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How games protect the players from themselves

The art of showing people the ’right’ way to play

Players will often try to find the most efficient or even safest way to play a game, making sure they methodically crunch through an area or level so that no mistakes are made or no items are left behind. It’s effective, but it’s not the most fun or interesting way to play. So how do you tell players not to do that?

The video above, the latest in the Game Maker’s Toolkit series, discusses and shows some of the ways designers try to save the player from their own worst impulses.

The developers of a game may want you to play in a certain manner, but there are methods to nudge you in the right direction that are effective, and others that end up frustrating the player. The video details some successes in this area, as well as some failures.

It turns out that games that are set up to reward players for doing things a certain way are much more effective in communicating the “right” way to play than games that punish players for moving in the wrong direction. Giving someone a reason to want something is better than giving them something to fear; look at how Bungie is showing players the way Destiny 2 is supposed to be played by keeping milestones and payoffs on a strict schedule.

This is an interesting topic, and the video does a wonderful job of explaining how these incentives and punishments do or don’t work.

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