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Should Games Cope with Resignations and other forms of Quitting?

This is a very good question sent to me by someone I didn’t know. He’d designed a “Civ Lite” game for 5 or 6, where he’d written rules for resignations. But he was told that was “outdated” by an experienced designer.

I don’t believe in “outdated” rules or concepts in game design, that’s pointless snobbishness rather than clear thinking. What’s good is good whether it’s old or new, and it always depends on the situation. If it’s bad, it doesn’t matter if it’s new or not.

If a game can be designed so that a player can leave the game, whether it’s an official resignation or for “life reasons” (emergencies, rides, etc.), that should make it a more flexible, and consequently better, game.

Similarly, if a game can be designed to allow people to join in after it starts then that should make it a better game. I have some simple games using cards that allow the latter, in fact someone recently came into one soon after the start and won.

But I don’t think I have any game with rules for what happens when someone quits. I do have games (other than Britannia) with submission rules so that a player who would otherwise be wiped out can continue to participate in the game, and perhaps if things fall his or her way, can do fairly well in the end. I’ve seen it happen.

Go back far enough, and resignation was an option in a two player game only, but most games were two player games. If a player thought he or she wasn’t going to succeed it made sense to resign, end the game, and play something else rather than continue futilely. But in a game for more than two, players are usually expected to do the best they can for the entire game. In that sense of expectation, a resignation rule is irrelevant for a game with more than two players.

I confess I see it my duty as a gamer to fight to the bitter end rather than give up, and from that point of view you could say a resignation rule should not be written into a game because it encourages players to give up. But that doesn’t cover the life reasons, which I think are more common than a simple desire to quit.

I encourage rules that cope with the player leaving the game for whatever reason, when there are many players in the game - but I wouldn’t in those rules encourage the mentality that if you are not doing well it’s okay to quit, quite the opposite. Unfortunately, many players who feel
“trapped in a bad situation” and want to quit are simply weak players and don’t realize how many options are available to them that might bring them back into contention. Another way to say this would be that many players are lazy, but that’s the nature of contemporary hobby game players.

For me, a serious game is not “an engine designed to convert effort into fun” (my correspondent paraphrasing someone else). This is an attitude common to the Age of Comfort, when no one ever wants to be “uncomfortable”. There is more to it than that. You might be able to say that about a casual game, and very likely about a party game. But in serious games there’s more than mere fun involved. And expectations are different.

(Keep in mind, I don’t myself use the word fun, because it means such different things to different people. Some games are intended to be funny-fun, but others certainly are not.)

“Resignation” rules are relatively easy in incorporate into a game with low player-to-player interaction such as most Eurostyle games, where people are really solving their own puzzles with little or no reference to other players. It’s likely to be much more difficult when the game is a high player-to-player interaction game where what players do depends heavily on what other players do, as in wargames especially.

Unfortunately, quitting when things aren’t going well is a feature of modern life. I’d say my correspondent did well to include rules to cope with someone leaving the game, but I ask everyone to encourage the players to stick with the game all the way to the end rather than quit. Don’t encourage quitters, as players aren’t likely to become better players if they quit when things don’t go their way.


Normally the game should end

Normally the game should end when you know who is going to win. If there is a desire to quit, it could be because the winner is clear and the game should have ended already. Sure in multiplayer, it might more that the loser is clear. But even so, when you are losing, there is all sort of things you can do.

I had that issue in Empires of the Void where I was in very bad position and fought until the end. No peace allowed. Or in that game of FFG civilisation, where a players pissed me off an entire game by preventing me from building my 3rd city, which simply made me king making the 3rd player. He found it unfair, but that is what you get for pissing me off.

Quitting can be a good feature. I have seen this in very few multiplayer games. For example munchkin, St0ck T!ck3r and Shadows over camelot allow people comming in and out without unbalancing much the game. Which made some of those games awesome in school when people came back from a class or they had to leave for a class. I think we should encourage that kind of design, especially for more light weight games.

But I think the main reason for somebody to quit is not necessarily because they are losing, but rather because the game is boring. People have seen non-gamers quit right in the middle of tha game like that, it's just that we have the courtesy of remaining until the end.

The only game I could not handle is "Dominant Spiecies", but I remained a good player by continuing to play bold moves just to make sure I did not break the game. I asked If I could leave to teach a game near the end and they say it was ok.

Multiplayer Video board games also does not help this behavior. I have seen many people quit when they think they cannot possibly win. The weirdest case when one player abandonned his game of catan, and the AI who took control of the game actually won the game. Because Catan, is a game where reversals are possible.

I think we should first ask ourselves the reason why a game should have a quitting mechanism before determining that it a bad practice for that specific game. It might not be a bad practice for all type of games.


Many people label as "unfair" just about anything they don't like in a game. As one of my nieces when she was still a kid.

She'd also say "boring" when she wasn't succeeding. Quitting a game because it's "boring" is childish behavior.

As for knowing who's going to win: the average game player is, to put it kindly, "not very good". Especially, they're not very good at seeing the long term. So a weak game player can think they've lost when in fact they still have a significant chance of winning (or would if they were a really good player, anyway). I recall especially a quote from J C Lawrence (which I cannot find at the moment) that many Euro games are practically over halfway through, but most players don't realize it yet.

Yes, you don't want to design a game where quitting is more likely than "normal". Yet the question here isn't why people quit, it's what the game does about it, if anything. Regardless of the reason for quitting, if the game can cope with that, it's a better game for it.

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blog | by Dr. Radut