Monday, June 15, 2020

Multidimensionality of game scoring

One obvious internal good of a game is victory. But victory generally isn’t everything, even when one restricts oneself to the internal goods. Score is another internal good: it is internally better to win by a larger amount—though a narrower victory (but not so narrow that it look like it was just a fluke) is typically externally more enjoyable. Similarly, there can be the additional internal good—often created ad hoc—of winning without making use of some resource—winning a video game without killing any character, or climbing a route while using only one hand. But there are other internal goods that are not just modifications of victory. For instance, in role-playing games, being true to your character’s character is an internal good that can be in conflict with victory (this is important to the plot of the film The Gamers: Dorkness Rising). There is an honor-like internal good found in many games: for instance, in versions of cut-throat tennis with rotation, it makes sense to throw a game to prevent your doubles partner from winning—but it would feel dishonorable and like poor sportsmanship. Elegance and “form” are other internal goods found in many sports.

Enumerating these internal goods would be an endless task. Probably the better thing to do is to say that we have the normative power of creating a plurality of internal-value partial orderings between possible playthroughs and labeling them as we wish, often using terms that provide an analogy to some external value comparison: “more honorable than”, “more peaceable than”, “more victorious than”, “more elegant than”, etc.

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