisite keystrokes and how to repeat them very quickly. (I consider the automation approach to be clearly superior; it’s just that my first impulse is to just try to do the task quickly rather than to figure out how to automate it.)

When we played Set, Seth was mildly interested at first, and mildly intrigued by learning how to make sets, but once he figured that out, he didn’t have much further interest. My own experience with the game was similar, except that once I learned how to make them, my thought was “okay, how do I do that faster?”.

In my early days as a Web Developer, I would sometimes make the work more interesting to myself by trying to do it as quickly as possible.

Some of this is clearly the “Type A” aspect of my personality coming through. That’s not all of it, though. There’s also a part of me that revels in the agility/virtuosity involved (mental as well as physical). That was (and is) strongly the case with Q3A/CPMA, where I absolutely loved being able to express skill/focus in the game through high-speed/high-intensity action (and I wasn’t even that good, but the skill depth of the game rewards even modest improvement in terms of being able to do things that seem crazy to a beginner).

So I don’t think it’s just a “Type A” thing, an efficiency thing. There’s something else there, some aesthetic factor regarding speed of thought, how impressive it is, and how much fun it is to exercise it.

Sadly, thus far I haven’t been able to engage that drive with MTG. Speed of thought isn’t explicitly rewarded in that game, although it is nevertheless a major advantage. I need to use my game clocks more, and play versions that do explicitly reward speed of thought, in order to improve my skills there (and perhaps to get me to play it more, as I’m not playing it much these days at all).

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