The idea of min-maxing is something I’ve delved into many times in my gaming career. Whether it’s a D&D character, Magic: the Gathering deck, or my Hunter in Destiny, this idea is extremely prevalent. Sometimes I let it get the best of me.
If you aren’t sure what min-maxing is, let me explain. If you’ve ever had the option to create a character and assign the stats to that character, how do you do it? Do you just pick the stats you think will be the most useful? Do you spread them out with the thought of “I’m not sure what I’ll need…”? Do you put your points into stats you imagine you’ll enjoy?
Min-maxing is taking those stats and minimizing the least useful stat and maximizing the most useful stat. This usually requires knowledge of the game at hand and what stats you will need to be utilizing. A perfect example would be creating a Fighter in D&D. Fighters want to be able to take a big hit, be hard to hit, and hit extremely hard. Therefore, you’d want the most Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution you can muster. Strength will give you a better chance to hit and that hit will be hard. Dexterity will boost your armor class and give you a better chance to go first in combat. Constitution will boost your hit points. Whatever is left over you put into the other three stats (in this case Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma).
This idea of maxing out your value from the resources you have at hand doesn’t just apply to character building. I mentioned Magic already, so how does it apply here? Well when going to an FNM or tournament you will most likely have a competitive mind (not everyone will, but a large majority will). The idea of min-maxing leaks into MTG simply because you will need the most effective cards. There is nothing wrong with this, after all you’re attempting to win so being as effective as possible will get you to your desired outcome, normally. So why play a card that costs more mana (resources) when a cheaper (or just downright better) version exists? It’s not as simple as that, but keep that in mind.
We can also apply this to Destiny and the highly spoken of Tier 12, something I’ve only recently delved into. Tier 12 is just the best stat spread you can acquire from your armor. Armor rolls random stats and they do have a max number they can roll. Stacking everything just right with the best rolls can give you the fastest recharge rate on your abilities. There is a lot more to it, but that’s basically all you need to know about it in regards to our discussion here.
After running through all of that, I initially found myself lacking a conclusion. What is the purpose of this analysis? Well sometimes I get so into making myself as effective as possible, I forget why I’m even playing the games I’m playing. So what would that reason be? To have fun of course.
As cliché as that sounds, we all play games to have fun. Your interpretation of fun may be entirely different than mine. Some people like prison decks in Magic. I prefer to keep my friends.
But that isn’t the only lesson to be taken away from this. One of my favorite movies shows a very good reason why min-maxing isn’t always the best attitude.
Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising is a movie by Dead Gentleman Productions that I’ve watched probably 50+ times. It is hilarious, does a great job at showing D&D at the gaming table versus what is happening in the game, all while being just an overall good movie. I’d highly recommend any D&D fan watch it (and the original Gamers movie), but that’s not the point I’m trying to make.
In Dorkness Rising, one of the characters has never played D&D before. She makes a Fighter because everyone else basically decided that for her. This is because Fighters are rather simple to play and make. She refuses to let them make her character for her, and she brings her 9th level fighter to the first meeting with a super interesting take on the character, but a take the others are not happy with. I don’t want to get into heavy specifics just in case you aren’t familiar with D&D or you don’t want extremely mild spoilers, but the best way to describe her character is creative.
Creativity is something I’d argue I have oodles of. I’m not bragging, just saying what others have told me. I enjoy creating things and if you listen to our podcast about homemade games you’ll hear how much I enjoy making things. With min-maxing, there is a very common tendency to follow a predetermined approach or path, which leads to less creativity.
If we look at MTG, it is very easy to take a successful deck list from the latest weekend tournament, buy the pieces, and have a winning deck to pilot at your next tournament. It’s not that simple; you need to know how to pilot the deck and what you’re going to be facing to make correct decisions, but you can see that there is no creativity there.
There’s fun to be had for everyone in the world of gaming. I’m not saying min-maxing is bad, I am just suggesting you don’t get caught up in the idea of “why do anything else when this one specific thing is just better?” While competitively that is a mindset you should almost always have, I would whole-heartedly suggest toning that back and trying new things in your gaming experience. You may never know what awesome experience has been hiding from you this whole time.