Boxed Culture: The Min-Max Effect

The Min-Max Effect

Often as gamers we run into people that play games hard. Unlike the casual gamer who  enjoys being around friends and enjoying a story, these gamers find fun in making the best plays and optimizing the decision making process. As much as I don’t think things are usually this simple, these two groups tend to be polarized in certain instances of gaming. You will notice I have not classified myself as either group so far and I will leave it up to you all to decide if I am either one. However, you guessing about my inclinations as a gamer is not the focus of this article. Today I would like to dive into the two archetypes and how they tend to interact.


I am definitely not saying all casual gamers are children…

The first group is the gamer that enjoys the game for the social interaction it allows them. These players tend to get utilize a game night as an excuse to hang with friend(s) they may or may not get to see often. This group also tends to enjoy the experience crated by Amerithrash games. Rolling dice, telling stories and making thematic decisions are all part of this archetype. Games with top down design and game mechanics that allow a story to be told are this group’s bread and butter. They will also tend to play games that are less rule intensive and allow for players to be social about non-game topics during play. These players will be the ones who roll a character that has a long back story and a need to progress that story. Fun for some but not so much for other group.

When the poker chips come out shit is about to get real.

The other group is colloquially known as min-maxers. The name comes from the idea that they will utilize each and every rule to make a character to intentionally exploit loopholes of a game. These are the individuals who know the rules inside and out and understand the optimal play in almost every scenario. These players tent to look at each element of a game as a challenge to work within a fixed system. Many times they tend to stray away from decisions that would put them in a tough spot and rely on the challenges that naturally occur during the process of gaming to act as their obstacles. This can present some interesting scenarios for gaming.

Fur and Scale will be a-flying.

When both of these groups are combined, there seems to be a lot of animosity. Casual gamers see the min-maxers as people who ‘break’  the game and make it less enjoyable as a story. They also are sometimes seen as quarterbacks who will take control of co-operative games. If you have been identified as a min-maxer, casual gamers will most likely be intimidated by you.  The min-maxers see the causal players as people who are not necessarily playing a ‘game’. They do not seem to understand the system of rules they are playing in and it seems like a waste of time to be sitting there playing someone who is not even engaging in a game. Things like emotional plays, king-making, and self-sabotage are things casual players will do and it has a tendency to throw a wrench into a system defined by specific rules. These two groups are diametrically opposed to each other. The way each of these groups see each other can make it very difficult for a natural group to form from anything but a pre-existing friendship.

It is important to make sure that in a mixed group like the one mentioned above, each player understands what what the other player(s) want out of the game. This is a sure fire way to get around the misunderstanding these groups tend to have. For example, the other players may feel blindsided when Roy makes a character that kills things in one hit by grappling them into a wall with the highest initiative. In similar way, Roy may feel annoyed when Jenny chooses to shoot herself out the airlock in Battlestar Galactica due to her character’s backstory or motivations. Keeping expectations clear is a key part of a good gaming group.  Once again we see that communication is key while gaming with different people! Thanks for reading this week everyone. See ya next time!


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