For every winner, there must be a loser.

— Common comment on zero-sum games

Games are meant to be won. Victory obtained, glory recieved, praise shined down upon them. Rising to meet the challange. There is no challange without a chance of losing in some shape or form. This article aims to address the role of the possibility of losing, and the role of losing in gameplay.

There are two main sides to the coin of loss: when and what.

When do we lose?

This is the first and foremost considered aspect in loss, being the flip side of the coin of the game: When do we win? This is shaped by the core mechanics of the game in question, and can come in many forms. The variations are nearly infinite, so I'll try to instead address the various elements that forms these conditions, that are in use today.

  • Luck. A coin toss, rock paper sisscors, a roll of the dice, a spin of the roulette wheel, card games. This mechanic can help level the playing field, and help instill the thrill of uncertainty into gaming. While some games take it as a central feature, others practically eliminate it.
  • Second guessing your opponent. Strategy games, card games, first person shooters. Here, the players vie for position, by reading their opponents movements, guessing at his strategy, and even subterfuge, bluffing your opponent into mispredicting your own movements.
  • Physical coordination. The olympics, action games, just about anything with explosions, Dance Dance Revolution. Reaction times, potentially lethal doses of caffeine, and general feats of action reign supreme here, a battle of skills between opponents. The ability to micro-manage your armies.
  • Logic. Turn based strategy, chess, analysing trade routes. Gleaning information from data and coordination over the long term are key here.

What do we lose?

  • Entry fees
  • Our "lives"
  • Savings