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Competitive Games


Disciplines > Game Design > Types of Game > Competitive Games

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Competitive games are those in which players play against one another and where one player winning means another player loses.

Two player games are often competitive, with a distinct win-or-lose outcome. Two-team games often have the same pattern, where one team winning means the other team loses. It may also be possible for the outcome to be a draw, where neither team wins nor loses.

When there are scores (such as football) rather than simple win-lose (such as chess), then winning or losing has a variable degree. A 'whitewash' occurs where one team scores no points.

Competitive games may involve multiple competing players or teams. In such situations, the position relative to all others is important and 'first' and 'last' may be separated by many players in between.

Even one-player games can be competitive when a person plays against themself or a given standard. A single player may also compete against people who have previously played the game, but who are not playing now.

There are many ways points may be gained, including moving balls to certain positions, finding items of varying value and simply by winning.

Multiple individual games can be collected into competitions where the outcome may be determined by aggregate scores.


Chess is a two-player game with clear winner and loser. Chess tournaments may have many players and games.

Football is a two-team game where final scores may be close or widely separated.

Role-player games can involve multiple groups or individuals all seeking to find the same treasure first.


Winning is a deep human need that reflects our desire to find a mate and secure food. Stemming from this, winning also leads to esteem of others and increasing social status. Competitions provide a safe method of winning and gaining this good feeling in a way that (mostly) does not require harmful physical combat. Winning in games can hence lead to benefits in real life as others admire your skill and give you higher overall social status.

Win-lose games are often called 'win-lose' as one person winning has a simple 'zero sum' arithmetic balance with another person losing. 'Win-win' games are collaborative, where both may gain. It is possible for there to be 'win-win' in competitive games, for example where two players help one another in order to avoid losing out to other players.

A part of the excitement of competitive games is in predicting who will win. Games where one player is clearly superior and will always win are boring. Those where is it largely chance may also be unexciting. The best games are often those which mix chance and skill such that a good player will be more likely to win, yet a weaker player always has a chance to win. Over a series of games, though, if skill is involved then the most skilful player will win more often.

Sometimes games provide balance with artificial advantage to weaker players, such as the handicap system in golf.

There is also pleasure in learning in games and competitive games give an honest measure for this. Getting better scores and winning more games is a clear indication that you are getting better.

See also

Need to Win, Esteem, Status


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