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Designer's Notebook: Are Games Missing Joy?

Designer's Notebook: Are Games Missing Joy?

October 28, 2010 | By Staff

October 28, 2010 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Design

In the latest edition of his Designer's Notebook column on Gamasutra, design veteran Ernest Adams questions whether games lack joy, and explains how this emotion is distinct from the often-sought "fun."

"I can't remember the last time I experienced unalloyed joy when playing a video game," writes Adams, who is a game design lecturer and consultant and formerly worked at Electronic Arts and Bullfrog on games including the Madden franchise.

"What kills joy? Almost anything, really; it's fragile... Marching kills joy: Grinding. Frustration. Repetition. So does negativity: Ugliness. Cruelty. Fear. Death. These are qualities we associate with hardcore games and with games made for teenage boys, to whom joy is a distinctly uncool emotion."

Instead, Adams urges, designers should seek out joy and work it into their games -- arguing that more players will be more satisfied with the products if designers tackle challenges like bringing joy to gamers.

To that end, Adams offers seven tips on how to create it in games, including:

"Give big emotional rewards. A lot of games are stingy with their rewards, especially the emotional rewards, which is kind of stupid because they don't cost anything."

"If you give too big a treasure at the end of a quest, you'll have to rebalance the rest of the game, but there's no harm in giving big emotional rewards. When the player does well, celebrate!"

The full feature, which packs in a lot more detail on teasing out the joy in games, is live now on Gamasutra.

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