“You could get the same gaming experience with [Game X]”

First, a bit of terminology is needed so that you can see where I’m coming from on this matter. I prefer to use the terms “experience” or “gaming experience” because they more accurately point at what is produced by the game. Also, it serves to show that fun is derived from the experience and not from the game itself. I play to experience something first and foremost; fun is a by-product of that experience.

Now, this isn’t some kind of special state of awareness or even a doorway for introspection. “Experience” only means what I’m actually going through at the table. It could be the rush of combat, the hesitation I’m feeling when I have to make a tactical choice or feeling the sadness of my character. When I’m hesitating, I’m not having fun at that moment but on another level and a bit later I’ll be able to derive fun from all of this.

Here, my problem is that I don’t see how two different games could produce the same experience. I mean, they both can be fun and both can offer to make tactical choices. But, since there not the same game that means they both have different procedures and reward systems that will make me behave differently depending upon which game I’m currently playing. Granted, games based on the same rule engine could produce experiences so similar as to be described as the same. (Much like Star Wars Monopoly feels pretty much the same as classical Monopoly.) But the way you fight for something meaningful in Savage Worlds has little to do, in terms of what is actually going on at the table, with how you’d experience it playing Burning Wheel. I’m not saying that one is better than the other, just different. You could have examples of this going on in videogames as well. Go ask fans of first-person shooters if they think all these games are the same in terms of experience.

As an aside, people also point out the fact that you could tell the same story with their favoured game than I did with mine. So they don’t see why I would prefer to tell it with a particular game. Of course, the series of events in both cases could be the same and if both games accommodate the same genre, the characters could be “replicas”. Both stories would probably be satisfying and cool, but the actual feel when we play couldn’t be the same. Much like when you have a good remake of a movie. Both can be enjoyable, but the remake isn’t a perfect copy; it’s its own thing.

To have the same gaming experience with two different games, you have to make their rule sets be as similar as possible. This implies that you’d probably have to change and “redesign” Game X to make it fit with the gaming experience produced by the original game. But then, you’re not playing Game X anymore.

[To be continued…]