Saturday, March 14, 2015

Random Number Generation

I might be in a minority when it comes to video game players who also grew up rolling a lot of dice in table-top games, but here goes.  In essence, I learned at a young age that probability is a cruel mistress, and "natural 20s" really only happen when you don't want them to.  Granted, the vagaries of dice mechanics have not really transitioned over to modern video games outside the rogue-like genre...until very recently.  XCOM: Enemy Unknown was the first big surge in chance-to-hit gameplay.  Since then it has been popping up in other games every once in a while.  Each time it does there comes a wave of complaints about how RNG screwed up the experience.  On some level I can sympathize.  I could never get into gambling simply because it's not much fun losing, and in order for casinos to exist they pretty much have to ensure that you lose (sooner or later).  Even so, video games can, and usually are, more generous.

The risk of failure is used as a tension building device which can be mitigated somewhat by careful planning and good tactics.  Sadly, there are times when lady luck turns her back on us, laying waste to even the best strategies.  Good games mitigate this with the opportunity to make a dramatic comeback.  However, I notice an alarming tendency for pessimism among certain segments of the video gaming populous.  When they're having a good streak it's what's expected, but when fortune turns foul then RNG has screwed them again (rather than the inevitable results of probability).

My inclination is to dismiss such individuals as ill-tempered teenagers, but the reality is this sort of disdain for chance is extremely prevalent among board gaming communities.  Statistics gathered from the database website board game geek strongly indicates that the community there dislikes games that utilize randomness in the mechanics.  It's a sentiment I can't really relate to since, to me, nothing is more boring/frustrating than knowing what the outcome is yet being powerless to change it.  If I were to play a competitive match of chess or "go" against a grand master, my defeat would be guaranteed.  On the other hand, if the game has an element of chance then the possibility exists for a different outcome even in the face of a vastly more skilled opponent.  That's perhaps overly optimistic way of looking at things, but lets face it; real life has a lot of RNG, and I don't want to hate life.

Then again...

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