Is it possible to play games "wrong"?

Not necessarily in the way that’s often leveled at games reviewers but just in general is there a “wrong” way to play a game? Conventional wisdom would say… yes? I’m not sure, I feel like if someone is enjoying themselves then the question seems moot, right?


It really depends on how wrong is being defined. Like if it means ways unintended by the devs then I’d say definitely. At the same time under that definition things like speedrunning would be playing “wrong.”

Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it?

I guess: If you approach a game in a way that precludes the possibility of you attaining your personal goal with regard to the gameplay session (which might be “have fun” or might be “win” or might be “finish the game so that I know what my friend is talking about”), you could call that playing the game wrong.

So for instance, if your goal is “have fun”, but you’re approaching it in a high-stress way and cussing out your teammates. Or if your goal is “win”, but you’ve impatiently chosen to ignore all of the in-game cues about how to win. Or if your goal is “finish so I know what it’s about”, but you keep getting distracted by other things so that you won’t have a good memory of what’s going on in the game anyway.


I think part of the issue here is conflating “wrong” with “bad”. Just because you’re playing the game contrary to intent or prevailing wisdom doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, it’s just different.


I don’t think so, not at all. As long as you’re having fun, then you’re doing it the “right” way.

I often goof around in games and do silly things for several hours at a time, like once in Skyrim I decided to collect every fork in the game for no reason other than the scenario in my head of every NPC slowly going insane from not having any forks was hilarious to me

I know some people who ignore entire systems and mechanics of games, but they’re still enjoying the game at a base level, and having a good time, so they aren’t doing it “wrong”, they’re just choosing to play a way they enjoy. :slight_smile:

I’m gonna say no. At the end of the day it’s a piece of software and how you choose to engage with and/or manipulate it, as long as you are enjoying yourself, is up to you. It might go against authorial intent, sure, but do you.

My stance is that, it’s not wrong to play it a certain way (unless it’s an MP game, and you’re sabotaging the enjoyment of others), but it can be wrong. That didn’t come out right, but yeah.

Many times, I’ll read of folks complaining about a game’s gameplay, and how it’s bad and such, and they’ll be playing it differently than the dev intended, and it just makes me irrationally angry. Not that their way is wrong, but if they played it another way, it’d be better, and their playstyle is the cause of their problems. In the end, it’s petty, though. Live and let live.

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Yes, it is possible to play them wrong. But sometimes, wrong is right.

Absolutely on people enjoying themselves are not playing something “wrong”. Games as fun are to be enjoyed, in any way you like. (replace verbage with others for other ways of finding games enriching that players wish to take away from them)

House rules, not reading the rules at all and just using the shape of the pieces to intuit a design (was that discussed on a recent 3MA or Idle Weekend or was it WPR?), explorative play (speed runs, glitch hunts etc), or anything else: if you’re finding the game enriching then you’re engaging with a system and deriving something from it. Maybe later you realise a different way to play the game and have even more to take away from it but that’s not an issue as long as you’re already getting what you want from it.

The only limitation on that comes when games are multiplayer. It may be great fun for someone to not play chess properly but only if they’ve agreed house rules with the other person (or even within the rules, a series of games will only go so far if both players aren’t getting something out of the game and so one’s enjoyment may lead other players to not enjoy it). Basically house rules are communally agreed standards so someone unilaterally “playing wrong” may be disruptive to the balance of a game that cannot accommodate it (eg constant feeding in Dota to give an example of disruptive play which prevents the normal progression of the match and can make a game a lot less fun for everyone else involved).

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Well yeah that’s touching on an interesting point and one that’s actually a lot wider involving complicated topics like authorial intent. Is “wrong” strictly defined by playing contrary to the intent because I’m not sure if I believe that.

See, that’s the thing. Two out of the three people who have said “nah, you can’t play games wrong” have also said “…as long as you’re having fun.”

That implies to me that it is possible to play games wrong – i.e., by not having fun.

(Of course, some games are not meant to be fun. Some games are meant to be actively distressing in the course of provoking thought. That is why I generalized to “personal goal”.)

Agree with all the points about Multiplayer games being their own thing because you’re impacting the enjoyment of others. That said, I have fond memories of a Six Stack of Zaryas in Overwatch Quick Play – just had to make sure everyone was on the same page about it.

I feel like ‘wrong’ is such an amorphous term. I once got yelled at in IRC for Sword+Board in Dark Souls because that was the wrong way to play, which, whatever. If that person wants to play as a boxer with dual Cestus’ taking down dragons, more power to em, but both avenues were designed into the game so that’s just someone passing their opinion off as fact.

I do think it’s interesting to explore what happens when you play games in ways (and Speedrunning probably falls under this) that run counter, or at least perpendicular (this makes sense in my head) to the way they were designed. I think GTA 5 and Mafia 3 streams where the streamers basically just hike around are super interesting because they use the game as a a platform for a type of play that ignores a lot of the goals and mechanics in the game. But is something ‘wrong’ just because it’s not following the proscribed path? Idk

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The problem with defining “a wrong way to play games” is that it assumes there’s an unequivocal right way to play them.

Which people have done and are doing. “Have fun”, which developed over the course of the discussion so far into “have fun without impinging on fellow players’ fun”.

Which brings up the question of where do non-fun-oriented games fit in with that second caveat? Because my generalization is not so well fit for that. When it’s “achieve personal goal” rather than “have fun”, well, maybe my “have fun” personal goal will impinge on your “win” personal goal which will impinge on someone else’s “fully explore the physics of this map for future reference” personal goal.

But, I think mostly the kinds of video games that support multiplayer are fun-oriented, so that you can put “fun” on the top of the priority list. Non-digital role-playing games, though – I am not “in the scene”, but I feel that there must be some group tabletop RPGs which are meant to be thought-provoking in a non-fun way.

In general I think if you’re having a good time I don’t think you can play a game wrong.

Having said that I think people play games incorrectly all the time. My go-to examples are Dragon Age Inquisition and games that are similar. A lot of the time people get caught up in activities they don’t like because they feel compulsed to do them. You don’t have to do everything, nor does the game really even want you to. The best approach I feel, and this also applies to MEA as well, is to play what you enjoy. Do the things that you want to do, and leave collectathons to people who enjoy that kind of content. Not everything is going to be tailor made for your specific tastes and that’s fine.

Here’s another example, I’ve seen people saying that the open world in MGSV is bad, because there’s nothing in it. The question then becomes, why are you playing the game like an open world game? I get that you CAN play the game this way, but it’s so clearly a worse way to enjoy the game. They pretty clearly wanted players to pick missions and then drop in via helicopter, not run there on foot or in a car. The open world is there for the approach and the way the encounters are designed. You can do the missions in MGSV in hundreds of different ways and all of them are valid.

I feel like, a lot of the time anyway, that some folks go out of their way to not enjoy something by simply playing it the least fun way possible. I would probably describe that as playing it “wrong”.


While playing a game wrong isn’t necessarily bad, I do think it’s something people should be aware of when discussing games. A good example of this in the tabletop space, where people play something like Monopoly with all sorts of house rules that make the game take forever. They then judge and discuss the game according to this experience, even though the way they played the game isn’t actually all that representative of how the game was intended to be experienced.

I don’t think playing games incorrectly is as big of a thing in video games compared to tabletop games, though. In video games developers usually have a lot of control over what is and isn’t possible, whereas with a tabletop game it’s very easy for players to misread or ignore rules.

A recent episode of Game Maker’s Toolkit actually touched on this matter. It’s all about how developers try to incentivise players to play the intended way, instead of playing in some other way that might detract from the experience. It’s well worth a watch.

If you’re enjoying yourself then you’re playing games right but that is different from playing games in a way I can stand to watch (I’m subtweeting my darling non-gamer wife with this)

hbomberguy discusses this in his video about bloodborne. It’s a long video but very worth watching.


I literally made this thread because I was thinking about that video earlier and pondering his perspective

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I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I find it interesting to think about!