Monday, February 07, 2005

Addicted and Lacks Goals

I'd like to discuss
two elements that help make up the way I view gameplay: Impulse and Fun.

[Note: This is not meant to be an exhaustive study. Just an examination of concepts.]

Impulse is the word I use to describe repetitive game elements that drive us to keep playing. Fun is what delights us as we play, as we chase the impulse.

Impulse is the 'gotta catch 'em all' aspect of Pokemon. Fun is catching, training and involving your Pokemon in battles.

Impulse is the desire to make those lines in Tetris. Fun is the feeling of manipulating the pieces, the tension you feel as you just barely get them in place, the subtly frantic speed increase with each level and the enjoyment from seeing your manipulations line up, disappear and add to your score.

Impulse is the click-click-click in Diablo as you fight wave after wave of enemies. Fun is watching your character progress, beating back the hordes of evil and being a hero.

Impulse is making sure every one of your cities in Civilization has all of its available improvements and that the land is completely developed and there are troops defending. Fun is leading your once-minor people to complete world domination.

Impulse and Fun are my own little gameplay yin and yang. In their proper proportions I end up with a pleasing gaming experience. In some ways I see impulse as the bread crumbs leading you down a certain path, keeping you headed in a certain direction, and fun is what happens to you as you gather the breadcrumbs.

Not everyone will have the same reactions to the balance of impulse and fun in a game. I find most MMORPGs at present rely far too much on impulse and lack fun, but this is not a problem for many, many people. I thought much of Simcity 4 was incredibly fun - laying out roads, putting up schools and libraries, planning out a functioning city - but never felt impulse elements; There was nothing there that drove me to continue playing, so I'd fiddle with it for a little bit and then exit the game.

Every designer is going to have a different idea of what sort of impulse elements are desirable (card-collecting? matching three gems in a row? mindless clicking? obsessive token placement?) and what sort of gameplay will cause fun to arise from those impulses.


Damion said...

Have you read Raph Koster's 'A Theory of Fun' yet? His chapter on the underlying patterns underneath fun is quite intriguing, and explores what you're talking about here in more depth.

Deacon said...

Thanks for the tip. I've spent some time on Raph's website just looking around. Definitely some of the best content for game design I've seen anywhere.

'A Theory of Fun' was just fantastic. It was just so precise - each idea boiled down to its essence. It reminded me of the Tao Te Ching, a sort of Zen meditation on gaming. Very nice.