When Chance Is Fun In Gaming


The other day I was having trouble falling asleep and decided to do some work advancing my team in Marvel: Contest Of Champions, the character collecting brawler released by Marvel and Kabam earlier this year. It’s an OK game—the graphics and gameplay are actually pretty great, and it’s addictive trying to advance your team and obtain new characters. But it isn’t without its annoying aspects, and I stumbled on one the other night that just about had me breaking my iPhone….

Sometimes, it seems, you just aren’t allowed to win. I was locked in a ferocious battle against Wolverine, whose character in the game has the ability to regenerate health during a fight. That’s all well and good as a connection to the actual Wolverine character and his unnatural healing ability, and I can deal with it to an extent in the game. But this computerized Wolverine absolutely refused to not have 100% health. I scratched, clawed, kicked, punched and tackled him into oblivion—I was Black Panther—and at one point had something like a 52-hit streak on him. And then he killed me. And he had full power.

My conclusion: as fun as this game can be, and as many hours of sleep as I’m ashamed to say I’ve lost to it, sometimes it’s pure chance. I simply wasn’t allowed to beat Wolverine that time around, no matter how well I played or how highly my character was rated. Gamers will know the feeling. It happens in all kinds of games, every now and then—sometimes, it’s just not going to happen.

Naturally I was a bit ticked off, and Marvel: Contest Of Champions and I are now on an indefinite hiatus. But it got me thinking about chance in gaming, and when, if ever, it can be fun instead of frustrating. There aren’t a ton of examples I came up with. Generally, we wanted to be rewarded for skill and technique, and pure chance can get in the way of this. But if you, like me, are occasionally frustrated by all of this, here are a few instances I came up with in which chance can actually enhance a gaming experience.

Civilization Games

By labeling a category “Civilization Games,” I’m not literally talking about Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise, though it would probably rank as my favorite franchise in this genre. Really, this could be anything that involves world building and exploring…. It could be a Meier game, it could be World of Warcraft, it could even be Minecraft. The point is, in games that involve sprawling worlds and external factors meant to make it more difficult to advance your own team or civilization, randomized difficulty is entirely the point. Yes, there is skill involved in each and every one of these games, but every now and then you run into the equivalent of my Wolverine nemesis…. You know, you’re happily exploring your map, your capital city is about to complete a wonder of the world, and bam! You run into the ancient Babylonians, they refuse to be diplomatic, and they happen to be more militarily advanced than you. Tough luck.

But in these sorts of games, it’s these frustrating defeats and complications that keep things realistic and entertaining. Where’s the fun in advancing a civilization or team through time or across an entire world map without getting your ass kicked now and then?

Pay Games Online

I’m not talking about poker here because I actually buy in (no pun intended) to the fact that there’s a pretty good amount of skill and technique involved. But the casino industry isn’t without its other gaming thrills, many of which involve pure chance. And with actual money on the line, this makes for a pretty fun experience as long as you know what you’re getting into. With a game like blackjack, for example, that means knowing the math and strategies behind different hands. For roulette, however, it means knowing the difference between the games. The descriptions at InterCasino of various roulette wheels recently tipped me off to the interesting fact that the odds are actually better for the player in “European Roulette” as opposed to “American Roulette.” With knowledge like this in hand, you can put yourself in a position to win based simply on how and where you play. The game itself, however, remains pure chance.

Somewhat similarly, paid fantasy sports games definitely involve a thrilling element of chance, though many wouldn’t consider these “games,” instead insisting they’re skill-based. For example, at FanDuel, you can literally join a “50/50 league” (the top 50% of scorers making money, the bottom 50% losing out), pick a team of players, and leave it up to them to perform and win you fantasy points. There’s some skill in scouting, sure, but this is one game in which the chance sort of makes the experience.

Online Multiplayer Competition

Granted, this category can overlap with the others, and specifically with specific online civlization-type games. But I’m really talking about console multiplayer experiences, which may be the ultimate blends of skill and chance. This one doesn’t require a great deal of explanation if you’ve ever played an online multiplayer console game. Take Call Of Duty for instance: every now and then, you get plopped into a game map against an individual who’s so good it’s just unfair. Or sometimes, if you’re playing with friends, you get paired up against a team of obsessive CoD gamers so in sync it seems like they’re implementing battle strategy right out of Sun Tzu. In those cases, you’re just going to get rocked.

And, just as it is in civilization games, this sort of variety keeps these games interesting. Yeah, you’ll be pissed off for a few minutes, but odds are you’ll load up a new game right away and take out your frustration on your next opponent.

On the other hand, when you’re playing a private arcade game and an automated Wolverine refuses to take on damage, there’s no fun involved.

About the author

No one cared who I was until I put on the monocle... You can follow Prometheus on Twitter @PrometheusPtwor Or contact him at Prometheus@punchingthewallsofreality.com