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LSG #2 - Fun: Downforce

What is fun? If you ask 10 different people this question, you will probably get 10 different answers. One person may tell you about their passion for water skiing. Another may tell you about their trip to Las Vegas. Someone might tell you about axe throwing or maybe even about taking a walk through the woods on a calm winter's day. If you asked Spongebob Square Pants he would tell you about "Friends who do stuff together", "U and me", and "N-ywhere and anytime at all down here in the deep blue sea!" Although if you asked Plankton he would also have a unique answer. See here for in depth analysis.

Why is there so little consensus to such a short question? One reason may be that fun has 8 different definitions according to Merriam Webster. I guess it's not really fair to expect 1 answer for 8 different questions, depending on someone's interpretation of the word. However, there is one thread that ties all the definitions together; the idea that fun incorporates a feeling and an experience. Individuals have unique perceptions of their feelings and experiences, which explains why you never get a consensus on "What is fun?" Why am I asking this question? Why would I care to look for an answer to such an abstract concept?


As someone who aspires to design and publish games, I think it's important to understand why people play board games, why they get together with friends and family to do so, and why board gaming can become a lifestyle.

I'm naming this blog "Fun:" and in this series I'll report how three feelings manifest during gameplay of select board games. Today we will look at Downforce and see why it is fun.


Anticipation:

The race is about to begin. The cars are lined up on the grid. Millions of dollars are about to be won and lost. Players eagerly await to power their newly acquired cars through the first corner.

I find this part of the game gives players a unique feeling. A balance between optimism and wariness. The optimism lingers after winning your cars in the bidding phase - how could you not be optimistic after winning the cars your hand is suited for? The wariness rolls in when you realize everyone feels the same way and you're not sure if you spent too much on your new car(s). Possibly a sign of buyers' remorse. At least these cars don't come with a bi-weekly payment!

For me, this mix of emotions turns into anticipation. There is so much uncertainty I just want to get the race started to see how it shakes out. I want to see if all my money on the line will pay off!


Powerless:

You've kept up with the leader through the first corner, matching their every move, looking for any chance to sprint ahead into the lead. You follow the leader into turn two, pasted to their bumper and then - they hit the brakes! You look to pass but the road is too narrow. You lock up your brakes and screech to a halt. Suddenly, you feel trapped.


This feeling of powerlessness presents itself in two instances. The first: if you're following a car through a narrow corner and the other player forces you to move their car. If you don't have the perfect card, it can be a smothering feeling. Hopefully you've managed your cards well and you can use a mix of wilds or just the right card to push through the corner. There's a relieving feeling once you escape a corner. If the cards fall just right, you might have the opportunity to pass the lead car at corner exit, which is absolutely exalting.


The second:

if another player is in such a position that you're betting on their car to win. In the moment, this feeling is never uplifting as you're almost conceding the win to another car.


These feelings may seem negative, however if you find yourself as the player benefiting from these situations, it can be empowering. Such a stark contrast in emotion fits perfectly in a game themed this way - 'cut-throat', gambling, high speed racing. There are winners, there are losers. If you ain't first, you're last.


Smug:

You've rounded the last corner. No other car can be seen in your mirrors. You've led since you started on pole position. You've lead through every corner and down every straight. Victory is certain. You're about to earn the Grand Chelem of Downforce. It only gets better when you realize your weekend earnings were $10M more than any other player. Champagne isn't your favourite, but today it tastes like victory.

There's no better feeling than knowing you bid on your car with precision, you played your cards exactly right, and you bet on your own car winning the race the whole time. It turns out other players also bet on your car to win. How can you not like basking in the adoration of your fellow players? It's nice to have fans. This feeling will always get Downforce back to the table - at least for the winner. I recommend playing a few times so a couple different people can experience winning.


Have you played Downforce? How did you feel during the game? What was your favourite part? I'd love to hear.

Sincerely, Donald


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