Uncertainty in Games: A mini-series

The unknown, unsolved, and unpredictable nature of games is exactly what makes them intriguing. As soon as you know that tic-tac-toe or Candy Land are deterministic activities, they lose all sense of engagement. Uncertainty, therefor, is the key factor in making an activity, a game.

In his carefully thought out book, Uncertainty in Games, Greg Costikyan lays out eleven unique sources of uncertainty that actually apply to all forms of entertainment, not just “games”, suggesting that it is the unknown nature of something that makes it “fun”. Everything from a good book to the most complicated of MMORPGs has some unpredictable behavior that we the consumer interact with to find enjoyment.

Through the next ten blog posts, I will explore each of these sources of uncertainty, and comment on how they apply the tabletop role playing games. It is my hope that through this exploration I can narrow in on exact aspects of our hobby, the ones that really make it tick, so that we can all better understand how they contribute to the tabletop experience.

If you are interested in board games, video games, puzzles, or really just how movies and books also have the same “uncertainty” as some games, I highly encourage you to pick up Uncertainty in Games!

Here is the full list of entries in the series:

  1. Randomness
  2. Player Performance
  3. Solver’s
  4. Players
  5. Analytical Complexity
  6. Hidden Information
  7. Narrative Anticipation
  8. Development Anticipation
  9. Schedule
  10. Meaning