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  • Playing Styles, and How Games Match One Style or Another

    [11.26.09]
    - Lewis Pulsipher

  • Many good players depend on intuition rather than study and logic to make good moves, yet the moves can be either Classical or Romantic. A Romantic player can also be a very cerebral or intellectual player who happens to prefer the Romantic style. Some people would refer to Classical players with derision as "mathematical" players. It is true that Classical players are concerned with odds and expected losses (though this alone doesn't identify or qualify a person as a Classical player). Nonetheless, Classical players do quite well in non-mathematical games.

    Games sometimes tend to favor one playing style over the other. Chess is clearly a Classical game. Poker tends to favor Romantic play, because so much depends on bluffing.

     It's hard to say whether Classical play, in a typical one-player video game, would involve careful consideration of moves and rare resort to reloading a saved game, or would involve frequent saves and attempts at all kinds of different tactics to find out which one is best. I tend to be a Classical player, and I prefer the former, but I'm not going to make the mistake of assuming I'm typical! Certainly, video strategy games, especially turn-based, are going to tend toward the Classical, while real-time games tend toward the Romantic.

    But this is only one way of looking at game playing styles. Another is to look at a player's reaction to fluidity and randomness. I'll call the three points of view the "Planner", the "Improviser", and the "Adapter" (who tends to represent the middle ground).

    The Planner likes to plan ahead -- well ahead. He is likely, though not certainly, going to prefer a game where much if not all of the information is always available, e.g. chess. He's likely to prefer turn-based rather than real-time games. When it's time for him to make a play, to execute a strategy, he doesn't want to find that the game has changed drastically owing to a recent move by someone else, or because of the nature of the game itself. The Planner will often be a Classical player as well, though this is not necessary.

    The "Improviser" doesn't like to plan ahead. He wants to adapt to circumstances at the time he makes his play, and he doesn't mind at all if circumstances change drastically between one play and the next, or in a short time (in a real-time game). Games with limited information availability aren't going to bother him, while games with perfect information aren't likely to be attractive.

    The "Adapter" likes to impose order on chaos, he wants to be able to see ahead a couple moves (or a short while in real-time) and then adapt to them, that is, arrange to "take control" of what's going on. As you can see, this falls somewhere between the other two.

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