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Gearbox's Randy Pitchford: video games, like magicians, reward players for following rules

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In a talk at the 2013 DICE Summit this week, Gearbox Software president Randy Pitchford compared the relationship between a video game and its players to that of a magician and his audience, in that both are rewarded in a way for following a set of rules.

"[Developers] make a deal with our audience," Pitchford said. "In the case of magic and in the case of video games, it is the same deal, and the deal is this: come with me. Come into my world, follow my line of logic, understand and follow my rules, abide by the constraints that I am bringing you towards."

Pitchford said that while magic's payoff is a "broken set of logic," video games offer gratification and a sense of accomplishment. He argued that developers need to build games that make gamers feel they are getting more out of the experience than they are putting into it, like viewers taking time to watch a magic trick.

"[In a game], if we don't establish our credibility quickly, validate the promise that we made and deliver the goods, we will lose them. We will lose our audience long before they've ever felt the value we need to get them to," he said. "And if we lose them before they feel the value, they're going to resent their purchase decision.

"They might not trust us again," he added.

Pitchford also argued that it's not letting players make specific choices that matter, but the existence of those choices to begin with. Offering too many choices could result in players not committing to make one, he said, but by offering a smaller, finite number of them — Pitchford used gun choices in Borderlands 2 as an example — they will have an easier time making one.

Check out the video above to watch Pitchford's full talk.