Monday, February 20, 2006

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost

I was talking to Cyberkev today, who, despite being an intelligent man, says he can't understand my taste in games. He accused me of being a game snob (correctly!) yet wanting games like Munchkin (correct). "Does not compute" for Cyberkev, which I guess just goes to show that I'm a complex individual, which I would have thought that a secret master would understand. Hmm, hang on, my wife doesn't understand and she's known me 12 years, why should Cyberkev have me figured out? Anyway, my theory is that I have different aspects to my personality. Freud thought that too.

I suspect the largest influence on my gaming is what Freud would have called the id: the id wants whatever feels good at the time, with no consideration for the reality of the situation. The id wants to play Domaine, Tikal, Gipf, Through the Desert, Vinci, Euphrat & Tigris and For Sale. The id wants severely hard games that keep me thinking. These are usually my top-rated games.

Then there's the ego: the ego understands that other people have needs and desires. That leads me to games that are more fun in the traditional sense, such as Mystery of the Abbey, Amazonas, Shadows Over Camelot, Wyatt Earp, Pick Picknic and Pirate's Cove. I will play these games and enjoy them, but they're not particularly mentally challenging and they don't satisfy the primeval needs of the id. However due to the availability of opponents they get played more often. These games can rate quite highly, and provide some sort of satisfaction. Mystery of the Abbey, Amazonas and Pirate's Cove also feed some magpie instinct in me as well, but Freud didn't mention magpies so I am not sure how to address that issue.

Finally, there's the superego: the superego is the moral part of us nd develops due to the moral and ethical restraints placed on us by our caregivers. My superego wants me to play games that others want to play. As I have a 9yo son, that includes Goosebumps games, but also games like Munchkin, Hex Hex, Sitting Duck Gallery, Zombies, Once Upon a Time and Bang!. These sorts of games get played as little as I can manage, but all the dads out there will recognise that any time spent with their kids having fun is a good time. These games are for when you're playing with little people, or non-gamers, or people whom you just want to be around without wasting your life drinking and gossiping. And of course, unless your kid understands the strategies behind Munchkin, he'll never be any good at Diplomacy.

So on to the extraordinary vanity and irreverence... The id games satisfy the holy ghost, that thing inside of me that is me. Daniel Dennett calls it the homonculus, in the process of explaining that it doesn't exist. The superego games satisfy the father in me, giving me a chance to interact with and educate those not yet ready for Tikal. And the ego games let me play nicely with others, like a good son. I'm not going to claim that I really *am* God, readers can decide that for themselves :-).

Of course, there are many games I have played solely with the intention of finding which category they belonged in. There are some games which even the superego can't deal with. My quest to find the perfect games group is a quest to find players whose id games match my id games, so that after a session we feel that no matter who won or lost, something great was achieved. Is that possible? I don't know. But it's a dream worth dreaming.

References: Psychology 101, homonculus


Ryan Walberg said...

Excellent post.

Jason Little said...

Wow... Great stuff. I've often wondered why I have such incredibly varied tastes, and may enjoy a rich, euro-designed strategy gem one day, then be all for a good ol' fashioned, luck-filled dice dest another.

Heck, maybe it's like drinking... Beer fits the pizza or burger niche. Wine matches the pasta or fish palate. A nice Whiskey & Coke or Cape Cod might be just what I need with a steak... Different flavors tantalize the taste buds at different times.