A Short Defense of Negative Feedback Loops


I. Update

I’m still working on that tabletop game I keep talking about. Soon I’ll have a web link for you, and then (hopefully!) a Kickstarter project page.

Until then, I’m dumping some design journal thoughts here.

II. Negative Feedback Loops

I love negative feedback loops. I want every player to feel the other players nipping at their heels. It makes the game more exciting for me and hopefully for the other players.

The trade-off is that negative feedback loops seem to punish thoughtful players. A game without many negative feedback loops (ala a classic Euro worker placement game) lets players plan well, place their pieces, and reap rewards that increase over time. A player who made bad choices early on has no chance of winning.

I say “seem to” because I argue that a negative feedback loop should be considered in a thoughtful player’s strategy.

III. Consider the Loop

Just as the thoughtful player in our hypothetical Euro game has taken into account resource management, board layout, worker placement, etc. s/he SHOULD be taking into account negative feedback loops that may come into play throughout the game.

If the player does not take these things into account, I have no sympathy for them. I’m not suggesting they have no right to dislike the game, but I do think that negative feedback loops are no less a strategic element than others in a game, and thoughtful players should take them into account.