Elements of Game Design

What makes a good game?

Well, some would probably argue that if it is bug free then it’s a good game. Others may make suggestions such as story/plot, graphic quality, fun, interesting, unique, etc. The answer is that there is no answer (except there is).

So first maybe we should define what a good game is, or better yet what makes a good game. Well, all of the aforementioned aspects go into making a good game but I want to specifically focus on things a game designer might affect (fun, making the game interesting and or unique). So let’s dive into one of the hardest concepts to get just right.

Why is fun such a difficult concept to get right? We all have experienced fun at one time or another right? One of the things that make it such a difficult concept is that not everyone experiences fun the same way. In terms of games one person may have fun playing a basketball game such as the NBA series of games while others do not. In the realm of RPG’s one person or group of people may find a particular quest boring while others find it very fun and rewarding.

So how do we make the experience fun for everyone? Well we can’t (but we can). One of the ways we can do it is by giving the player options. Think of a game that you may love to play, for me recently it has been Fallout 4The nice thing about Fallout is that you, as the player, have tons of options (dialogue, weapons, character perks, companions, factions, and many more). Now what would Fallout be like if we took all of those options away. Well it would still be Fallout, however it would be a much less fun version of the game.

Given the above scenario it is pretty easy to see why options are important. One of the best things about options is that they allow player to play the game like they want. Since not everyone is the same person odds are they will play and experience a game at least a little bit differently (even in a linear game without a whole lot of choice).

What other ways can designers make a game fun? Well another really good one is to give players a challenge. Now this is very tricky and you could probably make an entire college class out of just this one concept (not trying to exaggerate but hopefully you get the idea). The reason why this is tricky is because players have different skill ranges. You have your hardcore gamers which may play games at least 5 to 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, and then you have casual gamers which may just play for a few minutes a day if that.

For designers it’s our job to make it so the game is not impossible to beat (unless that’s you goal then by all means more power to you). However, normally you would want the game to be able to be beaten. For some people a game may take 6-8 hours to beat depending on things like difficulty (which I will talk about soon) and how long the game’s story actually is. Others may not play it all at once, but rather in intervals for just an hour or so at a time.

What really help out are difficulty settings. Not all games need them but they help out a ton. It helps because it lets gamers who don’t really want much of a challenge still experience the story without being frustrated because the game is too difficult. At the same time, it allows your hardcore gamers and/or achievement hunters’ play at a difficulty that will really offer a challenge.

So how does this all relate to fun? Quite simply they won’t be having it. Additionally, if a player is too frustrated they may just quit playing your game altogether or they may have to spend hours online researching the solution to the problem you, as the designer, presented them. The same thing can happen with boredom. If a player is bored they may just quit your game because they aren’t being challenged enough.

If your game doesn’t have varying difficulty or even if it does another important design know-how is pacing. Pacing is important because you don’t want to make the game too difficult all of a sudden or otherwise the player may end up becoming frustrated.

So I have been ranting for a while but those are some of the elements of game design. There are many, many more but hopefully this will at least help someone in the world learn the challenges that designing a game can bring, and how to prepare them.