Game Goals and Player Objectives
I remember the first time I realized I was playing a game where all the players had different objectives. I was between 5 and 8 years old. The game was Pay Day, a boardgame (and a pretty good one) my father had bought because it actually taught some microeconomics.
I enjoyed the game a lot. My family often played it together. Often, we would play it in a weekend, and get to some other event if we “had time.”
At one point while playing, I saw my sister was playing badly. Really, REALLY badly. She was actively doing the things most likely to cause her to lose. She was, in essence, throwing the game.
My father was playing badly, though not as badly as my sister, and doing all sorts of odd things that seemed pointless and often resulted in disadvantages for him.
My mother was playing badly, mostly because she wasn’t paying attention.
Unsurprisingly with all that going on, I was winning.
Now my family were all pretty smart folks, so I was baffled for a turn or two. Then, it dawned on me.
My sister didn’t want to play the boardgame at all. She wanted to go to the mall. So she was making sure that she’d be as far behind in the game as possible to ensure she didn’t accidentally extend it by having a score close to the winner, causing us to carefully count everything twice.
My father didn’t care about winning. He was a professor of economics, and was curious how the game would handle corner-case economic theory. Since it was a game the answer was often “not well,” and discovering that was more fun for him than beating his under-teen children or wife at a boardgame.
My mother had food in the oven, and was making sure my sister and I weren’t too bored. She didn’t care if she won, she just wanted everyone else to have a good time.
Only I was playing with the objective of winning.
It would be some years before I ran into a game where the point was for the players to all have different objectives, but it taught me a lot about play styles, game balance, and objectives.
After that, it was much more common for me to play the game with just my father, which suited my mother and sister just fine, though sometimes they were in a mood to play and those games were better than when it was a formal all-family activity.