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