Dominant Strategy

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A dominant strategy is one that surpasses all others by being the players best choice under any circumstances. (Rollings and Adams 2003) The appearance of a dominant strategy is usually a bad thing, since it implies the existence of a way to play the game that will always lead to victory. Successful use of a dominant strategy is usually largely independent of the players skill or luck.


Strong Examples

Golden Eye

When playing virtually any multiplayer level in Golden Eye with proximity mines and License to Kill (One shot and your dead), a player can memorize and strategically place mines at the spawning locations for an almost guaranteed victory. The only requirement before hand is to kill your opponent at least once so that you can trigger an endless cycle of deaths that your opponent will be unable to contest through normal game settings.

Warcraft 3: TFT

In an online multiplayer match of WC3: If playing the Undead race more or less requires you to select the Deathknight and crypt fiends for your starting units and for most of the game. The reason being that the alternative, Ghouls have such low health that they usually fall quickly and easily to Area of Affect (AOE) spells.

Pokemon (Red and Blue)

In the original Red and Blue versions of Pokemon tournaments were dominated by Psychic type pokemon because they had no real weaknesses and several of the most powerful attacks in the game. Similarly, a strong psychic type could easily allow a player to beat the game without raising other pokemon.

The Sims 2

After playing this game for a while, it becomes very clear and easy to make your sims succeed in any career by taking a few days to build your skills before applying for a job. It also becomes easy to figure out which objects satisfy their needs the quickest and most economically. Because of the emerging dominant strategies in this game, the seemingly endless game world becomes dull and boredom causes a sort of game exhaustion.

Weak Examples

Star Craft

For Protoss in Starcraft their is one strategy that many players fear, and that is Mass Carriers. A Carrier with its carrying capacity increased can hold up to 8 interceptors. If you get a command group of 12 Carriers it becomes 96 interceptors, and interceptors rarely die. The reason that it is a weak example is that their are still counters to Mass Carriers, and if a player can only go Mass Carriers it is very likely that a more skilled opponent will defeat them before they gather enough resources to even attempt mass Carriers

Guild Wars

Throughout the history of Guild Wars, spiking has been the dominant strategy for forcing kills in PvP. Spiking is a process where several characters focus a large packet of damage onto a single target in as small a window as possible in an attempt to kill them before the enemy healers can react. It did ignore many of the game mechanics that keep players alive (healing and non-passive protection), which made it the single most attractive option. However, their are now skills and abilities that, if a team is prepared spiking becomes less of a problem. While it is still possible to spike an opponent, if the opposing team has any way of countering a spike then a purely spiking team is doomed.

Kingdom Hearts II

This is a very weak example of dominant strategy because, to the unskilled player, it is rather feasible if not easy to spend the game just plowing through, killing everything in sight and following the commands on screen, even though to a more skilled player, there are a plethora of other ways to improve the power of the characters leading to the final battle.

Another element of its weak exemplification of dominant strategy is combat itself. One can simply aim and rapidly press X for the majority of the game with no change in strategy and will defeat a massive number of enemies.

Street Fighter II Series

In any Street Fighter II game preceding Super Street Fighter II Turbo: Grand Master Challenge and after choosing Ryu or Ken, the player should always use the “Shoryuken” attack against aggressive, jumping opponents. The Shoryuken is a spiraling punch moving at an upward arcing motion, executed by pressing forward, down, down-forward and any punch button. This move is invincible during the initial upward movement, making it ideal against jumpers. However, it leaves the player defenseless and open to attack during the falling phase.






Rollings, A. and E. Adams (2003). Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design. Indianapolis, IN, New Riders Publishing.