Optimization (role-playing games)

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Optimization, in computer and table-top role-playing games, is a term intended to describe a play style or set of play styles alternately referred to by the terms munchkin gaming, powergaming, min-maxing, "roll-playing", or twinking, but without the pejorative connotation of those terms. The core idea of optimization as a play style is that of deriving enjoyment from choosing and benefiting from the game mechanical options that best optimize one's character's performance for some specific purpose—most commonly, speed of power or wealth accumulation. Players who primarily enjoy this play style are called optimizers. This reflects, at least in large part, an effort by game developers and operators to recognize and validate this style of play, and to be able to discuss it and the players who enjoy it without resorting to the traditional, pejorative terms.

In the Bartle taxonomy of gamer styles, Achievers ("Diamonds") are most typically enthusiastic optimizers, while the play style of Socializers ("Hearts") is the most distant from (and generally antipathic to) optimization. Explorers ("Spades") generally enjoy discovering the best methods of optimization, but may be more interested in continued experimentation than in consistently applying those methods. Killers ("Clubs") have a complex relationship with optimization. To whatever extent the game style rewards optimization with power, Killers will appear to be optimizers as they work to maintain their competitiveness. Insofar as Killers optimize in player versus environment (PvE) play, though, the driving force is typically not a positive enjoyment of optimization, but a desire to "get through the boring parts" as rapidly as possible, reducing time spent grinding, and reach what is, to them, the "real" game, player versus player (PvP) conflict. PvP play, depending on the game style, may have a strong optimization element, providing an "ultimate" test of one player's optimization skills against another's, but this is de-emphasized in games where PvP success depends more on non-game-mechanical factors such as the player's reaction time and tactical adaptability. Killers who are also optimizers, then, tend to find more enjoyment in games where characters' statistics more strongly predict who will win in combat. Non-optimizer Killers, on the other hand, tend to prefer games where conflict outcomes are determined more by the player than the character, and may actively dislike games that reward optimization.

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