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The Balance Principle

 

Disciplines > Game Design > Principles > The Balance Principle

Principle | Action | Discussion | See also

 

Principle

We seek fairness and equality and feel wronged if this is not offered or achieved.

Action

Make the game balanced and equitable, so people feel they can have a good game with a reasonable chance of winning. This may include:

  • Each player starts with the same tools, equipment, money, etc.
  • The same rules of chance apply equally to all (for example through rolling dice, drawing cards, random computer sequence, etc.).
  • Players take turns to act.
  • Players have the same amount of time to take their turn, or the same total time for all turns (as in competitive chess).
  • Skilled players are handicapped so those with less ability still have a chance to win (like in golf).
  • Have an impartial referee to administer rules and settle disputes.

Discussion

We all have a need for fair play and will quickly rebel if we feel we are being treated unfairly. In games this typically means refusing to play further. This easy withdrawal means games must be scrupulously fair. In fact we may seek the fairness of games as a refuge from the unfairness of life.

When people feel things are unfair, there needs to be a means of resolving this unhappiness. A common approach is recourse to the rules. An alternative is appeal to an independent arbiter.

An important balance in games is between chance and skill. If a game is based too much on chance, the players' sense of control is damaged as they realize that progression through effort and learning is impossible. If it is entirely skill-based, then weaker players may feel they have no hope of winning.

See also

The Need for Fairness, Relationships

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