Thursday, September 29, 2005

Analysis Paralysis: When You're Not Smart or Decisive Enough

(Warning: Those easily offended can piss off.)

Let me be blunt. Analysis paralysis is caused by a mismatch of a game which demands brainpower, and a player who lacks the brainpower to recognize what's going on AND make a decision on what he wants to do.

I'm tired of games being criticized for this. You choose to study rocket science, you'd better have the brainpower. You want to play Java? You'd better have the brainpower. Otherwise, please stick to Settlers where you toss the dice and ask people if they have wood for sheep (cue Butthead here) and don't need to think.

So, translating: If you see a comment about a game that claims it causes analysis paralysis, it means "this game is too hard for me and my gaming group." If you see a low rating along with that comment, that means "we're not smart enough to play games that demand more thought, in a reasonable amount of time." Or maybe "we're smart, but we're not decisive enough and need to spend gobs of time sifting through each option repeatedly."

Don't blame the game.

You know, if the game causes analysis paralysis, you should rate it HIGHER and aspire to be able to play that game in its indicated playing time. Once you do that, you can claim that you've either become smarter or more decisive or both.


I finish this post, look at BGG and what do you know, a Geeklist on analysis paralysis and timers. If I post this on BGG, the propriety police will jump up and down, so I'll say it here. If your players can't play the game properly without a timer (i.e., they're not smart or decisive enough), step down a bit. Try something will a lower difficulty level, then "graduate" to the real games.

The negotiation games like AGoT and ToG, you have the same problem as the fellow who asks "got wood for sheep?" ten times before giving up. Decisiveness is required. If the deal isn't there, more on instead of wasting time trying to harangue people because you think you're smart enough to pull to wool over their eyes (you're probably not if you're taking that long). Or conversely, tell the player who's badgering you to do what he wants to piss off, you're not interested.

But RoboRally? You have to be joking. After you've taken a bit of damage your moves get locked anyway. What's the problem? Wallenstein? TORRES?! Torres is a lightning fast game especially without all ten cards in hand. When you know the game and have all the cards, it gets even faster because you have the means to do stuff! Princes of Florence? Goa?! Sheesh.

The absolute worst one is Citadels. What the heck takes people so long to pick a role? It's not like you can guess which character is going to get assassinated or pickpocketed, so why the fuck are you waffling? Five seconds to choose a role, no more. That's why I gave this one up on BSW - the time it took people to choose roles was infuriating, simply because there THERE IS NO INFORMATION to base your pick on! It's a Faidutti game for crying out loud. Bruno doesn't make games with agonizing decisions! I think he'd go into convulsions if he knew that people were suffering from analysis paralysis over one of his games.


Jasen said...

Taught a game of Goa recently where 2 people were consistently in la-la-land, talking to people walking by, eating, thinking about singularities (or whatever). I constantly had to remind them it was their turn. 2 hrs into the game we still hadn't finished and had to call the game. It was certainly frustrating as the game really could be played in about an hour if everyone paid attention. So in my experience, Goa isn't so much a game with AP problems; it has more of an ADD problem.

That being said, BGG ratings tend to reflect the sum of a player' experience with a game. My rating of Goa won't change as I recognized the sub-par gaming moment was due to the slow players. However, I'm sure the other players (new at the game) felt the game was slow and tedious and ambiguous in flow. Will that reflect poorly in their rating? Probably.

Back to one of your examples: if your sum total of experience with Citadels was with slow players on BSW, would your rating not go down? Remember, you don't have another frame of reference to compare to. (Most of my games of Citadels have been FASTER on BSW then in real life, by the way - hence my complaints about downtime in the game). As another example, I've only played 2 incomplete marathon games of TI3 and I've decided I'd likely never play it again. The game might be good but my past experience certainly affects my willingness to play it again, which is something the BGG rating scale attempts to quantify. While I agree that a game's potential for AP is not in itself an design flaw, it is still a legit reason (excuse) for certain people to rate a game lower on the BGG scale.

Rick said...

It's a personal thing vs an other players thing. If it's you, and you're not smart or decisive enough to take your turns quickly in a game, then you should rate it higher.

If the people you're playing with are the problem, play something else with them because they're not smart or decisive enough to play that game.

The latter is ESPECIALLY true with Citadels. I'd give a bit of leeway for a game like Verrater, where you have to do a bit of calculation when selecting a role. But Citadels? My F2F games are faster than any of the BSW games I've been engaged in. What's amazing is that in my F2F games we can carry on a conversation while playing at a fast clip. On BSW, no one talks (or types) and yet they take forever to select a role! Idiots.

J C Lawrence said...

This is at best partially true. Analysis paralysis is not an attribute of games, and it is not an attribute of players, it is an attribute of the viewpoint certain players have, fairly or unfairly (your choice, it doesn't really matter) of particular other player's behaviour. It is entirely subjective.

To give an annecdotal example:

-- At one point I frequently played two player Blokus games in under 15 minutes. They were great fun.

-- During that period I also played a single two player Blokus game (same opponent) which lasted a little under two and a half hours. I loved it, and that session is possibly my single most enjoyed and favourite game session ever. I run out of superlatives for it.

Was there analysis paralysis? No. In both cases we were playing at a rate that was mutually comfortable to us. Do you really want to ask for more?

Yehuda said...

Response here.


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