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Why Is Peggle So Addictive?

by Sumantra Lahiri on 03/10/09 11:34:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
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Hello, my name is Sumantra and I am Peggle addict.  It feels good to say that.  For many months (to be honest more like a year) I have wasted hours on a game that brings me nothing but shame every time I play it. 

Like all those things in life that we call guilty pleasures, Peggle sits right there with watching a Steven Seagal movie or drinking milk straight from the carton.  The pleasures that you might seek from such things might be brief, but they are oh so good. 

Yet if Peggle is such a guilty pleasure why do I keep going back to it time and time again?  Actually the bigger question seems to be, why does everyone else?

It seems like most simple pleasures in life; Peggle tends to be whatever you need it to be.  It can be that game you play on the go with your Ipod or it can be that game you play into the wee hours of the morning.

So what is it about Peggle that makes it so addictive?  Many might think it is by accident that it has become such phenomenon in the casual gaming space, but with a closer look you can see that there is much more to it then meets the eye. 


The KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) Method of Game Design


Peggle’s game design can be broken down into one sentence; launching a steel ball at a certain angle with the object of hitting as many pegs as you can in one turn.  That is it, a simple very clear objective given to the player. 

As for everything else like the special powers, the different objectives, or the various modes just tweaks the core concepts a bit.  In fact Peggle shares much of that KISS philosophy in its game design to the arcade games of the 80’s. 

Many games of that era, because of their technical limitations, relied on a core concept such as kill everything on screen or collect a certain item before time runs out.  This idea of game design created some of the greatest games that we know today like Pac-Man and Space Invaders, which showed that games can be enjoyed through multiple playthroughs that were built around a simple concept.


Easy to Play, Hard to Master


Many of you might be asking, how can a game so simple have any depth or mastery within it?  Over the years various game developers as well as their publishers have ingrained in the psyche of the core enthusiast that depth and mastery are only present in a game’s complexity; which is just plain false. 

This assumption of game design can be shown as erroneous through an example earlier, in a game like Pac-Man. Pac-Man is not very complex game, but does have depth and will take many play sessions to master.  Peggle, much like Pac-Man, is very easy to play but hard to master game. 

It will take the player many play sessions to even begin to understand the various trajectories or ricochets that are possible with each subsequent turn.  Plus if you add the different elements such as character power-ups or the different types of pegs, mastery of the game will include not only your measure of draw distance but the strategy of planning out your next couple of turns.


Constant Affirmation of Your Achievements


You know what, may be I like the fact that Peggle makes it a ridiculously big deal every time I complete a level.  Games for many years have been giving you more carrot then stick over the past few generations, but it looks as if the philosophy of Peggle is to give the player all carrot.  Even the smallest achievements in the game are praised, which over all might be empty but still makes the player feel these accolades were well deserved.  


Time Adjacent to Your Schedule


This right here is probably the biggest reason many draw to Peggle.  The game can be whatever you want it to be; meaning it can be played on Steam while waiting for your friends for a game of Team Fortress 2 or it can be a game that you can vegetate with on a lazy Sunday afternoon. 

Also since each game can be completed in a matter of minutes, that “one more turn” aspect is definitely there.  That is why it appeals to such a wide range of people making it versatile for the casual as well as for the enthusiast.


These elements not only make up what Peggle is, but also underlines why the game of its ilk is so much fun.  At the end of the day, Peggle to me is more “hardcore” then most enthusiasts give it credit for. 

It harks back to the early days of the arcade, before message boards would argue the validity of gaming being art or critiquing screen tearing.  It reminds us what videogames were meant to be about in the first place; having a good time.   


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