Sunday, August 11, 2019

On cooperative games

Last weekend was Gen Con. On our drive home from the convention Sunday, I had some thoughts about some of the games I increasingly enjoy. It turns out I really like cooperative games.

Now, this isn't to say I don't enjoy some competitive games. I do. Sometimes.

But cooperative games, where the players are competing with the environment, are my current favorites. And I think they serve a very useful purpose in life.

We are more and more splintered. I increasingly feel like we are less able to work together. But cooperative games, whether board games, card games, video games, role playing games, or any other type of games, require us to work together to defeat a common enemy or solve a common problem. We have to recognize when another player might be better suited to a task. We sometimes have to step back and take the assist, setting that player up to do the thing, rather than try to do the thing and fail.

Anyone who plays a team sport probably recognizes the same dynamic of the team working together. Granted, there is an opposing team, but it's still about cooperating and working together.

Over the years, I've watched our sons struggle with competitive games. Which still have value. We still need to learn how to both win and lose gracefully. But they change when they have to work together. It isn't just supporting each other. It's watching them figure out the next couple of moves, and how each player can contribute to the goal.

Life isn't a zero sum game, even though some people play as if it were. In life, we have to work together. We can't survive without other people, without their skills and knowledge, without their support.

In cooperative games, we can't win on our own. We need the other players to help gather resources, or contribute their skills. We need the players to work together. And I think those are skills that need to be taught and reinforced because we need those same skills in the real world.

This post isn't the most eloquent. I'm not feeling particularly eloquent at the moment. But I wanted to talk about the value of cooperation, and, by extension, cooperative games.

Our favorite cooperative games

To end, I'd like to shout out a few of our favorite cooperative games. This list is by no means comprehensive. It's just a few that we enjoy. Please share your favorites in the comments.

  • Doctor Who Time of the Daleks: If you play this board game by the official rules, one player wins. But all the players are playing the same character, so our house rule is that we all win or all lose together.
  • Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle: We have fun playing this deck building card game as a family.
  • Battlestar Galactica the Boardgame: Ok, this board game is actually semi-cooperative, since one or two players is a secret Cylon. But it's mostly cooperative!
  • Elder Sign: A dice game based on H.P. Lovecraft, so of course the players win or lose together.
  • Arkham Horror the Card Game: Again, based on H.P. Lovecraft, so the players win or lose together.
  • Castle Panic: A tower defense board game, this is another fun family game.
  • Outfoxed!: We bought this game when the boys were much younger--it's recommended for ages 5 and up. At the time, there were few cooperative board games for kids.
  • Minecraft: We've played as a family, and sometimes with friends, with no PVP. This is a great game for creativity, where we can all build interesting things. And we can explore and battle mobs together.
  • Lord of the Rings Online: A more complex online game, based on the Lord of the Rings. The players are all on the same side, battling to save Middle Earth.