This is a large part of why I don't enjoy competitive multiplayer video games.

Once people figure out how to min/max for statistically optimal results, it becomes less about fun and novelty and more about how much time you have to study these strategies.

I completely understand how this "solving" of the game can be incredibly fun and rewarding to some people, but I personally don't have the time or motivation to dedicate. I like to explore and play by ear. As such, I have zero chance in anything competitive/multiplayer.

Not really complaining, just something I realized isn't up my alley a long time ago.

Original article is talking about Fantasy Football, but I feel like something similar has been occurring in Poker over the last few years.

A lot of the current players are studying Game-Theoretic-Optimal (GTO) models of gameplay, and memorising range tables and bet sizes based not just on your cards, but also on where you are sat at the table in relation to the dealer, and the size of your chip stack.[0]

I know that Poker is a game of skill, and the more you put into understanding the game, the more you're going to get out - but this just seems like... a lot of work.

Is it really making the game more fun?

It's kind of weird, because watching Rounders from back in the day, you'd see a lot of people express respect for Knish (John Turturro) and his attitude towards grinding it out, playing careful odds, treating Poker as a job. And if the poker scene is filled with people "playing the man, not the cards" and learning how to make good reads, and, well, dreamers, then having someone like Knish around makes for an interesting contrast.

But if everyone plays like Knish? Where's the fun in that?


Fantasy Football, where millions of players compete in one league, and every top team has a Mohamed Salah, is just too boring. It was boring then, it is boring now.

I much prefer the US fantasy sports format with a draft and only a dozen of players in one league, such that there is only one team which has a Mohamed Salah.

Online communities do this to many games. As soon as you have thousands upon thousands looking to optimize the thing, it isn't the same game you might play with your friends. Creativity goes right out the window in favor of tested strategies. Applies especially to M:TG, or other CCG's IMO, as well as many strategy computer games.

I personally hate it. Though I can see many do not mind.

This reminds me of multiplayer video games and to a lesser extent board games. What I really enjoy doing is exploring different elements of the game, map, characters, mechanics. But lots of games have been “solved” and playing with certain people is just minor variations on an optimal path.
"It is a good sign in a nation when such things are done badly. It shows that all the people are doing them. And it is a bad sign in a nation when such things are done very well, for it shows that only a few experts and eccentrics are doing them, and that the nation is merely looking on."

-GK Chesterton

this is what kills me about games these days, not just multiplayer games where you have to play the 'meta' if you want to stand a chance, but even single player games where every choice is viable but people will make fun of you for not choosing the 'optimal' build, which a lot of the time is backed more by personal preference than anything else. I used to play Overwatch and left for largely that reason - people would get on the microphone and try to play the leader of a group of randoms and tell other players to 'do their jobs' and pick the 'right' hero.

An example from today is in Elden Ring - largely a single player game, but with multiplayer elements. When I started playing, there was a huge variety in player stats, weapon/armor selection, and people were even encouraged to try out different things by the in-game "rebirthing" mechanic. Then someone found out that a single sword used a specific way vastly overpowers everything else, especially in multiplayer, and now everybody who plays player-versus-player is locked in to using that same sword or else it's not even a fair fight. Players have been begging the developers to change this, and they only recently (as of this week) did something about it.

Magic: The Gathering is an interesting case. On the one hand, there's a crazy amount of data in terms of win rates on Arena and MTGO, as well as popular cards in a given format (especially EDH with EDHREC). What a computer cannot do is win games, or analyze a deck based on its oracle text and tell you what can win. One of the more interesting facets of this (to me) is watching the prices change from spoiler season to a few weeks/months after release. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker was less than a dollar when Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty came out, and it's over $20 now. Tiamat, from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, was over $25 after the set was released, now you can get it for around $10-$15. (Price has a lot more information in it than just game utility, but its desirability for gameplay is still pretty high in the list.)

For as uniform as, say, the standard meta is, it's still based on player consensus and behavior, not computer analysis of game mechanics or simulations of games. Turns out player consensus is still pretty good. I don't know if you could moneyball Magic.

As other raised here, this is a similar issue to games like Hearthstone for exemple, where you can easily find online the deck with the highest win% and run that.

I happen to play both FPL and HS. The difference is that for Hearthstone since you play against others deck the meta can change, hence a win% is only relevant in the current context. That doesn't really work like that with FPL.

I agree this is taking the fun out of the game, but really only if you focus on winning rather than building yourself your own deck or team. So I'd let other copy paste the optimal team every weeek, I'm good thank you. Ironicaly if you want to win a league, most likely you'll have to make a couple of bold choice during the season, gambling against a model and being right.

Anyway, I've started coding my own bot to help me pick FPL players, it's never going to be as good as any online model and probably even myself but in the journey the fun will be :)

This seems like a problem with the game itself more than anything, the fact that there is a single optimal team or strategy.

I see data-driven approaches are being used more and more everywhere, not just in games, and I can see how that can be seriously problematic in some cases.

But, for example, my 14yo son plays on a popular minecraft server, with his friends, and he's been writing python scripts to download in-game item sales/pricing data, and make graphs/do analytics on it, so they can get an edge in online trades. I think he's having more fun doing that than actually playing, tbh. But the point is there is no 'optimal' strategy or configuration in that game, it's still 'open'. It just now requires more sophisticated play rather than a naive casual approach.

Many models are great and optimal and they work... right until they don't.

Many people in quant trading industry learn it every year the hard way.

You could create new categories of play with varying restrictions to make things fun again.

I don't know about fantasy football, but in the video-game speed-running community people often come up with new categories to maintain the fun. Sometimes a game can be broken to the point that it can be finished in mere minutes, but people still play the 100% category as well.

How about restricting what kinds of data and models are allowed? Another option is to straight up ban the model team and force people to get creative.

It sounds like you're basically already doing this, but maybe you should lobby your preferred platform to add explicit support for this kind of restricted play.

"The ability to play chess is the sign of a gentleman. The ability to play chess well is the sign of a wasted life." Paul Morphy
I got a similar feeling about wordle when everyone wants to ay ADIEU as their first guess.
Dating myself here, but the feeling the author describes is reminiscent of when Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov. There are certainly a lot of games humans are no longer best at.

I suspect that with computers getting better at so much of what we took pride in, we'll have to start looking very deeply at what makes a human a human. A human still has to aim the computer at something the human finds meaningful - hopefully, we'll have a lot more time to think about that question.

I sort of agree, but then why play sports or fantasy at all? Why not just turn to a hobby that inherently rewards creativity and boldness (most contemporary arts)?

Alternatively, in competetive environments, things that have stock trading or market mechanics mean that as soon as something becomes “common sense” it’s probably not the correct move anymore.

i like this line:

> You can find people who could barely add and subtract yet have the ability to recite various player and team statistics.

because it calls to mind a scene from 'the wire', i think a lot about:

I'm not sure how well it would work (if at all!), but an alternative could be for a specific prediction to become less valuable as it becomes more popular. In other words, reward players not for absolute accuracy, but for making bets on underpriced outcomes.
If you haven't made a spreadsheet for it yet, are you even having fun?
Sounds like it's high time fundamental aspects of a given game morph slightly during gameplay... fabric of reality remains unknowable so this should be reflected in games