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Subject: GPP 2.0 - Task 2.7 ... Player Skills rss

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Oliver Kiley
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Player Skills in games is an interesting and somewhat tricky topic. There appears to be a lot overlap between skills and broad types of games, but I think its worth understanding what types of skills are ultimately required. So, true to the Genome Project Format, here’s the three questions:

(1) What is the definition of the "skills" trait?

Skills are the cognitive and/or motor faculties that a player employs over the course of the game. Skills explain the "kinds" of decisions or actions players need to make in a given game.

(2) How can "skills" be measured?

First is the issue of understanding what skills are present in a game, purely from a yes or no standpoint. This can largely be determined in an objective fashion by reading the rules and playing the game.

A second layer is understanding or mapping the relative bearing different skills might have on the game. We could imagine a pie chart, where each slice is the relative use of a particular skill that is present in a game. I can imagine that many games use many of the skills, but some may be quite subtly relied upon and not really a primary driver of the decisions in the game.

(3) What are the different types of skills that games use?

Here is a pass at the list, based on comments from prior posts.

Pattern Recognition
Matching properties or attributes, seeing connections or commonalities. Does not necessarily imply spatial relationships (i.e. Set is pattern recognition with no spatial element). SET or Qwirkle

Spatial Planning
Visualizing future states, movements, or board positions. Imagining possible future conditions and planning backwards to the present. Chess is a good example of a game requiring lots of spatial planning. Chess or Taluva

Memory
Location-based memory, card memory, deck composition memory, etc. Stratego or Memory

Asset/Resource Management
I.e. hand management, resource balancing, accounting, action allocation, etc. Emphasis is on having to understand the flow of resources/assets.

Economic Cost / Benefit Valuation
Stock valuation, auction valuations, opportunity cost assessment, trade-offs. This is a potentially large category, but I’d like to constrain the definition to cost-benefit analysis that doesn’t also hinge on uncertainty, by way of player actions or chaos/randomness.

Risk Management
Press your luck, prediction of outcomes.
This of course builds on a basic cost/benefit valuation system, but introduces relative uncertainties into the equation. Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age or For Sale

Timing
Sequencing actions, manipulating turn order, working around other players actions. Understanding when to switch strategies or tactics (i.e. when to go from engine building to VP scoring).

Deduction
Deductive or inductive reasoning. Mr. Jack or Clue

Negotiation / Politics / Diplomacy
Requires reading other players and forming arrangements or agreements though open communication + dialogue. Diplomacy or Catan

Psychology / Bluffing
Requires reading other players motives/intents and responding appropriately. Generally does not require actual open communication and dialogue. Poker or The Resistance

Bidding
The tactical skills/decisions a player must make when bidding. Hinges on cost/benefit evaluation to determine initial bid targets, but requires a subtly different set of skills when bidding in a completive manner with other players. Modern Art or Poker

Calculation/Mathematics
Amount of calculation or arithmetic works players may need to employ over the course of the game.

Dexterity
Flicking stuff. Throwing things. Removing Jenga pieces. Generally hand-eye coordination based activities.

Speed
General quickness in making decisions or performing tasks. Certain games, particularly realtime games, hinge on player's speed at a given task. Pit

Performance
Skills related to acting, storytelling, singing, yodeling, dancing, etc. May involve creative expression in ways that do not require physical media. Charades or Dixit

Language/Word
Skills related to use of words, linguistics, vocabulary. Scrabble or Boggle

Creative
Skills related to creative expression with physical art media (drawing, modeling, painting, building, etc.) Cranium or Pictionary

Knowledge/Trivia
Requires skills or knowledge outside of the game environment. Trivial Pursuit

I think that covers most everything, but of course it’s open for discussion. In particular, I'd like to ease out the nuances between the various economic, cost-benefit related skills.
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Flying Arrow
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Social skills are missing. Negotiation involves evaluating the value of items, but it also involves not a small amount of persuasion.
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Oliver Kiley
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FlyingArrow wrote:
Social skills are missing. Negotiation involves evaluating the value of items, but it also involves not a small amount of persuasion.


Social skills as in communication, speaking, listening, etc?

I can see adding that. At the same time, I was trying to frame the negotiation/diplomacy specifically as a skill requiring communication. But I can see games in which communication is important on its own and not confined to a negotiation issue.
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Flying Arrow
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Oh - I read right past Negotiation in that list. But, yes, I think negotiation is a combination of multiple skills. To do well in negotiation, you need some combination of these skills: evaluating the worth of different options, communicating with others, persuading others, reading others' motives, and manipulating others' motives.
 
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Martin G
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I don't think I'm yet convinced that 'player skills' deserves to be a separate trait from 'genre'. Perhaps we could brainstorm some examples of games from the same genre that require different skills, to demonstrate their independence.
 
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Selwyth's description for genre is basically, "It's a _______ game." Then the categories are mainly categorization of winning conditions. In fact, I'd rename his "genre" trait to "winning conditions".
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Andrew
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In the spirit of robust inquiry, I'll offer some skepticism on a few categories:
* Asset/Resource management
* Risk management
* Timing
* Bidding
* Calculation/mathematics

Asset/resource management so far is pretty vague, and arguably the examples are a case of valuation of resources (including opportunity cost) and efficiency. I'm not sure what you mean by accounting.

Risk management as described sounds like a mixture of (as mentioned) valuation plus arithmetic for probabilities.

It's not clear to me that Timing is a skill separate to cost/benefit evaluation or a form of lookahead. For example in many cases the value of "first player" is the difference between the best action and the second best action; the engine-building/running strategic pivot revolves around comparing efficiencies.

Similarly, it's unclear what the non-valuation components of the bidding skill are, aside from bluffing (Poker), understanding bid increments and the value of cash, and performing valuation from opponents' perspectives.

Arithmetic frequently appears in games but it's seldom tested by games - eg calculators in Power Grid are accepted by many groups. In many ways it's a numeric form of lookahead or visualisation.
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Flying Arrow
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I'm having my doubts about the need for this trait. It seems like the skills a player needs are a function of the game's mechanisms. While mapping mechanisms to skills may make it easier for a user to search for games he likes (e.g. "I want games that makes me evaluate risk"), I'm not sure we're capturing anything different with this trait. Perhaps a robust set of mechanisms and a mapping from mechanisms to player skills is all we need.
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Martin G
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FlyingArrow wrote:
Selwyth's description for genre is basically, "It's a _______ game." Then the categories are mainly categorization of winning conditions. In fact, I'd rename his "genre" trait to "winning conditions".


I don't really agree with this. Looking at Selwyth's list of genres I can see several that overlap with player skills, and could not be defined as winning conditions:

* negotiation
* risk management
* risk valuation
* induction
* deduction
* dexterity
* psychological

Quote:
I'm having my doubts about the need for this trait. It seems like the skills a player needs are a function of the game's mechanisms. While mapping mechanisms to skills may make it easier for a user to search for games he likes (e.g. "I want games that makes me evaluate risk"), I'm not sure we're capturing anything different with this trait. Perhaps a robust set of mechanisms and a mapping from mechanisms to player skills is all we need.


I do agree with this though. I'm not convinced there's anything in 'player skills' that isn't captured by some combination of 'genre' and 'mechanisms'.

I'd also argue for a general principle of keeping this as simple as possible. A good first step would just be to have a sensible way of replacing the current "Category" and "Mechanic" with at most three other axes - probably "Genre", "Setting" and "Mechanisms".
 
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Oliver Kiley
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qwertymartin wrote:

Quote:
I'm having my doubts about the need for this trait. It seems like the skills a player needs are a function of the game's mechanisms. While mapping mechanisms to skills may make it easier for a user to search for games he likes (e.g. "I want games that makes me evaluate risk"), I'm not sure we're capturing anything different with this trait. Perhaps a robust set of mechanisms and a mapping from mechanisms to player skills is all we need.


I do agree with this though. I'm not convinced there's anything in 'player skills' that isn't captured by some combination of 'genre' and 'mechanisms'.

I'd also argue for a general principle of keeping this as simple as possible. A good first step would just be to have a sensible way of replacing the current "Category" and "Mechanic" with at most three other axes - probably "Genre", "Setting" and "Mechanisms".


You both may be right, in that player skills aren't needed, and I'm fine leaving this trait be for the time being.

I'm also all for keeping things simple, yet at the same time I don't want to "not" look more in depth at something just because there isn't a clear analogue with it the BGG database. Frankly, any change in the database is going to be a huge effort, and I'd rather wait until we fully explored all the various traits/categories before deciding what's worth advancing at the BGG level. I'm quite interesting in the player interactions/dynamics piece for instance, and would be loath to drop that from conversation.

It is somewhat a scoping question ... are we more interested in exploring all possibilities/traits, or just focusing on what's realistic to expect to change in the BGG database. I was thinking more along the lines of the former.

Anyway, good points and comments on the above. Thanks!
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Mezmorki wrote:
It is somewhat a scoping question ... are we more interested in exploring all possibilities/traits, or just focusing on what's realistic to expect to change in the BGG database. I was thinking more along the lines of the former.


The former, but I don't think we should attempt to capture any more information than is necessary.
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Brook Gentlestream
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Quote:
Negotiation / Politics / Diplomacy
Requires reading other players and forming arrangements or agreements though open communication + dialogue. Diplomacy or The Settlers of Catan

Psychology / Bluffing
Requires reading other players motives/intents and responding appropriately. Generally does not require actual open communication and dialogue. Poker or The Resistance


I don't like the term "reading other players". I don't see how that's a useful trait to define or quantify. For the bluffing skill, for example, I think I would prefer "deducing the hidden activities of other players" rather than reading of the other players' motives.

In fact, "reading the other player" seems like only one of many sub-skills and potential strategies involved in reacting to hidden information. The mere presence of bluffing and hidden information does not necessarily imply that the best response is through "reading" the other player. In some games, like Battlestar Galactica, you may be able to respond based on your information of previous open-information results. In games like Citadels, you may be able to predict your opponents reactions based on valuation of his most optimal moves available this turn. In games like Poker, or some hidden-information wargame, you may choose to base your decision on your knowledge of cards/pieces that have already been revealed relative to how many are in the game, or base your decision on how confident you are in your own hidden position.
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qwertymartin wrote:
I'm not convinced there's anything in 'player skills' that isn't captured by some combination of 'genre' and 'mechanisms'.

I'd also argue for a general principle of keeping this as simple as possible. A good first step would just be to have a sensible way of replacing the current "Category" and "Mechanic" with at most three other axes - probably "Genre", "Setting" and "Mechanisms".

Why don't you define genera as a set of mechanisms?

"Induction: Use a set of observations and truthful feedback to derive a general rule, out of near-infinite possibilities. – Mao, Zendo " This genre is literally a skill.

Is there a difference between checkers go and chess and if I wanted all games of this nature would I look for skill genera or 'effect'? I want the taxonomy to let me find the set of games that includes those three. The only skill is spatial calculation/reasoning. Directly competitive without diplomacy trade, deterministic and visible, even, manipulation of complicated space and pieces.

'Game theory' deserves to be a skill.
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David F
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qwertymartin wrote:
FlyingArrow wrote:
Selwyth's description for genre is basically, "It's a _______ game." Then the categories are mainly categorization of winning conditions. In fact, I'd rename his "genre" trait to "winning conditions".


I don't really agree with this. Looking at Selwyth's list of genres I can see several that overlap with player skills, and could not be defined as winning conditions:

* negotiation
* risk management
* risk valuation
* induction
* deduction
* dexterity
* psychological

Quote:
I'm having my doubts about the need for this trait. It seems like the skills a player needs are a function of the game's mechanisms. While mapping mechanisms to skills may make it easier for a user to search for games he likes (e.g. "I want games that makes me evaluate risk"), I'm not sure we're capturing anything different with this trait. Perhaps a robust set of mechanisms and a mapping from mechanisms to player skills is all we need.


I do agree with this though. I'm not convinced there's anything in 'player skills' that isn't captured by some combination of 'genre' and 'mechanisms'.

I'd also argue for a general principle of keeping this as simple as possible. A good first step would just be to have a sensible way of replacing the current "Category" and "Mechanic" with at most three other axes - probably "Genre", "Setting" and "Mechanisms".


Agree with the above two. Player skills is entangled in genre/mechanisms, and I think you need a mapping between them.

Tried to disassociate player skill from genre, but as Martin points out, it still bled in there. Pretty fine line between "winning condition" and "what you need to win". Maybe I mean that Genre should exclude super-general player skills like Memorization, Hand Management and Bluffing.

"Big 4" in my mind in determining gaming tastes and how similar games are to each other is Game Format (which I used to call IPR), Genre, Mechanisms, Theme/Setting/Subject.
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Lewis Pulsipher
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How important "player skills" is to any given person probably depends a lot on whether they fall into the "all games are math" school or "games are all about people" school, or where in between (and there's also the "games are about story" offshoot). "All games are math" tends to devalue the players, "games are all about people" tends to devalue the mechanisms of the game.

Leaning to the latter side, I am astonished that anyone would not regard genre and player skills as separate questions.
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Oliver Kiley
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Per the Modes of Thinking post, I think the triangle of spatial/logistical/intuitional thinking covers the broad gamut of player skills - obviously there are specifics within those categories. But I think the diagram provides the "mapping" that Selwyth is talking about, i.e. each genre fits within a particular zone or region in the diagram. So genre + skills are different, but there are strong associations between particular genres and the particular skills they require.
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lewpuls wrote:
"All games are math" tends to devalue the players, "games are all about people" tends to devalue the mechanisms of the game.

Reduce and solve all mechanics and only people are left. Of course for that there is game theory.
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Would it be useful to separate this list into two super-groups?

contested(interactive) versus uncontested(uninteractive) skills

If your ability to perform a skill is impacted by the actions of your opponent within the game, then the skill is contested
 
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