Exploration is one of the great things in gaming. I am tempted to proclaim it the difference between gamer’s games and casual games, but there are enough games on the “wrong” (Settlers of Catan is the 800 pound gorilla) side of the fence that I’ll hold back. Instead, a few I’ll stick with offering the first of a few short meditations on the whats, whys and wherefores of exploration in gaming.
Typically, gaming discussions about exploration focus on geographical exploration a la sandbox D&D or Traveller. On the computer side, certain CRPGs like the Elder Scrolls games and Red Dead Redemption, plus some of the better roguelikes are standard-bearers for exploration as a compelling game experience. Exploration as I speak of it involves that same impulse to find new and surprising things, but it can occur on abstract levels such as strategy, tactics and (in narrative forms) character and situation. My love of the strategic bricolage in Race for the Galaxy is based in how it creates such a vast plain of viable strategic possibilities (and strategic possibilities that are just close enough to viable to also be interesting). While I enjoy returning to old favorites like a Consumer Markets/Free Trade Association novelty-consume juggernaut, my interest would soon dry up if I only go to play a rotation of greatest hits. Read the rest of this entry »