Social Utility of a MOBA Card Game

MOBA games are at their core, team experiences. Whenever you queue up for a game, whether you think it or not, you’re committing your time and mindspace to four other people, and over the course of the next hour you’ll work together (or not, a lot of the time) in order to sack your enemy’s base and emerge victorious. There’s a lot of strategy, teamwork and social development that goes into getting proficient at a MOBA, and even more, as a team. These are the ideas I hope to incorporate into my game, instilling it with a social utility that’ll promote a more sportsmanlike and social experience for the players.

In a 2006 paper from Jose Zagal, Jochen Rick and Idris Hsi, they classify multiplayer electronic games into three categories – “collaborative, cooperative and competitive.” While at the time of writing many of the design principles that could be studied were rather complex, so they used board games to explain it. This falls in a similar vein to my own idea, taking a complex piece of electronic work and creating a similar collaborative and competitive experience in a different way.

In collaborative games, they suggest, “the participants work together as a team, sharing the payoffs and outcomes.” Competitive games fall at the opposite end of the spectrum, and they see it as something that should not be present in a collaborative setting. “The problems of designing a collaborative game thus becomes one of dealing with the competitiveness that players bring to the table.”

For me, this presents and interesting contradiction to draw social utility from. As my game is played by six people at the same table, face to face, you want to foster a deeply collaborative experience of teamwork and good communication in order for a team to strategise and win. A competitive edge is required however, providing a driving force in the game. Without a desire to come out victorious, the game doesn’t work.

I feel my game can benefit from this research as I refine the core play, rewarding these two opposing traits in a balanced way. It also means that digression from these two styles from players will create diversity in the game from match to match, and hopefully keep the player engaged in the experience, striving for victory. It’s all about fostering that sense of teamwork and making players think outside the box to work as a team.


  1. This is a good set up for making people work together, but the difficulty will be having a way to communicate without the other team knowing what is being said. Teamwork only really works if you can do it while the other team is still out of the loop or cannot react fast enough, where a card game doesn’t have that speed element to it, so confidentiality is key.

    Unless they have wards.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, had similar thoughts – definitely a challenge individual teams will attemp to overcome differently.

      Dedicated Crystal Maiden ward character incoming. Wards are key.


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