All the Magic Online I've been playing lately has me thinking deeper about variance.
Oh, look at that, I said I'd "continue this essay later". A lot later, it turns out.
I used to be this hardcore "variance is bad" guy - chess was a real game for real men, and so was Diplomacy, and, well, very little else. But I can't reconcile that viewpoint with all the Magic I'm playing.
High variance have some interesting properties:
* Intermittent schedule of reinforcement. This may be why I'm getting so addicted to Magic lately - every few games I actually win a round, which makes me feel good about myself (when I lose, it's bad randoms, and when I win it's because of my superior skill, of course).
* Rigorous players understand the effects of variance, and realize they have to play many, many games to actually calculate where they stand. This is why Mark Nau keeps diligent records of his poker playing and I've been tracking my Magic performance in a spreadsheet. Which all translates to - replayability, for the hardcore at least.