Tuesday, March 22, 2016

50 years of evolution in game design

This is from a proposal that I wrote several years ago for a talk at a video game conference. I think it's worth publishing; if I live long enough, I'll deal with the topic as a whole in a book about "The Nature of Games".

"50 years of evolution in game design: from consequence-based to reward-based, from depth to variety, from earning something to being given something."

Games have changed in focus.  "Follow the money" for further development:
    Arcade games were designed so that the player would fail within a few minutes, then put in more money to try to beat their previous level of skill (and their score).
    Home video games gradually shed that "failure" based orientation, because players have already paid their money up front.   As the market became larger, with less "dedicated" players, it became harder to fail at video games.
    MMOs changed to revenue through monthly subscriptions.  This meant players had to be enticed to stay, rewarded rather than challenged.  Games became so easy to play that "the grind" became the norm, doing the same things over and over to succeed, and a game became a desired destination, not a desirable journey.
    Free-to-play games have exaggerated and continued this trend: players must be constantly rewarded so that they'll play the game long enough to begin to spend real money in it.  Failure is no longer allowed.  And players often expect to be told exactly what to do, as in many social network games.

We have moved from consequence-based games, where a player was responsible for choices and his actions, and expected to fail if he performed poorly, to reward-based games where players take no responsibility and expect to be rewarded merely for participation.  There is no possibility of failure in typical video games, provided a player is sufficiently persistent.  And many gamers play single-player video games with cheatsheet and Internet in hand to look up solutions: obstacles are circumvented by reference, rather than overcome by intellect.

Another way to express this is that "games" have gone from games to puzzles to short stories to cinema.  Cinema is passive entertainment.  Games are (have been) active entertainment.


Udemy.com is forcing all their online audiovisual courses into the $20-$50 price range, which means five of my courses will become more expensive. And my largest course ("Learning Game Design") will become private, not open to new students, as of April 4.

More information and discounts as pulsiphergames.com


I've just noticed, Blogger says this is post #500 for this blog.

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