Friday, May 7, 2010

Luck vs. Fun

Carrying on from my previous discussion here and here, I thought I'd try for a rudimentary analysis of the luck factor in games.  So, I chose a bunch of popular games, estimated (roughly) the percent of a game's outcome determined by luck rather than skill, then looked up the game's rating on  I graphed these up, and found some things I expected to, namely:

  • There's a distinct drop in rating at the high-luck end of the scale, indicating that players don't much like games they don't have control over.
  • The ratings are split for games at the low-luck end of things; complex games are rated relatively high, while simple games (checkers in this case) are rated low.
  • It looks like there's a sweet spot somewhere around 25-50% luck-determined where you could maximize enjoyment, but there are few games which fall in this neighborhood
Is this a cheesy exercise?  Yes.  Are my ratings arbitrary?  Pretty much.  Do I need more data?  Yes, particularly at the lower luck levels.  Is there a sampling bias among BGG raters? Totally; my guess is they are looking for less luck in a game than the average person.

And there are many more variables to consider - complexity, theme, ease and enjoyment of play mechanics, fun, etc.  But I think it gets at something fundamental in game design, too.  People want their decisions to matter, probably the most, but they enjoy a bit of chance in determining the outcome.

I may try to set this up as a survey-style thing, to let people add more games and to rate them themselves. That would help to remove my particular bias from the data.


  1. Very cool idea for a study. It would be neat to expand this, but it would also be extremely difficult.

  2. Thanks! Yes, I'd need to have a readership in the hundreds rather than the tens to have much hope of expanding it, and removing my personal biases. But maybe I can get some interest from BGG members in the forums - I'll give it some thought.