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The path of least resistance

August 31st, 2009 1 comment

climberA player enters a room with three doors. Only one of the three doors is the right choice, entering the other two will result in a game over animation and place the player back to the entrance of the room. The player can find out which door he should enter by solving a puzzle in the room.

If there are only three doors in the room and making the wrong choice only places them back a few seconds, many players will simply open all the doors to find out which is the correct one. The harder the puzzle is the more likely it is that players will take this easy way out, even if this undermines the game experience. A player will blame the game for being too soft on him if it does not punish him hard enough to discourage this kind of behavior. It is very unlikely for a player to force himself to play a game the way it is clearly meant to be played if the game allows game breaking actions. Take for example games in which enemy AI’s reset if you move out of the room they are in. Many action games have this problem and players will exploit it every time they are on the verge of losing. And why wouldn’t they. Why would a player punish himself by staying in the room and be beaten, if it is much more practical to move out of the room and survive?

Games should not be practical in nature, on the contrary, they are build to challenge the player with in-game problems. If those problems can be circumvented they are not really challenges and the game fails to be what it should be. Unless the game is about circumventing in-game problems, in which case evading the problems is the challenge.

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