Gevlon wrote a pretty sarcastic piece (I think it was meant to be sarcastic!) calling for the end of all randomization in gaming to counterbalance the future of loot box mania (which is already here, and not going anywhere). I do appreciate that some people – and “gamers” in particular – appreciate some certainty. This is why we went from random boss drops in MMOs to tokens, and the like. Some randomization is good, but when it is too much in specific circumstances it can be bad. Many games try to find a balance.
Back in 2009 I wrote a piece about how much I love randomization in games – often in extreme cases. While the premise was built on a pen and paper game that took the idea to a very fun place.
One thing I loved about the Star Wars pen and paper game was the concept of the ‘red’ dice. SW was played with all d6 – and on your rolls you always had to had an off colored dice. That dice was the “special” dice. We called it the fate dice. It may have officially have been called the ‘Force’ dice. I’m not sure. Its been 15 years. The crux of it? You rolled real bad on that dice, even if you rolled all 6’s on the others, and crazy things would happen. Crazy bad. It also worked in the reverse, where a good roll – on that one dice – would make amazingly incredible things happen. Out of the ordinary.
The off color dice in Star Wars PnP gave a full creative licence to the Game Master to do amazing things to the person, situation, and campaign. The game was far better for it. I even loved the randomization of a bad luck roll that cost me a perma-death member of my Blood Bowl team (in that same article). That was always part of the game and the chance that that could happen made the game have consequence and tension. I could easily avoid that chance by not playing that character but I would lose more games because of it. Choice and consequence are exciting things in games and sometimes I feel like we are seeing less of both.
Truth be told when thinking about randomization in games it’s basically the main vehicle to keep things interesting. Games (across all spectrums – board, card, digital, heck, even live sports!) are built on chance and that chance creates the moments that make the games worthwhile. If not for randomization, we would just be playing math problems – and as much as I like math I also like shooting things in the face and having random things happen around that. In cards, the lone Euchre hand is built on randomization. What cards are dealt in each of the four hands (100% random, but from a defined number of options) what card your opponent leads with (partially random, with some skill based on experience) and when and what trump cards you use. Being able to say “I’m not playing this hand” after it is dealt to you in essence ruins the game. Especially moreso for the person who actually has a lone (or strong) hand to play. Most board games have rounds resolved (or started) with the roll of a dice – what is more random than that? Taking away the element of chance is taking away concept of the “game” as well. Sure, some games such as Chess have no random elements outside of the human choice made (which is defaulted more to strategic thought) but on the whole – if you are playing or watching most games there are elements of chance and elements of strategy – how much of each co-exist is dependent on the game itself.
I do agree that randomization should not be tied to – or a result of – monetary investment. This is the slippery slope where video games are heading (or at, depending on perspective) and once again it is up to the consumer base to send a message by voting with their wallet. It has been demonstrated that some people actually like that opportunity to exchange their time for money and as such many of these titles will see success with the model and continue to build those contingencies in.
Thankfully we live in a gaming world of choice, and not just chance. It’s far more interesting that there is both.