My Predaceous Darling


Some of us are less game 'designers' than game 'providers'. In my castle, I am the master-at-arms of gaming and it is among my duties to seek and provide appropriate amusements. Some might say that makes me the jester or a common fool. The lady of the castle would likely not disagree with you. It is not a bad thing, laughter and fun are important things. But the kingdom's coffers and lady's leisure time are not endless. Great care must be taken in managing the entertainment provisions. And for this I depend on player analysis just as designers might.

She's a Killer!

Lady Nightstalker

Come nightfall she logs into her favorite playing grounds. Her priority is clear, she's come to win. Victory is her nightcap and all she needs is a willing opponent-victim. Often she'll play just long enough to get her score. There is a distinct element of competition and challenge in her desire. She wants to win well. If the first one falls too easily she may line up another, and another, until she's made a satisfying collective-killing. The openness and simplicity of the game's ecosystem ensures there is usually an abundance of prey milling about from all over the world. From what I observe, however, that is about as far as the desire for pure challenge goes.

Losing causes her some agitation. It may take several victories to clear the taste of a loss. Ending the night on a losing note leaves her mildly irritated until otherwise distracted. Fortunately, for me, it doesn't happen often. She knows her game; well enough to be able to call a probable win or loss long before the last pieces are in place. She won't quit and will see every game though to the end. Sometimes it is so close a finish I can't imagine how she saw the result so clearly.

She isn't anti-social as some of the above descriptions could lead one to believe. Early on in her experience she left the chat channel open and traded salutations with opponents. Unfortunately the frequency of being inundated with messages from one weirdo or another only increased over time. Some players attempt to spam the universal greeting key ("hello!" - "hello!" - "hello!" - "hello!" ...) as a distraction, looking for their own win in their own way. Others broach personal subjects quite unrelated to the game. She is not having any of it. Now she plays in silence, trusting that the non-weirdo opponents will understand.

My mission is to spoil her as best I can, as far as amusements go. I've worked hard to give good gaming experiences, but it can be hit and miss. Can you help this poor soldier of entertainment with some ideas and advice? Or perhaps share your own bequests?

Table Gaming

Boardgames for two have been generally of interest to her. She adores Reversi (Othello) which is the game referred to above. The chances of adding players are slim so I'm the prime opponent. Many board games just aren't fun enough without more players. Trivia or other language-based games are out due to my lack of proficiency in the primary language of the castle (suggesting the lady isn't proficient in my native tongue won't be do me any favors so we'll just kick that one under the carpet and pretend it isn't there, thank you.)

In conversations with children she professed confusion over Pokemon characters and cards in a manner which leads me to believe anything similar or more robust is out of the question. I think it is not so much that she can't remember the characters but a lack of wanting to, a lack of interest. Roleplaying isn't an impossibility as far as I can tell but something I'm working toward, very slowly. Miniatures and wargaming are unlikely candidates.

Electronic Assisted Gaming

At the arcade center we enjoy air hockey, crane games and some of the music-related consoles. It is distinctly a social event though, part of a date after dinner. She'd not come alone and doesn't even play while I'm getting more coins or off to the restroom.

It may or may not matter to her that a person is on the other end of a computer game instead of artificial intelligence. Simplicity and ease of use come first in her considerations. The game system link came pre-installed on her PC with no additional hassles. Other games she knowingly plays against the machine are also notably free of installation or sign-up requirements. The lady does not enjoy troublesome matters.

She likes some "unwinable" games (e.g. classic arcade games with no true end) in which she can steadily improve as well as the ones with clear win-loss parameters. A game's replay value is heavily influenced by tangible milestones and her ability to improve. Games that get ridiculously hard last only until she's found her ability ceiling and then are regulated to the boredom bin to await a rainy day when she may play again. Some never make comebacks.

Based on these observations I wondered what else she might enjoy. Classic arcade (Tetris, Pacman, Space Invaders) went over well. There are some indy Flash games she enjoys too. The "Brain Training" software line was a winner for a long stretch and comes out of the boredom bin often still. Many of the referenced games are cell-phone adaptions, we don't have piles of CDs and cartridges laying around the stronghold, so a particular adaptation may play a role.

One notable flop was the puppy-trainer software. She earnestly tried but it just didn't give her the requisite feedback. It could be she wants a real dog and the digital version only aggravates that desire. Horror-genre is a no-no. Gambling-simulators don't have any attraction. Meticulous sim-games are "too much like work". Race games are interesting but vertigo is a concern in the full-size arcade cabinets.

I introduced her to a CRPG once, a Final Fantasy clone (since FF was sold out), her first, and the results were poor. She tried it only after some urging on my part and wasn't immediately certain of the goals. She found the gameplay tiring and cumbersome, especially with the run-around approach to extend content. It doesn't bode well for introducing other RPG as this one may come to mind.

Final Analysis

So, according to the half-developed list of player wants there are no bragging rights desired per se, fantasizing is debatable (covers simple escapism?) and socializing comes well after everything else except on after dinner dates. She expects (from the list) Consistent World, Fair Chance, and to Play, Not Watch. Her game selection hardly scratches Reasonable Solutions yet but that may be a given.

Also in my memory database is an experience of many years ago when she seemed to have fun with a fighting game, but only under two conditions. One was playing with an arcade-like joystick controller and buttons to ease the fingertip discomfort. The second was the ability to lay the smackddown, particularly on yours truly. Like I mentioned at the outset, the lady doesn't come just to play, she comes to win. And she's a killer.

Are there any other game providers in the house?

For those regulars reading this, we're running short on content in our queue. Please feel free to submit new content so we have a backlog again.

For the newbies reading this, you're welcome to submit content too!

From what I make of this, it is ia request for 2 player games that are not knowledge based and not language heavy? If I read this wrong, disrgard the rest of this post.

From my shelves:
the GIPF series of games. Abstract strategy, usually with multiple levels of play (beginner, intermediate, advanced).
KOSMOS series from Rio Grande. Kosmos is the German (I think) manufacturer, Rio Grande is the import/translation house. Particularly, Lost Worlds and The Reef. Elkenfest has a interesting physical component also.
GO, Checkers, cribbage, backgammon.
Fight! from Cheapass games. Realtime card game.

Mayfair's (crayon) Rails series includes honeymoon variations that whutawife and I enjoy.


Regarding electronic games, I need to know more of the hardware available. If you have a PS2, then Guitar Hero (1 & 2) is recommended, with a fun social aspect (much like Dance Dance Revolution) and clear goals. An open source alternative for PC players is my favorite Frets on Fire (with downloadable content and mods).

On the PC, in addition, Armadillo Run is very good, if not adverserial, and any Worms game is always fun and can be got cheap. Trackmania is a fun racer-puzzler combo, of which you should try a demo first (for the vertigo issues). Alternately, you can get a free taste with Trackmania Nations but I fear it's got only the racing aspect.

For card gaming, Fluxx is quick and fun, with Three Dragon Ante more tactical and resembling poker somewhat (both work better with more players, but are enjoyable with 2). Of course, Munchkin is all about beating the other player(s), but I haven't tried it in duo.

Hope this helps

Sorry for the delayed reply, things are just starting to get back to normal around here.

From what I make of this, it is ia request for 2 player games that are not knowledge based and not language heavy?
Two-player and one player are both good, very correct on the language part.

I'll look into the suggestions this weekend, many thanks!

Regarding electronic games, I need to know more of the hardware available.
It is the home of the PlayStation, so quite a bit is available, we just haven't committed to anything beyond the DS.

I'd completely forgotten about the Guitar Hero series. Doh! She'd probably like it. I need to get away from the day job more. I haven't heard of some of your suggestions either, so my gratitude for the tips. My work is cut out for me!

Gateway games to RPGs, assuming that is a direction you want to go, might include a few out of print games

MELEE - Simple man to man fantasy combat game
WIZARD - Wizard duel version of same

which collectively grew into a FRPG, The Fantasy Trip all written by Steve Jackson and published by Metagaming Concepts

Also, on the fighting game front, LOST WORLDS, a book-based combat game based on the mechanics used in Ace of Aces series. By Nova games, and then Flying Buffalo games, and still available in some fashion on the web.

Also, while not really 2 player games, some of the classic card games might be a good idea. Mile Bournes, UNO, etc.


Thanks John, I'll check those out. I really like RPGs, so it would be a bonus if she warmed to something. Sometimes something just strikes her fancy out of the blue, so I just have to keep trying.

I haven't played Mile Bournes myself in ages. Great idea.