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Did we spoil the players?
by Tony Payne on 03/23/12 11:45:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


        Hello everyone, I'm a designer for an issued webgame.Now I'm trying to improve the game experiences and some in-game guide. But I encountered a problem that how much should the game do for our consumers?Or in other words, how high the simplification of the game guide is suitable?

        It puzzles me because I found that no matter how simple or elaborate the guide is,the game is always difficult for many players.The tutorial is useless!

        Because they didn’t learn how to play and the reason is just what the designers have done. As a standard we want to ensure the experience fluent in the first 10 minutes, so we clear all the barriers for the new players and make all operations as easy as possible. The strategy continues until the player finds he has a huge asset in the game, gold, level, items for instance, then he’ll stay in the game and we can gain money from him. That’s the ideal condition.
        But the result is not always good. We made the tutorial so easy that they don’t need to think about what they are doing or why they do it! We give them an arrow and tell them 'click here’, Ok they click it. And another arrow on a button then the players follow our guide again. They have been clicking all the time as our wish but no thinking. After the tutorial finished they are still new players and have no idea what they can do in the game.

        I know the designers have to be responsible for the circumstance. It emerges in a game sooner or later if the tutorial is not designed well. But on the other hand, is it a duty for the players to learn how to play a game?

        I recall the memory with Super Nintendo when we were young. In the past the game tutorial is not as detailed as today but we still enjoyed the games, considering that English is not my native language it’s more difficult. But today the players will blame you if they don’t know what to do even when there is only one button could be clicked on the screen , just because we haven’t drawn an arrow here.

        In fact we have taught them most of the things in the tutorial but they refuse to learn it. They become more and more impatient and can’t bear any setback or problem when facing a new game. But in my opinion, you have to be serious even if you’re playing a game. At least you should know how to play it, or else why not go to sleeping?

        Did we designers spoil the players? Seems that the condition will keep on existing in the visible future, so will vidio game becomes toy bricks? Sounds possible.

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Jonathan Jennings
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interesting article and interesting question Tony. I actually asked my younger sister ( 18) to play journey on the ps3 the other day she loves art so i thought she would love the game experience. I have to admit i was absolutely shocked when entering the opening area my sister spent roughly 5 minutes trying to get up to a broken bridge. What shocked me was her approach to the game she really didn't test the buttons to see what abilities she was allowed, she didn't explore the rather large area to see if anything could be found no she stood in the same place and tried jumping for 5 minutes I was doubly shocked when a partner came by and he jumped with her for 3 minutes until he managed to activate a cloth switch on accident by falling on it .

it was interesting to me more her approach I know that before game tutorials became standard when i was younger I would always take 20 seconds to feel out the controls and figure out what i could do . determine which buttons attacked, which controlled jumping and to see her approach the game almost absent-mindedly tortured my inner-gamer to no end .

it brings up a good point has the constant hand-holding actually led to a group of gamers that need to be told how to play the game? I always laughed at the instruction manual stating use the D-pad / analogue stick to move but after viewing my sisters playing maybe they are more necessary than i believed.

P.S. just to further clarify my sister is actually a seasoned gamer far better than me at halo and a mind craft addict but even saying that I consider how it was roughly hours into her mindcraft experience before she searched the mindcraft wiki for every ounce of information possible. and she essentially grew up on halo so maybe you are nto something.

Tony Payne
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Thanks for sharing the story about your sister and her partner in the game. Itís interesting Ďcause you mentioned that she is good at Halo. So it seems unreasonable that she got lost in Journey. And itís more funny when her partner did the same thing. Maybe there truly are something wrong with the tutorial. Hereíre some reasons below I can think of:

1.The tutorial wasnít well designed and missed some basic elements, such as how to control your character, how to manage your items, how to level up, etc. Though itís fatal we can figure it out and improve it .

2.The tutorial has taught the gamers how to play but they forgot. Thatís real disappointing. Tutorial needs to be combined with practice but for some games itís not easy to achieve. In an ACT or FPS maybe itís better because the gamers are always moving and jumping, or shotting, with this practice they can get familiar with the game. But for other games, such as SLG or social game itís different because their game progress is not continuous but discrete so they donít have too many chances to exercise on a new function. The result is that theyíll forget it soon.

3.The third one is they donít want to learn. When we were children the game industry wasnít so developed as today. We donít have too many choices and even a simple game can catch our eyes. But today there are so many games on the market that the players donít need to dig into one game because they could turn to another one once they find itís not funny or too difficult, unless they have immersed into it. So we have to do is to make sure that the first experience attractive, or fluent which turns back what I have said in the article. Seems to be a death circleÖÖ

Titi Naburu
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Let's try this answer. Suppose you will go on vacation to a remote place without television or Internet. You are staying of 5 weeks and you take only 2-4 games (electronic or traditional). In that situation, you are stuck with those games. If you feel to play, you will have very few options available. So you play one of them. If you get bored, you switch to the next. After a week, you will have run out of new options. So you will play these games a lot, without option. In that context, you will end up exploring each game, learning every trick and testing each aspect (as far as you skills go).

That's what we had in older game consoles, arcades, newspapers, terrestrial television. Now we have dozens of television channels, thousands of games and millions of websites. So if we get bored with one, next! Game developers have forced to try to catch each player by making things very easy, or they lose them.

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Jonathan Jennings
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Honestly i know for me my interest in the game stems from how aware or what attracted me to it in the first place . for example the xbox live indie games usually have a minute to capture my attention it doesn't take much i don't play indie games for amazing visuals but the premise or base game concept can attract me and ideally within that first minute I have begun to play the game. the longer or more interested I was in a game prior to purchasing it / trying it out the longer it has to reach me . I hate buying a AAA title only to realize 5 hours later the experience is not nearly as enjoyable as I hoped.

I think the best way to address this is to utilize a somewhat old school mechanic and have the tutorial explanation / synopsis separate from the main game . Don't get me wrong having a Beginner level where the play can get comfortable with the controls is crucial but what this does is provide instruction in one area and encourage the user to play with the controls in the first area without feeling like their hand is being held . Also if necessary build a tutorial level for those who want a guided tour of your control scheme / game mechanics/ I remember playing the VR mission levels before diving into metal gear solid fondly they laid the foundation and general tone for the gameplay and I could enjoy them as much as I liked before diving into the main game. I spent hours knocking on walls and tackling objectives different ( albeit nonsensical ) ways it became a playground for my experimentation .

Titi Naburu
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I mean to write "Game developers have Been forced to try..."

Terry Lugviel
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In a word; yes. Game developers have spoiled players rotten. The greatest example of this is World of Warcraft.

Back in the beginning leveling a character from level one on up was an investment. You actually had to read the quest text, consult your map for the general direction to go, and head out that way and actually do some exploring to find exactly what you are looking for. This was a good, true to life RPG setup. The way that RPG's are supposed to be in my opinion.

But WoW also offered something else; Add-ons. With these add-ons that were mostly created by the WoW community one, with a little effort (more so than today) could circumvent much, if not all, of the effort needed to complete a quest. Whether it's map markers or visual arrows constantly pointing you to your destination much of the quest itself became irrelevant. Players no longer needed to read the quest text, they just need to clicke accept and follow the arrows. And that isn't the problem. All of that is an add-on. An option. Players didn't have to use it. I actually remember when people were open mocked for having to use add-ons to complete quests.

The problem begins after you max one character out, or perhaps wear out the starting areas where you don't really need to explore them but just get through them as fast as you can. That's where the real benefit and need of add-ons come into play. The problem is that the developers have seen how popular these add-on have become and decide that's what the players want so patch after patch they incorporated much of the most used add-on features into the game itself. They effectively under-minded their own basic game flow by taking the the players need to explore the game for themselves.

As WoW stands now it is easier and more hand holding than ever. It's a sad case too because it's almost an unavoidable trap. One could still read the text of all those quests but the pacing of the game itself has changed over the years to where the quest text, which purpose is to tell the story, doesn't as much even if you DO read it. It's no longer and RPG as you end up becoming more and more disconnected from the world and it's story as well as missing out on the wonders of discovering the game for yourself. When WoW tried to up the ante a bit by compensating for how easy the game became by upping the difficulty a ton of players cried fowl and left. So they had to compensate again to make it easier. The game is essentially a joke now. It's still fun in some aspects, but certainly not because it's challenging.

So yeah, gamers ARE spoiled. They have become accustomed to having things handed to them because they're too lazy to even TRY to figure out something for themselves. Fire up and old Commordore 64, sit a so called gamer of this generation in front of it and load up Hacker for them. See just how confused they get.

tony oakden
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I was very disappointed to see my son using the grey gorilla to solve all the levels in the latest Donkey Kong game on the wii. It seems to me that it did spoil the game for him because he hasn't been back to it since, where as the first game, which didn't have the help is still holding his attention. Particularly with puzzle games the fun comes from solving those difficult puzzles, ones you've used the walk through it's game over in my opinion...