I’m watching women’s Olympic Hockey as I write this. Earlier today, I watched Slopestyle snowboarding. Before that, we watched some Super-G skiing, and some Big Air Skiing.
I like sports. I know a lot of people don’t, even a lot of people who like games. I think maybe they should try watching the Olympics.
It’s the variety. There are just so many different types of competitions and events. All of them have their own rules and goals. Some have judging systems and points. There are so many systems and variables at work. I know that is true of all sports, but rather than having to go deep on one sport, knowing all the players, all the history, each Olympic sport will come with a lot of explanation from the commentators. No one expects the casual viewer to be acquainted with the specific degree of difficulty for a triple Salchow jump. I have been watching figure skating for years, I even used to compete in figure skating, and I could not tell you what, specifically, makes an Axel more difficult than a Salchow. Or why everyone pronounces it SowCow. That’s fine though. It doesn’t matter. As a viewer, you get to enjoy an incredible variety of sports being played at the highest level for a couple of weeks. And if you are a game designer, I think you absolutely have to watch the Olympics.
Maybe physical competition isn’t your thing. You are more of a strategy designer. Watch Curling. The nearly infinite possibility space of a game played with a few heavy pieces of granite and a giant bullseye is staggering. Maybe you like something with some team co-operation where unique roles complement each other. Watch Hockey. A team of players cycling a penalty kill effectively is beautiful, once you figure out what you are looking at. Here’s a tip. The players on the ice are rarely looking at the puck. There is no reason for you to look at the puck, either. Watch where the players go. That’s what’s important.
If you like displays of individual skill, the Winter Olympics have you covered. Any sort of ski or snowboard jumping, spinning, or flipping you can imagine. The judging of these events can be a little arcane, but it will be impressive nonetheless. And last, but not least, If you are looking for simple competitive drama, Speed Skating or snowboard cross has got you covered.
There aren’t many styles of games that aren’t covered by the Olympics. If you rope in the Summer Olympics, you also have a lot of combat sports to enjoy. Snowball fighting has not yet been declared an Olympic sport.
So, right now, the Canadian Women are dominating this game. It’s pretty much a lock. Of course, they will be playing the Americans tomorrow, so that will be more of a nail biter. I’ll probably be watching.