I’ve been playing the star trek online beta (let’s just say I won’t be buying) and I also not long ago experimented with farmville, for research purposes (far too cute a game for me). I am not a fan of these sort of games, in fact, they depress me…
MMO’s in general (not Eve) and many facebook games annoy me because they seem designed by business types who want to maximise player-time and revenue, rather than real fun. There seems to be a tendency for business types to equate an ‘addictive’ game as being ‘good’. Not fun, enjoyable or rewarding just ‘addictive’ will do.
We are at the very very early stages of research into how people react to games. 50 years ago, I could watch you through one way glass playing a game or watching TV, and make notes. I could maybe ask you subtle questions about your experience, and do some guesswork to interpret the real answers.
These days (if I wanted to) I could log every mouse movement, every delay, every button click, every action, and analyse you along with thousands of other players to work out all kinds of subtle effects. It’s theoretically possible for a game to auto-adjust its gameplay to maximise revenue, and player time. This isn’t commonplace, but if people arent already working on it, I’m amazed.
Yet this saddens me. I play games for fun, to feel like a President or a Starship Captain. I don’t play games just to kill time or spend money. In short, the aims of the more cynical game developer (Get them to keep playing, tell their friends, and spend money) don’t marry up with my aims (have fun!).
Right now, it’s fairly easy to look at farmville and see it as a cynical viral marketing/push-button-get-banana business, that I stop playing the minute I see how shallow it is. But in 10 years time will it be so easy? I saw a furniture companies ad earlier today that was targeted directly at me, based on items I’d looked at days before on their website. Will Farmville IV be so perfectly targeted, so acutely balanced based on 50,000,000 playthroughs, that my brain is just incapable of letting me stop playing?
I don’t buy anywhere near as many games as most game designers. I get halfway through the demo and find myself having an internal conversation that starts “Am I having fun right now?” and the answer is often no. I might be wanting to see what item I unlock next, or what happens when I reach the next level (often nothing special), but is the actual process, the actual journey fun? often no.
I am not aiming to make addictive games, or viral games, I’m trying to make fun games. They probably aren’t as profitable (nowhere near as much), but it makes me feel better. You press a lot of buttons in GSB, we don’t always give you a banana, but I hope the button pushing was fun in itself.