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I'm creating a story set in a peaceful society. The society is actually very strict about being peaceful, to the point where they don't even play games involving competition. But at the same time, this society enjoys recreation, and also is very intellectual.

I'm looking for your help to design games (physical or not) that:

  1. aren't competitive, in that players aren't divided into opposing groups, there's no way to rank players, there aren't any consequences if a player plays poorly, etc. To clarify, it's fine if players have different roles in the game. But roles really shouldn't be a substitution for teams, and one role shouldn't be "better" than another.

  2. The game must get progressively difficult depending on the skill level of the players. In a competitive game like soccer or chess, if you want a harder game you look for a better opponent. In other words, competition makes the game difficult. That's not an option here. But the game needs to scale to the ability of the players: otherwise, the people in this intellectual society will get bored.

    If possible, I would prefer to avoid players changing the rules to make the game harder (i.e. because they players are bored, they invent a rule that everyone needs to play blindfolded). I want this game to be a common cultural experience for people in this society, and that doesn't work if everyone is playing a different version of the game.

I found some resources on the internet, such as the Cooperative Sports website. But surprisingly, only one of the ~20 games listed on that webpage meets the requirements of this question.

If necessary, you can use any sort of technology (imaginary or not) to create these games. But the best games will be simple.

EDIT: Just to clarify things some more: I'm trying to avoid puzzling games. I'm looking for games where complexity is generated from simple rules, like soccer or chess.


There have been a lot of answers to this question. However, by my count only four of the roughly 100 games proposed actually meet the requirements of the question. These four games are:

  1. Collaborative singing/dancing/storytelling/art. This was the most popular (correct) answer; several people were able to come up with this idea on their own.

  2. Jenga.

  3. Push Hands.

  4. The incredibly boring ball drag (with a special type of ball).

I apologize in advance for any correct answers that I missed: there were thirty-one answers, and it was hard to read everything.

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    $\begingroup$ I find that rather difficult: a game which players are absolutely certain to beat, whatever the skillset of these players is, is no game (or at least to me). In fact, I can't think of such a game where were you to take all the bad choices you would win anyway. So if you want a game there has to be a goal which players may fail if they perform badly. And if you fail (even if playing cooperatively) that could end up in frustration and anger for some. So I would say game = no absolute peace. (as a whole perfect peace would mean no goal-driven action as they could fail and create frustration) $\endgroup$ – Riff Jul 28 '16 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ Isn't this just idea generation, which we agreed was off-topic here? $\endgroup$ – fi12 Jul 28 '16 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ As soon as you have any rules or measurementyou can have competition. Even art is always a competition for affection/popularity. Any social interaction is a competition, trying to be well liked by your friends and a good member of society. - Either you can have no answer, or every game is potentially OK, I think this is too broad/idea generation $\endgroup$ – Falco Jul 29 '16 at 10:12
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    $\begingroup$ "aren't competitive, in that players aren't divided into opposing groups, there's no way to rank players, there aren't any consequences if a player plays poorly, etc." "But the game needs to scale to the ability of the players: " If players have differing levels of ability, they can be ranked by ability. Your requirements are a contradiction. $\endgroup$ – Pharap Jul 29 '16 at 10:27
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    $\begingroup$ If a game doesn't have multiple opposing groups (like football) and doesn't have a way to rank individuals'/groups' performance (like running) then I believe it is not a game, it just an activity. I guess this depends on your philosophical views on the definitions of games, activities, sports, toys, puzzles, etc. This comment is sort of moot, because it doesn't challenge anything other than the word used. $\endgroup$ – Captain Man Jul 29 '16 at 18:57

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Role playing games come to mind immediately. It is pretty easy to set up a role playing game that relies on group cooperation of the role players, without any inherent need for them to oppose one another. The only equivalent to an "opponent" in an RPG is the game master, but that could be mitigated by creating a pretty complicated and flexible rule system that the GM sticks to closely (or even having an AI computer GM instead of a person). The object of the game is usually the team using a variety of abilities, skills, and creative thinking to solve a puzzle, achieve some goal, or "fix" something wrong in the simulated world. Difficulty scales up as the puzzles get harder, the challenges get more difficult to overcome, etc. An RPG game need not center on combat/violence. Many do not.

Obviously, to me, such a game would be incredibly boring, but probably not to your aliens.

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    $\begingroup$ @NexTerren; I have been a DM/GM for many years. I KNOW about the competition usually inherent in an RPG game. All I am saying is that an RPG game CAN be designed to effectively eliminate competition. Once again, such a game would be truly boring, but hey, I'm not from this theoretical society. $\endgroup$ – JBiggs Jul 27 '16 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ There are a huge variety of RPG games. On the "social" side of the spectrum, you have games that are almost the equivalent of "2nd Life" in that there is no explicit goal, no combat, and no direct competition between players (imagine a soap opera run by players sitting around a table running the characters). Everything depends on the group involved. There were even rule systems designed to minimize combat and competition (obviously, this kind of thing never took off, because killing monsters is way more fun). There really isn't a market for that kind of game, but it is totally possible. $\endgroup$ – JBiggs Jul 27 '16 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ There are tons of "GMless" rpgs out there as well. Check out this list (first google hit: doubleninja.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/… ) $\endgroup$ – aslum Jul 27 '16 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ RPGs are a big enough field that there's a Stack [site](rpg.stackexchange.com) for them. Since this seems like it could easily end up chatty, perhaps you should swing by there. $\endgroup$ – Joel Harmon Jul 28 '16 at 2:45
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    $\begingroup$ Games like Fiasco can be completely non-competitive; especially once you accept there's no win state, just a good story. $\endgroup$ – deworde Jul 28 '16 at 13:18
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Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is a non-competitive sport in which people seek to climb difficult but beautiful routes up a variety of cliffs. While indoor rock climbing has a competition scene, climbing outside has always had a focus on personal accomplishment for short climbs or team accomplishment for sumitting huge cliffs (like El Capitan in Yosemite) or mountains.

While climbing doesn't scale with a competitor's ability, per se, the variety of routes available means that a given climber can always find a climb that is difficult for them. Beginning climbers will seek short, safe climbs with a minimal amount of physical strength required, while more advanced climbers will seek longer, more strenuous climbs with some combination of smaller holds and steeper aspects to increase the physical challenge. Advanced climbers may also be drawn more towards the mental challenge of pushing themselves to try increasingly dangerous climbs or varieties of climbing, culminating in free soloing.

In anything but a free solo, teamwork and cooperation to some extent are necessary, as a climber always needs a belayer. In general, people also cooperate and work together to figure out how to climb a given section of rock, even if the act of finally climbing it is something each climber must do on their own.

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    $\begingroup$ Also surfing, white water rafting, and sky-diving are in the same category of "player vs environment" sports $\endgroup$ – James K Jul 27 '16 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesK Don't forget hiking. $\endgroup$ – haykam Jul 27 '16 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, hiking, and also free-style jazz. $\endgroup$ – James K Jul 27 '16 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with rock climbing is that it can also turn into a competition: who can climb this part the quickest, who can climb the most difficult locations, etc. $\endgroup$ – Cronax Jul 28 '16 at 6:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Cronax: for that matter, chess can also turn physically violent: you can punch your opponent. This society's goal of stopping people from adapting non-competitive games into competitive ones is an ongoing process, it won't come purely from the game design :-) $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Jul 28 '16 at 8:18
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There are board games with relatively simple rules where you do not compete with other players, but instead compete to win against a set of pre-determined challenges. An example is Pandemic. I'm sure there are lots of other similar board games that I don't know about.

In this case the challenge is that the rules of the game will cause you and your team-mates to lose after a certain amount of time, and random obstacles will be thrown in your path that require team planning to overcome.

We actually specifically bought this game because it isn't confrontational, and apparently I am too competitive and my wife won't let me play Settlers of Catan or Dominion with some of her friends....

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    $\begingroup$ +1, we have Pandemic, Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, and a half dozen other cooperative games. $\endgroup$ – Mr.Mindor Jul 27 '16 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ I wonder if this is close enough to competition against an AI that it would be excluded. $\endgroup$ – Todd Wilcox Jul 28 '16 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ I've played Pandemic and other co-op boardgames. Whilst, on paper, all roles are equal human dynamics does tend to mean that a group leader will tend to emerge. This can be as a patient advisor to the other players or an outright dictator demanding how other players play. Also, bad losers at competitive games are just as likely to be bad losers in co-op games blaming other players for the loss. $\endgroup$ – Dave Halsall Jul 28 '16 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ I'm curious if these board games meet the second requirement: that they get harder the better you get at playing them. $\endgroup$ – user171 Jul 29 '16 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Hamlet Pandemic, and the other games listed do not automatically get more difficult the better you get at playing them (that seems contradictory), but have difficulty options in the rules that make them more challenging regardless of your skill. $\endgroup$ – Mr.Mindor Jul 29 '16 at 22:05
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It's not the game that is competitive, it's how you play it.

Your peaceful society could play any game and treat it as non-competitive. They could probably even have non-competitive football, MMA fighting, or even {gasp} non-competitive rugby. Okay, maybe rugby might be a stretch.

Two examples to prove my point. The first is Push Hands from Tai Chi, a martial art that your pacifists might appreciate. Push Hands is a game designed to help develop your sensitivity. Its hard to describe all the nuances, but the basic idea is that you touch the other person (typically with one hand or both), and try to move with eachother while maintaining balance. Played this way, the game is non-competitive. You only "attack" when it is clear the other person wishes you to attack in order to better test their own skill. If they look like they're having trouble, you back off, beause it's not competitive. Your goal is not to "win" as much as it is to better your own skills. You can also play competitively. Same game, except the "winner" is the one who makes the other person lose balance. The other difference was how you play it.

(Here's some examples of push hands: freestyle demo, non-competitive push hands, competitive push hands. There's also a video of Cheng Man Ching doing it, though I will not venture to make a claim as to how competitive this video is.)

On the other side, I harken back to my days in World of Warcraft (don't judge!). They had a Player v. Player game known as Arathi Basin where you gained points by owning territory. It's a pretty cutthroat game with a lot of competition. However, one particular night, my guild, specializing in these PvP games, came up against another guild who also specialized in them. We were equally matched. Extremely equally matched. The game is played to 2000 points, and we won with a final score of 1999/2000 (and based on the rate the points were ticking, I estimate it closer to 1999.9/2000). We of course were overjoyed at winning, but I noticed immediately that, had we lost 2000/1999.9, I was still going to be happy that that was an amazing game that pushed everyone to the limits. From my perspective, the competition wasn't as important as the opportunity to really stretch out and see what I was capable of.

I think the one key to non-competitive gaming is to make sure that, even if you lose, you end up getting more out of the game than you put in. Some games have rules which make this easier, but you can play any game non-competitively, simply by finding what you want out of the game on the playing field, rather than in the winner's circle. Likewise, its impossible to make a truly non-competitive game. Those who wish to compete will find some way to turn it into a competitive game by adding rules to create winners and losers.

What you really need is a coach that inspires a non-competitive attitude of striving for your best. If you can instill that in someone, they can play any game and grin in the face of defeat.

Another approach which may fit with the spirit of your question is to have a game whose rules evolve over time. You can win, but you know that by winning you simply change the game in a way that makes your winning less important. However, obviously you won't find any rules for such games, since they are constantly in flux. Still, I remember many a day playing with sticks as a child, pretending they were swords. Technically you can win a sword fight, but you can never lose at pretend-playtime.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree with you, but that's just not how this particular society thinks. $\endgroup$ – user171 Jul 27 '16 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Hamlet I worded it that way because Push Hands, as described, is completely non-competitive in every way shape and form, until you add a competitive aspect to it by defining winning and losing as part of the rules, or by the players choosing to add it (hence "potentially exploitable") $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jul 27 '16 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ Because I think push hands may be a good match for your culture, I've included a few videos. I'm not going to make statements for how good they are at it, because I'm not qualified. I simply chose them to capture different levels of non-combativeness/combativeness $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jul 27 '16 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ Another interesting way to convert any competitive game is to turn competition into acting. So the "game" is to "act" like you're competitive while you play this game. In the end, all you did was have fun acting. $\endgroup$ – iAdjunct Jul 27 '16 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ "Those who wish to compete will find some way" -- for example, any time there is a success/failure criterion, you can challenge each other to succeed or predict others' success and generate losers. Any time you do something that can be measured, you can invent success criteria. It seems to me that society won't be non-competitive because it has somehow been made impossible to compete, it will be non-competitive because people choose not to do that, and would strongly disapprove of anyone who did. Just like we choose not to stab our opponents in order to win at snakes and ladders. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Jul 28 '16 at 8:27
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Dancing

In this case, I'm not talking about professional choreographed routines, I'm talking more about a band, a dance floor, and a variety of people pairing up to move to the music.

I'm also not talking about random gyrating and thrusting, I'm talking about structured forms of dance, such as swing dancing. In these dances, there is a very large skill gap separating the amateurs from the professionals. That said, you don't need to know everything to have fun, and you should be able to find a partner you work well with.

In this example, as with all the others so far, there could be an element of competition, but for many people that's not the end goal. The goal of dancing is to have a good time, to move to the music in the way you know you want to, and to find someone you can spin around without crushing anyone's toes. Essentially, dancing is about two people trying to look and feel as great as possible, which is a lot like what you'd get in competitive sports, but without the need for opposition.

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  • $\begingroup$ You could argue that dancing is an art form, rather than a game. $\endgroup$ – Sherwood Botsford Mar 1 '17 at 2:45
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Collaborative and creative activities would probably be the most popular. This would open up a huge variety of recreational activities. For example,

  • Collaborative storytelling, taking turns to build a narrative.
  • Synchronised physical activities, perhaps synchronized swimming as an example.

These would provide options for different skill levels and do not have a competitive element (unless you compare results to other "teams").

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for collaborative storytelling. If you try and get competitive in Fiasco or Munchausen, you potentially ruin the experience. $\endgroup$ – deworde Jul 28 '16 at 13:20
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Simulations games could be a great source of inspiration for you.

Imagine a multiplayer version of Sim City. Instead of one player being the mayor, each player is a secretary in charge of one aspect of the city - transportation, education, health etc. and they have to cooperate to make the most happy city ever.

Or you can go for Flight Simulator. The game largely ignores economy (at least the versions I played), so everyone gets to fly a plane. Some players can even man the air traffic controlling stations on ground.

You can also go for music and dancing games, by remove scoring. Just Dance and Dance Central become dancing lessons, and Rocksmith make your society more musical.

Last but not least games that allow for purely creative activities such as Minecraft in creative mode already fit into your model.

If playing with toys counts as a game for you, one thing I plan to do with my kids when I have them is to fill their bedrooms with so many lego bricks, we're all gonna have a hard time walking inside those rooms. So they can create whatever it is they wish to play with. No scoring, and no winners nor losers. Just pure, undilluted fun. When I was a kid I actually spent many hours doing just that with my friends, and those were the best times of my childhood.

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    $\begingroup$ Minesweeper and Solitaire aren't necessarily competitive. $\endgroup$ – David Starkey Jul 28 '16 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ Isn't there a version of Star Trek where several players play an individual role on the Enterprise bridge? Ah.. yes there is $\endgroup$ – gbjbaanb Jul 29 '16 at 22:23
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Just free-thinking here.

Countdown for Utopia turning into hell, at mark, 10, 9,8,7....

But at the same time, this society enjoys recreation, and also is very intellectual.

Yep, they're boned.

I have to admit that whenever anyone says "non-competitive" I get nervous. Competition is the automatic flip side of freedom. If people can freely choose between options, that throws the providers of those options into instant competition. Games are really abstracted simulation of real-life events so a non-competitive game must be a game without freedom, something with tight rules and strictures.

And where there is life, there is always competition, in humans and in every other species, even hive-insects. Humans compete for social status real or imagined, needed or not. We're hardwired that way. So says evolutionary science.

The upshot is that if create a non-competitive game, you will soon find it will become just a cover for a "black-market" competitive game. That would make a good story in itself.

But I'll give it a shot: Games require some sort of stress or pressure on the players. Indeed that pressure is rather the point. Competitive games, physical or mental e.g. chess are really descended from simulated combat. So we need to simulate a condition in which are under stress or pressure but not from other humans.

Humans are the most cooperative non-hive species and when mutually pressured, we default to cooperative mode. To make a non-competative game, you just have change the "plot" of the game from "man vs man" to "man vs nature (or something none human)" or more intriguingly, "man vs inner-self."

Man vs nature could be easily arraigned as many have noted above. Just give a team a collective task, say barn raising, in a finite time frame and you've got instant pressure without (overt at least) competition.

Man vs inner-self could be pretty eerie. If competitive games are abstracted simulated combat, then a non-competitive man vs inner-self could a game that is an abstracted, simulated struggle against immorality or insanity. Maybe something on the world causes people suffer mental degradation so they evolve "games" which train them from childhood to monitor their own mental states and the states of those around them.

The "game" might be a bunch of people sitting around drinking drug tea that made them irrational in some fashion and play the game by keeping themselves calm and helping others to do the same.

I'd have to think about how to make that happen but it would be something different.

P.S. You might want to study up on the literally hundreds of utopian communities founded in the US between the early 1700s up to the civil war. Most were founded by highly intelligent people with cooperative, non-competitive doctrines of some kind. That might give you some ideas. The Shakers are of particular interest. Their primary form of recreation was prolonged religious ritual involving singing, free-form dancing and "shaking."

P.S.S. Come to think of it. Community dancing, which survives in the developed world only in forms like Square Dancing, or some evangelical church services but used to be nigh universal. It's basically a bunch of people working hard to maintain a particular pattern under the pressure of the movements and the music. Nobody gets trampled everyone wins. Recommend a book called "Moving Together in Time." If you can find it.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for the innerself games. This is a really interesting concept. Would other forms of community dancing not be ballroom, street or even clubbing? It's just groups of people getting together to dance. $\endgroup$ – dunc123 Jul 30 '16 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ No, by definition community dancing is ruthlessly anti-individualistic. The entire point seems to have at least three or more people repeat a specific pattern. In some cases, they are centuries old. There is no real individualistic or even paired dancing in any traditional non-Western cultures and paired dancing did not appear in the West until circa 1840 in Vienna with the Waltz. Dancing has followed the same atomization that has occurred for good and bad in the rest of society. People become individualized, but also psychologically isolated. $\endgroup$ – TechZen Jul 30 '16 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ We're the first culture in history in loneliness is a major problem and wherein people have next to no knowledge of neighbors living just on the other side of the the wall. Our dancing is about "expressing ourselves" which is really just a euphemism for "self-marketing." I'm old enough to have known a lot of people who came of age before WWII as late as the 70s when I was a tween, they used to have community dances in small rural "towns" that were nothing but a school/church. Everyone joined, or got hauled in, no wallflowers, no clumsy sullen dweebs nursing a drink in a dark corner. $\endgroup$ – TechZen Jul 30 '16 at 15:27
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By "non-competitive" I understand games and sports in which you do not compete against other people but against yourself, testing your physical and mental limits but also stressing your communication and teamwork skills.

Gymnastics and acrobatics

There are many exercises that require teamwork and coordination. How about building human pyramids?

Team obstacle courses

Various parkours and puzzles that can only be solved in a team. Imagine a climbing parkour that requires 4 people to simultaneously press buttons that are located in various locations so that a door is opened which leads to the next part of the puzzle.

Playing against AI's and robots

This may or may not be inacceptable because football, basketball and soccer are relatively violent sports, at least considered so by your pacifist hippie people, but how about taking emphasis on teamwork by having many footballers play against robot teams with varying levels of difficulty?

Ball passing

One of the simplest games in the world but boring: several people (it can be just 3 but also 100) form a circle and pass a ball to each other. The objective for the thrower is to throw a ball so that the person of his choice can catch it easily while the objective of the catcher is to react quickly to the ball being thrown. There should be a clear way of declaring who must catch the ball to prevent fights over the ball, this can be done by making the thrower yell the name of the recepient out loudly. The point of the game will be to exchange the ball at a very quick pace. If done correctly, the game will be a completely non-competitive game.

Music

How about having people improvise from the scratch together? Forming harmonic tunes can be a hard challenge that requires teamwork.

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How to create non-competitive games

All the answers give good examples of non-competitive games. Some of these examples are quite general, too. However here are some ideas on how to create multiple non-competitive games:

Invert a known game

In Mikado you have a pile of sticks to take from. You need to take a single stick without moving any other. Mikado is about taking stuff, which may be seen as inherent competitiveness.
Jenga is about building stuff. While Jenga is something like the inversion of Mikado it is still competitive, because there is a lose option. Change that lose option by making the pile of sticks unstructured like in Mikado. The game ends when all sticks have been placed on the pile. So the game is played until all players would agree: "There's no stick left to take and place on the pile without the pile collapsing."
Collapsing the pile is not bad. Instead it provides a possibility to change the pile. So all players should agree on a pattern they want to achieve collaboratively. For beginners the sticks could have a quadratic cross section. For advanced players there may be difficult patterns to achieve.

Running or catching is competitive, because it reminds of hunting. It also penalizes slow (e.g. very young) players. However you could gamify evacuations. Instead of running away and/or being the only one first at a target place the idea is to get everyone to the "safe place" as fast as possible.
Similarly Hide and Seek can be seen as non-competitive in that finding someone is not necessarily winning over them. In an evacuation you'd need to find people and warn them of a danger they might not be aware of.

So basically you take any known game and inspect, what is competitive about it. Invert that part of the game and you're done.

Make a known single-player-game collaborative

Solitaire was designed to be played by one player. There's no reason, why you couldn't get help to solve it. Minesweeper may sound aggressive but it's basically finding things by presented clues. Sudoku is fun to play with someone, too.

With all the examples above the only difference between competitive and not is the mindset of the players. Do I need to be the one who contributes the most? Am I even thinking about it?

Stay abstract

Humans are competitive. We have a hard time imagining different societies. Often times if something is too different we would argue that things couldn't work that way. However someone of a really non-competitive society could similarly argue that being competitive rejects the idea of society at whole.
So if you stay vague only naming the game and stating abstract details, it doesn't matter what that details of the game are. Stating the "obvious" non-competitiveness of the game would be boring. Instead describe aspects like

  • the beautiful result achieved
  • the players thinking how they could best contribute to the whole
  • a blunder that might've ruined the game, which may turn out to be a sign of competitiveness, if someone was about to interject to achieve the result in a way against a certain rule. Is competing to be non-competing too complex? Maybe someone caught something by reflex, he should've let fall by the rules.
  • the audience asking each other for their opinion or explanation thereof without arguing any point made.

This has the benefit that it may feel natural to the reader until it dawns on him that there was no mention of a winner.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for Jenga and mikado, those were actually some of the games I was thinking of when I wrote this question. The cool thing about them is that they get harder the longer you play, which means they meet the second requirement of the question $\endgroup$ – user171 Jul 31 '16 at 20:11
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I want to ask a question but I'm new and don't know how to do it and don't have the rep for a comment. Can you clarify peaceful and competitive please.

For example I play tabletop wargames and I can have a tough and competitive game against an opponent where we try to destroy each others 'armies' and yet we remain peaceful and civil to one another throughout.

Being competitive doesn't equate to not being peaceful although given the toxic atmosphere of some online games I can see what you might be driving at.

For example I suspect you could easily play Chess as the amount of violence at chess tournaments is very small (but probably not zero).

FIRST EDIT

Thanks for the explanation, so we are saying that you are not allowed to be competitive or adversarial in any way even if that is done in a peaceful and controlled environment. In that case I think the concept is so alien that I'm not going to be able to come up with an answer.

The closest I can think would be something like a jam session of musicians. Several people together using their talent to produce something that is unique and more than a sum of the individual parts. It would have to be a jam session as otherwise people would be able to recreate it, comment on it and then it becomes competitive when people prefer one 'band' to another and then you get charts and talent shows etc.

SECOND EDIT Curse this inability to comment!!!!

Another answer here is an RPG. I can give an example of something similar that I was part of years ago. One person (the GM) controlled the world where they told a story to the players. The players each wrote to the GM weekly to explain what their characters would try and do and their motivations for those actions. The GM would collate them all and then much like an author tell the next installment of the story based on the interaction created by the players notes. Think of it like a long running TV show where you play one character yourself. There were not stats to min/max and if you tried to be disruptive you would simply be dropped from the game. The story was everything.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good question. For the society in this question, such games would count as competition, even though you're obviously not being violent. It's just a peculiar way that the society looks at the world in general. $\endgroup$ – user171 Jul 27 '16 at 16:05
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    $\begingroup$ In the upper right of the page, there is an Ask Question link. You can click that to ask your own question. $\endgroup$ – Brythan Jul 27 '16 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks however I wanted to ask a question of the OP to help understand what they wanted as an answer and at the time I was unable to add comments. $\endgroup$ – Paul7926 Jul 27 '16 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ This is not a discussion forum but a question (one per thread) and answer site. So you cannot use an answer to ask another question. If you ask a question or answer another one, you should be able to get enough reputation to comment. You can already join the Worldbuilding Chat if you want more discussion. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Jul 27 '16 at 18:58
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Conway's Game of Life and other similar games, like "legos" - are game-like because an inherent challenge exists in getting what you want out of the system based on perceiving complex results from unintuitively simple initial conditions. The struggle which makes it game-like is not against others, nor does the result lend itself to competitive comparison, as individual sports might - for example, in rock climbing you primarily compete against the rock and yourself, but it is possible to see how people compete based on speed of ascent or path of ascent. It is much harder to see how one could convincingly compare any two games of Conway's Game of Life. Better yet, these examples are actually a complete class of systems that you can play with. Legos is just a physical instantiation with a very wide ruleset.

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So the easiest examples are the games where you are working together trying to defeat the game itself. In the simplest case you have peg solitaire, a game for one person where they are trying to essentially solve a really complicated puzzle. In the most common case I know of today, you have families working on a shared puzzle on a large table while a Christmas/Thanksgiving meal is roasting away in an oven. But there are games like massively multiplayer Minesweeper as well which can generate a "we're working together" vibe.

There are games which are "competitive-ish" where all of the players are on the same team doing stuff like this; I'm thinking of Shadows over Camelot (you are all knights of the round table; each turn you flip over some cards about how evil is encroaching upon the land, then you come up with a shared strategy for fighting that evil) and Arkham Horror (Cthulhu is slowly driving the world mad as he prepares to make his grand entrance; you are all investigators who need to solidify the boundaries between worlds enough so that he gives up and returns back to a deep slumber.) In both of these games the adversity is provided by the cards of the game itself and not by the players struggling against each other.

Obviously the plotline needs to change, but you could develop a very similar game about needing to find food, water, and shelter in the woods, trying to grow a small band of survivors into a self-sustaining community, where the adversity is just random events which befall the region. The only thing which this might violate is your criterion "there aren't any consequences if a player plays poorly" -- in these games there is still an attitude of success and failure, with the players generally reaching towards success.

In a similar vein, consider a collaborative game where each person is given control of some robots with only a couple instructions. Instructions N, S, E, W make your robot fly in that direction (in a grid arena) until it crashes into a wall or a robot, after which it stops in the square right before the crash. If you fly through a square containing a ball of colored light, your robot picks it up, maximum 1. Your robot can also throw this thing in the N, S, E, or W directions, almost the same rules: if it hits a wall it stops in the square right before that. But some tiles have on the ground a colored "black hole" for those balls of light of that color. The goal is for your team to throw all of the light-balls into their matching black holes before time runs out. The reason I made this robots (you can also do humans!) is because I think it would be fun to give players 30 seconds to collaborate, and then they have to write a 50-move program independently of each other for each of their robots, and then they can play them out with all of these robots flying around simultaneously and maybe they'll have a perfect strategy ruined by two players accidentally crashing into each other on move#34, throwing off the rest of the instructions thereafter.

If you want games which the team can't really fail at (per a comment), then it becomes much harder to talk about skill levels (it seems like there's something inherent to the idea of "skill" which is about "likelihood of success"). But it's not 100% impossible -- for example, painting is one of those things where different people have different skill levels but a given painting is objectively neither a success nor a failure. Consider the Food Network show Chopped, where contestants cook with a basket of random ingredients against a time crunch, and each other. Now limit it to one person, and one trial, and they have to cook one theme ingredient. They get, say, &100 (where & is your world's currency) for each of a set of nasty ingredients they use in their dish, or for devastating handicaps like "not allowed to use a knife." They get &100 for each judge who says their result is tasty, and they get &100 simply for competing. Now there is a tension and strategy: do you take all of the difficult ingredients, earning money that way, and if so can you make it palatable? Or do you go for a very likable dish without those spoilers and try to earn the money from pleasing the judges? There is still a rough way to rank people (by the amount of money they made playing the game) but of course everyone knows that that's highly subjective because they made different choices in the face of different ingredients and different available challenges; this person who won the most may have "gotten lucky" moreso than this person who won much less but accomplished a lot more.

In some ways I guess the latter is a sort of improv comedy, which is another useful template. Whose Line Is It, Anyway? is famously a fun game show where "everything is made up and the points don't matter." You can do improv in many different ways. Imagine dealing cards to a bunch of people containing, say, story elements and settings and dramatic reveals; each person chooses to discard 2 out of their 5 cards and then, without saying what's on each card, they have to assemble them blindly into a story. We then flip up the cards and read the story from beginning to end. Hardmode contains cards like "everyone dies" where you can only say things like "I need to introduce a character after this dramatic reveal!" to try and keep the plot going. No matter what comes out, everyone has fun, either at an epic story or a sort of disjointed Mad Lib.

But even if we're talking about very strictly logical games rather than aesthetic ambiguity, we can of course come to the same result through a team effort with a bunch of different approaches. Consider the task of solving an NP-complete problem; maybe it's deriving a formula given a set of logical rules. To make this into a collaborative game, just give players turns guiding some current "working formula" by applying a rule apiece to the current expression, until this expression matches the target. In a way this is sort of a game where we place a robot randomly within a maze, and give a bunch of players in turn a choice to make that robot go N, S, E, W one square; the team wins when the robot gets out of the maze; you can increase difficulty simply by choosing a larger maze.

So those are some templates I can think of.

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I think the key point is the people.

The people themselves will have to be non-competitive.

I've seen two people complete compete eating food or finding a parking spot.

Some humans make everything competitive...it is evolutionarily beneficial to be better.

Competing is hard wired into our systems

So I think the answer relies on two things.

  1. First, as in your question, and as mentioned in other answers, you need games that promote cooperation (those things can still be competitive, we can make anything competitive). I mean seriously we EAT HOTDOGS competitively. so disgusting...

  2. The people have to be non-competitive. How you get to this point probably requires a development path other than natural evolution...evolution will never select for a non-competitive species.

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  • $\begingroup$ Disclaimer: animals are people too. They also like to tear shreds out of each other to make their lives better. Just to a lesser extent and in a less self-destructive way. $\endgroup$ – Pharap Jul 29 '16 at 9:46
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There are actually a number of co-op boardgames in existence where the players play against the game not against each other. Some that come to mind include: Pandemic (a game where you cooperate to eradicate diseases), Flash Point (a game where you rescue NPCs from a burning building), Forgotten Island (a game where you as a group recover treasure from a sinking island). You can use games like these to get a feel for how co-op games can work.

They all focus on roles for the individual players that provide a useful skill or benefit that helps the group as a whole. Usually each player (whoever's turn it is currently to prevent anyone player taking the blame as an antagonist) has to perform an act for the game itself. This is often a randomizing action like flipping a card from a shuffled deck or rolling a die which has adverse effects on the game board but doesn't actively target a single player (spreading disease tokens on the game board, triggering fiery explosions in a random room). The games are often themed to stress the need for teamwork and cooperation (stopping diseases worldwide, rescuing people from fires, etc.). The players win or lose together, no individual points are awarded. Most of the games have an adjustable difficulty level as well (changing the rate at which disease spreads, or the island sinks, allowing the players to use a fire truck to help put out large sections of a burning building all at once, etc.).

I suggest researching some of the existing co-op games (and playing them if you can find a copy or a friend with a copy), to get insight into what makes the games work.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes! Play Pandemic or Forbidden Island. Rules do what you're talking about & players have to work cooperatively. I'd look to that rather than to a physical sport as an inspiration. You can also modify existing games. Expand on something like Civilization, only the goal is to get the world to certain goals, using co-operative sharing of resources. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Jul 28 '16 at 15:03
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If you want to make this believable I would draw heavily from existing large Player Vs Environment games, just tweak the fluff/justification around the existing gameplay.

These game exist, and are huge. Most obvious is World Of Warcraft. Yes it has PVP elements, but one can play on a PVE server without every fighting a human enemy. Instead you have a group of 6, or 10, or 25, players all working together to take on a challenge the game provides to them. Harder challenge comes from taking on a stronger dungeon/raid etc.

Or look at MOBA's (leauge of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, Defense of the ancients etc). Sure, the standard MOBA is pretty much the definition of competitive. However, it's possible for your 5 man team to go up against AI foes in a player vs environment setting. Sure, standard MOBAs the Ai are not that good and are kind of easy, because their just training tools for the real game, but a game that takes the same format of a MOBA, 5 man teams in a 20-45 minute game against a computer controlled challenge, can easily be created.

Now I know you're first thought is obvious, these are clearly non-peaceful games, and that's true. However, the gameplay is not at all competitive, and does not need competition. It is quite easy to keep the gameplay and just modify the justification for what the characters are doing. Your find much of design elements carry over quite easily, and should be used as a model for your game. I would suggest tweaking characters into being heroes fighting some disaster or external/environmental threat most often.

WoW for wildlife management

Your exploring new lands (either new planets in a sci-fi game or a fantasy game with some ability to jump to new unknown locations though some magic gate recently discovered). These lands have large and potentially hostile creatures. You need to explore these lands to learn their secrets, discover any resources your people can use, etc.

Along the way you need to deal with hostile creatures & dangerous land elements. You don't attack the creatures, but have a whole host of abilities to calm fearful creatures, charm others that you need to get close to study, protect against environmental hazards that show up, etc.

Your dungeon is effectively a new world to explore and your doing it meaning no harm. In fact take it a step further, perhaps the creatures are being harmed by something (magic invading the world is driving them insane, or space plague risks killing them) so you need to actively hunt down and control the creatures precisely so you can help provide them with whatever aid will protect them from the disaster that recently struck their land.

MOBA for flying a spaceship

Imagine you have a game set in the future where you have a spaceship doing some important space-mission (could be anything from studdying anomolies in dangerous space to trying to survive a space jump into new unexplored area whatever). Your 5 man team is in charge of various roles on the spaceship, and need to cooperate to make the ship work it's best to survive the challenge. Each character has a set abilities they can use but need to collaborate with each other to get the most out of them. Alternatively to make this feel more like a MOBA modify it to be a space fleet and each character controlls one specialized craft that needs to work together to protect the rest of the civilian/scientific/escort-quest ships in the dangerous mission their all working towards.

Team Fortress for fighting wildfires

Imagine a crazy wildfire spreading and people needing to combat it. You create a team of 'elite specialized firefighters' that get airdroped into a disaster zone who help to combat the blaze. Your "heavy" is the guy with a giant firehose that can put down invading flames rapidly, Your 'spy' is someone who's job is to run into the burning building to grab civilians that need saved, with only a small anti fire extinguisher but special abilities to survive being surrounded by fire. Your Engineer builds fire hydrants that others can connect to for increased water pressure and automated water turrets. Your Medic checks out everyone gear and helps cool them off when their running dangerously high in their 'overheat' ranges.

The game would have to make fire a little more dynamic, but there are all kinds of justifications I could come up with to do it, or none at all (a FPS isn't all that realistic compared to a real battleground, people don't mind your taking liberty to make the game fun)

Civilization as...civilization?

4X games (Xplore, Xpand, Xploit, Xterminate) games can easily be built into 3X games (drop the extermination part) with little effort at all. Everyone can be in charge of building up their own civilization without combat involved. Perhaps they all cooperate together and are ranked not just on how their own civilization grows and develops but also how others grow as well.

All you really need to do here is add more environmental hazards to the game, more random events, famine, diseases, negative weather patterns etc, to add extra pressures to fledgling civilizations to make it hard for them to grow, perhaps combined with some extra elements to ensure that banding together usually helps the civilizations to survive these hazards.

I think I sort of made my point so I won't keep going on. These are examples in general, there are plenty of other ways of doing the sort of things I suggested. My main point is rather then trying to reinvent the wheel I suggest taking existing games and just throw on a non-violent skin. The challenges really don't need violence and the gameplay can work pretty similarly without violence.

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The key concept (that many answers addressed, but only indirectly) is that competitiveness must be replaced by creativity.

My basic premise is: instead of playing to confront each other, we play to create together. Dancing, role playing and puzzles all have this common feature, but were suggested before.

I offer instead a more refined version of cat's cradle, where you and your partner take turns to add steps into a progressively complex design, and neither can control the final design because of the other's input. The better the collaboration, the better the the final result.

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  • $\begingroup$ And then people will compete to see which pair of people can produce better final results than other pairs. $\endgroup$ – Pharap Jul 29 '16 at 9:56
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Catch

Cooperative play, coordination, skill, agility, no points, no teams.

Acroyoga

Yoga with cooperation and coordination between partners.

Story writing

could easily be a group activity--perhaps a more nuanced version of the game children play where they each contribute a sentence to a story.

Sex

Cooperation, pleasure, creativity even. Why not?

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Theatre Sports / Improvisation

Though these are often setup as a competition when we see them performed, there's no need for that (in fact, good improvisors know that the competition is for show and co-operate to put on an entertaining competition). But in it's simplist form it could be a good natured gathering where individuals or groups take turns to improvise scenes for each other's enjoyment.

You could try the Improv Encyclopedia for a list of example games.

In terms of increasing the challenge based on skill - the trick here is that constraints are removed as the players get more advanced. For novice players, you need a lot of rules and simple games to contrive a situation where they will do something fun and interesting in spite of the of the nervousness around performing. As players become more advanced you remove more and more rules until the best players can simply be thrown on stage and something beautiful will unfold.

People often think of improv as comedy, but it doesn't have to be, the players could improvise a tragic or dramatic scene - and good players will do this to mix it up after a lot of laughs.

This may also serve another need in society - since your citizens are so peaceful and non-confrontational, how do they deal with stress or negative emotions? Do they bottle them up? Improvisation may serve as a release giving a safe place to play out and deal with pent up emotions that may be otherwise socially unacceptable.

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Cooperative games are the ideal, I suppose. There are plenty of examples in the gaming world already.

Consider puzzle games like Portal 2. Difficulty can ramp by adding timers.

Consider a game such as "scatter N pieces randomly on a grid. Each players turn, they may move M pieces from any square to any other, then one step of Conway's game of life is performed on the board. The goal is for the players to cooperatively clear the board in the minimal number of steps". Difficulty can ramp by increasing M, reducing N, changing board shape or size, and changing the rules about where you can move pieces (must have clear line of sight to destination; must end adjacent to another piece; etc).

Cooperative non-combat RPGs would be fun.

One possibility that might fit well with the theme would be a cooperative version of a Cross-and-circle game (eg pachisi, ludo) in which the goal is for each piece to not come into conflict with any others.

Conflict/collision will remove both pieces from the game, but self-sacrifice will remove only one: given the goal is to retain as many pieces at the end of the game as possible, self-sacrifice is the best move if the game looks like it might put two pieces in conflict on your next dice-roll.

The point of all co-op games is that you succeed or fail as a group. Each person's contribution is important.

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I'd like to answer the question, but, in my opinion, I cannot find it.

tl;dr: Game is about competition; otherwise it is activity.

I think non-competetive game is oxymoron. If I play a game I am competing opponent (chess, table-tennis), my team compete another one (football, LoL), I am competing myself (tetris, climbing,...). And this competition satisfies me. Even if the goal is "It won't be that bad as it was last time."

When you can assess the result (king is killed, ball is missed, goal is scored, nexus is destroyed, score is reached, altitude is reached) and you have someone to compare the result - count yesterday's yourself and tommorow yourself too - you have competition. The assessment can be both objective (time to fulfill the rules) or subjective (I like this a bit more than that).

The arts doesn't solve it either, see figure skating, dancing, freestyle motocross, oscars, film festivals, music charts etc.

When solving puzzles you challenge the author (I will find the solution; period!) or yourself (I'll solve it faster than the previous one).

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Tool crafting

It may seem stupid or rudimentary, but crafting tools could prove to be an interesting game to play as a group. In ancient times we had to design and craft tools from flint to be able to perform certain tasks, such as hunting or carving wood. Your society could do something similar, in that people as a group can gather around and propose their ideas for certain tools to solve different problems.

It would be quite fun, especially once people start making up tasks of sorts. It would not be competitive in the sense that it isn't the person who makes the best tool that wins, but the group as a whole wins from having more and better tools to perform special tasks.

Roles could easily be accommodated in a survival-like game, some people would have to gather materials, some people could be designers/creators, etc. Thus, the group is competing against the environment, similar to how the climber competes against the rock he is climbing. People would understand how materials work and how to make them from simple objects.

It's in the DNA of every intellectual civilization to engineer tools for their needs, even if these are made up just for fun.

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I'm thinking of 0-player games.

Games like Conway's Game of Life need no players and therefore have no conflict and only need players to watch and observe.

Although sometimes it's rather debatable if these games are actually games since there is no gameplay in the usual sense.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think it's important to point out that in 0-player games, there's not nothing for the observers to do (it's not like watching a computer play chess against itself). For instance, in Conway's Game of Life the challenge is often to find interesting and/or stable patterns by changing the starting parameters. $\endgroup$ – Azuaron Jul 31 '16 at 10:19
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I recall a story where a society as you describe had a sport called “bag drag”. It was described briefly without detail by a narrator who wasn’t interested and thought it pointless. Trying to drag a heavy sack across a goal by a cooperating group.

In the story it was introduced as a way to determine that all the domestic helpers employed by the place where the humans were staying had been replaced by grad students studying the alien (the human visitor)—she found that they were all uninterested in the sport, while the class of people they were replacing would have been fans.

Anyway, it was introduced as a sport that existed in a non-competitive society, without explaining the details. Maybe they aluded to it being keyed to the psychology of the cooperation overcoming obstables, but avoided all detail of the rules. It was only necessary that it exist.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ball drag could meet the requirements of the question if the ball got harder to drag in proportion to the force used to drag it. $\endgroup$ – user171 Jul 31 '16 at 20:17
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Creative (Minecraft like) and simulation games are already mentioned. But there are tycoon, hidden object, idle and time management games out there. They do get harder as you progress and they do not pit you against humans or AI. It is also possible to have games entirely based on exploration. Most adventure games also avoid conflict and could be pretty though. I would also advice you to check boomshine, lightbot, and factory balls. All of them are non-competitive and get pretty though.

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That's easy

Take random number generator, which generates natural numbers from 1 to LevelNumber.

So goal is to guess which number will be generated.

If not perfect, then probably almost perfectly fits you description of Good Game.

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  • $\begingroup$ The probability of guessing correctly is 1/LevelNumber. Level 1 has 100% probability of success, level 2 has 50% probability, level 3 has 1/3 etc. This could easily be turned competative just by making two people do it and declaring the person with more correct guesses the winner. Unless both players always pick the same numbers, one will typically do better than the other by sheer chance. (It's like a metaphor for life) $\endgroup$ – Pharap Jul 29 '16 at 9:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Pharap yes, that's true, todays is winner X, tomorrow is winners Y, and that's guaranteed, so no competition whatsoever, someone will be certain to drink champagne someday. So no one can beat someone for systematic reason, because of skill. Although there can be style, so yes proposed game isn't perfect. I recall in some fiction there where lucky people breed done with some lottery, was last border against aliens(selection scheme was also introduced by aliens, do not recall details about). And yes, like real life, in fact we ourselfs are child's of Chaos and Order, as all creatures on earth. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 29 '16 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ so replace a game of skill with flat out gambling' $\endgroup$ – Mr.Mindor Jul 29 '16 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Mr.Mindor Yes. Competition is like beauty in eye of beholder, and with flat chance I totally not care who won, because there is no skills, above basic skills they use to eat, walk, talk, know numbers. With answer I meant, no matter with game, they have perceive everything different, and then it's not important which game. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 29 '16 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ That's called BINGO here. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 1 '16 at 4:09
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Exploration games would fit your description, I think.

Exploration type video games get more and more attention these days. But those type of games don't even have to be video games. A scavenger hunt for example, at least when played in a group, could be a nice fit.

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Golf would be a good model for outdoor physical sports/games (soccer is given as an example, so I think sports are on the table). One person can successfully play and see how well they can do since the difficulty is provided by the course. If you want more/less difficulty you can play a different course or bring more people into it as a cooperative thing. There's a whole variety of ways that multiple players can cooperate, be it everyone playing each hole in parallel all the way to each player hitting each shot and choosing the best afterwards. The last would likely be the best for a purely cooperative civilization, since there's a lot of decision making of whether one player should make a safer shot so the rest can attempt a more difficult one without making things worse. Similarly one player could just hit each shot twice if the challenge is too high.

The overall model of attempting some physical feat or feats in succession and the opportunity for multiple people to work together on feats in succession would be workable, I think.

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Example: Space engineers. My friends and I played it almost religiously for a few months. We'd work together in a single base or mothership, pooling all of our efforts and resources. One man might be coring out bits of our home asteroid so we have more room to build, with another in the hangar building a small drone to ferry cargo between station and ship, while I'm leading a team in a desperate search for water-ice to turn into breathable oxygen. If we were building a ship, One guy might lay down the keel, while another installs the reactor and critical systems, and I'm following anothers example of how to laying down hull plate.

There's a common goal, yes, but there's also common failure. If my team fails to find ice, we'll all suffocate. If our collaborative ship is too heavily laden or suffers some kind of equipment failure on re-entry, we'll all smash into the ground. The focus isn't on one-upping eachother, but instead in helping eachother so we all get the best possible result.

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  • $\begingroup$ And then the pirates come along and shoot holes in your space station, the cyberhounds ravage your land base and one of your friends detonates your favourite ship. $\endgroup$ – Pharap Jul 29 '16 at 9:44
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    $\begingroup$ You have no idea how much I hate KEEN for wasting time making cyberhounds. But on topic, you can think of those as environmental risks - They're setbacks that happen to you and are outside of your control. Adds a layer of risk management to the game. $\endgroup$ – UIDAlexD Jul 29 '16 at 11:09
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Patty Cake... It is a cooperative venture between the players, and often includes new patterns being developed that only work when both players play the same. There are no points, and no real competitive space. Even if one player was faster, they don't win, because then the whole game is thrown off, and they don't get to the end. The players MUST cooperate fully to play successfully.

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protected by Serban Tanasa Aug 1 '16 at 14:06

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