Alright maaaaaaaaaaaaan… I’m not trying to over-inflate the importance of this. I’m not trying to complain. I’m just thinking.
In my alt account which I am thoroughly enjoying playing (but that’s a discussion for another day) I just had an experience in Arena that caused me to reflect on something I don’t think is considered or brought up much.
Let me rewind the tape.
We talk a lot about the emotional experience and perceptions of player “luck”. We talk about yes the game is a cheater, but always in the Human’s favor, never in the AI favpr. This cheating is discussed in terms of how the AI is programmed to take sub-optimal moves from time-to-time, and we also discuss the combo-breaker which reduces ET chances turn-after-turn.
Now, back to where I was in Arena just now.
I just had 3 Arena fights in a row where I did not get a single opportunity to exercise any kind of choice in the game. Specifically, for 3 games the only thing I could do was take a single match of 3, with choice of Mana color not up to me since there was one and only one move available each time I had control of the board.
Most of the time it was Red, the only type of Mana my team could not use. Each subsequent cascade randomized the board sufficiently that the AI would get one or more chains of moves, each time gathering Mana that benefited it and when its turn was over, returning control to me with a single, non-useful Mana swap left.
I won 2 of those 3 fights. And I hated winning.
I think because of the intense frustration that was building in me from not having any control of the board, as well as memories of my recent “freakout”, it started to bring into focus another emotion that players feel, which is not the feeling of luck or the absence thereof, but the intense frustration that comes when the sense that the player has no control at all.
Another way of looking at this might be that the game cheats to guarantee the AI doesn’t exceed a certain level of performance. But is there any cheat in the game that guarantees a minimum level of performance for the Human?
This is philosophical stuff… and I don’t have time to think every nuance through, nor do I want to potentially limit any discussion by overly-defining the conversation. But are you feeling me?