17th Aug2020

What Are the Six Main Elements of Good Game Design?

by James Smith

We spend many days and weeks of our lives playing our favourite games. It’s not unusual for hard-core gamers to accumulate several hundred hours on the clock. But have you ever wondered what exactly makes games so enjoyable and addictive? How can we spend literal weeks of our lives returning to the same ones over and over again? We’re going to answer this question by looking at the anatomy of a game, breaking down the key design elements, then analysing how they impact the overall gaming experience. Read on and find out what they are.

1) Game Controls

Controls are the rudiments of a game. Everything else hinges on them – they are what makes or breaks the overall experience. It’s like trying to steer a boat without paddles or the helm. If the controls are too difficult, we get frustrated by a lack of progression and give up quickly; if they’re too simple, we get bored of the repetition and don’t return to play again. How complicated the game controls are will also depend on the aptitude of the target audience. Children won’t be as advanced regarding hand-eye coordination as adults will.

2) Payoff

Games are largely enjoyable because they’re rewarding. You can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment every time you level up or defeat the boss you’ve been battling for ages. It’s all down to positive reinforcement. Websites like Bonusninja showcase how casinos can be excellent at providing players with this sense of payoff as they can win tangible rewards for their efforts on the slot machines. However, when games fail to provide us with any sense of accomplishment or progression, we find them immensely dissatisfying and won’t feel any inclination to continue playing. After all, what’s the point in anything if there’s no purpose to the game or prizes to be gained?

3) Graphics

Humans just can’t help it. We’re always drawn in by whatever is most appealing to the eye. However, game graphics go beyond aesthetic appeal. They’re an excellent way to establish genre and tone; giving each game its own distinct sense of character. What’s more, visuals are a deciding factor in how immersive the overall experience is. For example, survival-horror games often use a first-person perspective and shadowy photo-realistic graphics, making players feel as though they’re truly experiencing the terrors within the story. Meanwhile, episodic adventure games might adopt a more cartoonish art style with bright colours to imbue players with a greater sense of wonderment and escapism.

4) Storyline

Having a good plotline is essential in making a gaming experience both immersive and compelling, providing users with a real sense of escapism. Players will keep returning to the same game because they want to see what happens next, or they enjoyed the story so much they’d like to experience it again. Nowadays, the storytelling capabilities of games are incredibly advanced. The choices players make have consequences, making it feel like we’re truly a part of this world. Characters also have more life than ever before, leading us to become attached and invested. With these kinds of emotional stakes, gaming has never been so gripping and heart-pumping.

5) Strategy and Surprise

The best games incorporate an element of strategy. This could be anything from collecting resources to build something like a shelter for example, to preparing your character for a dangerous mission or finding the best place to sneak up on an enemy. The more proficient the gamer becomes, the better their strategy. This helps give players a sense of their personal progression, making the game more satisfying. Throwing in curveballs also helps to keep the experience consistently engaging. If you never know what’s going to happen next, there’s an added element of excitement when strategising.

6) Rising Challenges

There needs to be a sense of momentum propelling the game along, otherwise, players might lose interest. This applies to both the storyline and the difficulty of the game. Not only does this inject more thrill into the experience but once again demonstrates to the player how they’ve progressed. The more challenges we overcome, the more accomplished we feel. If everything comes easily, it doesn’t feel so meaningful.

These are the six main elements to good game design. They help to create a fully immersive experience with high stakes that provide players with a real sense of accomplishment by the end.

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