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Games of Skill


Disciplines > Game Design > Types of Game > Games of Skill

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Games of skill are those in which winning or otherwise succeeding is dependent on the skill of the player, rather than on chance.

Many games have a degree of chance that the player may win even if they lack skill. In a pure skill game, there is no chance at all. Completely pure games are rare as even in games like chess the other player may make mistakes.

Skills that may be needed include:

  • Hand-eye coordination, such as in many video games.
  • Whole-body coordination, as in sports such as football.
  • Physical endurance, such as in marathon running.
  • Reading the mind of others, such as in poker.
  • Deception, doing things to confuse others, as in fencing.
  • Teamwork, as in hockey or multi-player role-play games.
  • Multi-move thinking, such as in chess.
  • Knowledge and recall, such as in trivia games.
  • Puzzle-solving, such as in adventure games.

Many games require a number of these skills, not just one.


Chess requires logical thinking along the lines of 'If I do this, they if she does that, then I will do this, ...'. For higher levels, it is important to have a deep knowledge of standard openings, gambits and endings. The ability to logically confuse and psychologically scare one's opponent can also help.

Football players need endurance, ball control, good coordination, strength, agility and other physical skills. They also need the ability to read the field, good teamwork and understanding of complex moves, tactics and strategies.


People play skill games because they provide enjoyment in several ways, including:

  • The pleasure of learning and improving.
  • The physical or intellectual arousal gained.
  • The sense of control gained from exercising skill.
  • The status gained from winning.
  • The camererie and sense of belonging from playing in teams.
  • The social intimacy and threat limitation of playing against a single other player.

Some of the best games of skill are those in which skilled players can play unskilled players and each can still enjoy themselves (this is a reason why there is a handicap system in golf).

There should ideally also be a steady increase in learning, as this gives us pleasure in improving our skill. Many games have a pattern where an early rapid increase in skill is followed by a natural plateau, during which many give up the game as they do not seem to be getting any better. For those who persist, improvements take off again as practice turns deliberate, effortful action into natural, subconscious success. If the player keeps trying to learn, there may be a number of these ramps and plateaus as they approach ultimate mastery (which may in reality be unattainable perfection).

See also

The Purpose of Games, Learning Theory, Stage Theories


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