Commandment #8: Encourage Fun

This post is part of a series of articles detailing the BrainGoodGames Design Commandments. You can see the full list here.

In a way that I alluded to in the article on Challenge players can often have a tendency to limit their own enjoyment of a game unintentionally. I talked a bit about the concept of grinding in an RPG, a fundamentally intrinsically unenjoyable activity. However, by presenting players with a challenge, you are asking them to use the tools available to overcome it, and grinding is guaranteed to work (i.e a perfect strategy!). As designers, we need to encourage them to play in the way that we predict will be the most enjoyable (and in fact, this may be the primary role of a game designer).

Another classic example of this phenomenon is the prevalence of obviously sub-optimal decks/cards/strategies in CCGs (collectible card games). Sometimes the argument is made that players would have more fun if they didn’t stick to “meta” deck, card or strategic choices. There is a fundamental tension here between what the game is asking you to do (win) and what will result in the most enjoyment (having unique play experiences and learning).

Hearthstone statistics might tell me to play mid-range shaman. Is it the most fun way to play? Is playing the same deck over and over the most fun way to play?

Wherever possible, we should acknowledge that this disconnect between pursuing the goal of the game and pursuing value from the game is undesirable. We should attempt to create harmony between these two aspects of a game by trying to maximize the extent to which the most fun way to play is also the most strategic.

3 thoughts on “Commandment #8: Encourage Fun”

  1. How do you reconcile which method of play is the “most fun” for the most players?

    Sometimes it can be clear (e.g. grinding for glory vs literally anything else).

    However, other times less so (e.g. a powerful and recognizable strategy that many players love, but constantly has to be mitigated at the expense of other player’s turns/strategies).

    1. In some sense, it is an open question, and a large part of the day to day craft of game design.

      In your example, for instance, it isn’t clear without additional context/knowledge of the system, (i.e what % of players love the strategy and to what degree, what design space is being mitigated, what adverse effects it’s having on other players, and what type of game experience you’re trying to create in the first place).

      To be fair, a lot of the uncertainty here also has to do with the loose definition of “fun”, but in this instance, I’m using it purposefully because it is vague. It allows the wiggle room to bring you back to “what type of game experience are you trying to create?”, “who is it for?” and other such broad questions that creators of any kind have to continually address as they produce whatever they are producing.

      Hopefully that provides some insight into at least the way I think about it. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

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