How RNG in video games creates an even playing field


When it comes to using an RNG (Random Number Generator) in video games, people are divided into two camps. On one side, you’ll often hear the argument that RNG’s are just a crutch for non-skilled players, and on the other side of the fence, RNG’s make the game more fun by adding randomness and unpredictability.

Before going any further, let’s first examine what an RNG is and how it’s often used in video games, sometimes without your knowledge.


What is a Random Number Generator?

The basic concept behind an RNG is that it’s an algorithm that creates random numbers. These numbers are then used to determine the outcome in games, such as loot box rewards or random power upgrades.


To keep games fresh and exciting, game developers will use RNG to stop you in predicting what will happen next, or when and where a rare item or enemy will spawn. It’s also used by games like Minecraft, which utilize random procedural generation to create new maps. Without an RNG, the maps would be the same, or very similar to each other.


There are still plenty of games that don’t use any RNG, such as Dance Dance Revolution, which are all about skill and multiplayer games like Mortal Kombat and Rocket League, which remove all RNG from the competitive gameplay. Doing so ensures that ability is an essential attribute and not luck.


Note: Yes, Rocket League has a loot box-based reward system, but it doesn’t affect the gameplay; it’s purely cosmetic.


But what you may not be aware of, is how RNG is still present in many competitive games without your knowledge. In DOTA 2, there are special abilities that use RNG to determine the effect on enemies or bonus perks, which trigger randomly. Doing so creates a degree of uncertainty in battle.


The popular first-person shooter CS: GO also uses an RNG to determine the trajectory of bullets, causing you to hit or miss your target depending on the gun and range. Including RNG into a game’s core mechanics helps to make it more unpredictable and random.


This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as games are of its existence.


What else is RNG used in?

RNG has many uses outside of video games. In fact, any situation which calls for a random outcome will most likely use an RNG algorithm.

Popular online casino games like online slot machines use an RNG to determine the outcome of each spin. It’s how casinos like Slotty Vegas or Casumo ensure all of their games are random and not rigged.

In the world of security, RNG is used to create encryption protocols. If the algorithm isn’t truly random, it means someone can potentially crack the algorithm, rendering it useless.


RNG’s undermine skill but keep games fresh

To stop games from becoming stale and dull, developers use randomness to keep the monotony at bay. Even simple games like Tetris use an RNG. Without it, the game turns into a memorization activity instead of an adrenaline-packed experience with random shapes dropping each time.


In competitive games, RNG allows less-skilled players to even the playing field. Games that heavily feature RNG like Hearthstone allow luck to play a more significant role than skill. But in CS: GO, a skill-based FPS, you can lose the match due to an unlucky RNG outcome.


The bottom line on RNG

There’s no right or wrong way to use RNG. On the one hand, it allows games to remain unpredictable. Take it away from RPGs, card games, and puzzle games, and they’ll become monotonous very quickly.

In the competitive sphere, games like Smash Bros rely on RNG to keep the gameplay fresh and exciting. It also allows novice players to win and take on more experienced players, thanks to the random power-ups and items. However, in skill-focused games, RNG can impede the overall fairness of the game by making a player’s skill level moot.

There’s no wrong or right answer, but instead to play games that include the RNG level you’re comfortable with.


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