Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fun vs. Addictive

Games used to be about having fun. Now I fear that addictive design choices are preferable to fun design choices. The success of a game is no longer based on how much fun you have while playing it, but rather the amount of people who play the game. World of Warcraft has eleven million subscribers, but are they actually having fun?

Sadly, the success of a title often goes hand in hand with the addictiveness of the title. World of Warcraft is crafted around keeping people playing the game. Loot, skills, bosses, and achievements are all cheap tools for getting people to play more. I feel that developers have become too dependent on these tools and are forgetting to throw in challenge, innovation and immersion.

There was a time when games were developed by small groups of people. Sometimes even a single person who had an idea to make something fun - maybe even innovative, interesting, or challenging. I fear that today’s gaming industry has become more like the movie industry: large companies looking at the bottom line and pumping out titles that are guaranteed to make money. Successful formulas are used over and over again, until the consumers want something new. Then and only then do we see innovation.

It’s hard to remove things like loot from a game. I like finding loot and customizing my character. But it should not be the driving force when playing a game. Loot, leveling, and achievements should all be secondary to fun.

I dream of a day where I can play an MMO and never hear the term “grinding”. I dream of a day where I log on without thinking about how much more experience I need before the next level. When that day comes I believe the gaming industry will be a better place. However, changing our design principles to meet these dreams requires a moral decision. This decision may not be beneficial to industry profits, but it will be beneficial to the gaming community, by creating a higher quality gaming experience.

We can’t lose sight of what games are all about – FUN. Relying on immersive and challenging gameplay instead of materialistic tendencies is a great place to start.

- rant over


  1. There's a great deal of truth in this rant. Personally I feel WoW has become a victim of its own success, I liked it a lot better when things were harder, even when that means I would not be able to get to see everything.

    It's a shame many developers choose to copy / paste success formulas. But from what I've seen it tends to backfire, especially if the copy / paste is not as good as the original.

  2. This is eventually why I left WoW....While I loved end level raiding, I just couldn't bring myself to do all the horrendous grinding that was needed to take part in it every night...Seriously, had there been a legal cash shop, I would happily have spent 5 bucks a night to flask up and repair, but doing dailies for 2 hours a day just to enjoy 2 hours of raiding? Dream on.

  3. That why I like EvE over WoW, Lotro, EQ, EQ2, pretty much any game out there. If you do nto want to grind, do not do it. If that's what you want, feel free. I have not had a whole lot of action the last weeks but the uncertainty is another aspect which I like. You log in and never know what is about to happen.

  4. Grinding is the main reason I ended up quitting SW: Galaxies. Granted there was 100 different reasons I should have quit in the first place but. When people found out the "secret path" to becoming a Jedi, the game REALLY went to hell. I never aspired to be a dancer/musician in the game, but hell the minute you walked into a cantina and there was 50 people afk-macro'd and all you wanted to do was talk to someone, it was impossible.

    Games like Scribblenauts are what bring the fun back into gaming. When I can sit for hours just seeing what I can conjure and still want to rush home from work to do it again, I find that to be the best type of fun.