It’s that time of the year. The searing heat of Summer simmers down as the tranquil solemnity of Fall, well… falls upon us. Soon, if not already, students everywhere will once more fill the halls of education centers. A perfect time to discuss education, and the role it plays within your game, for while kids go back to school once every year, consumers do so every time they pick up a game.
All Games Should be Educational
This is actually a bit misleading. A game doesn’t have to teach the times tables or the history of the American Civil War, but it does have to teach consumers its gameplay mechanics. Your consumers must be taught how to play your game, no matter how derivative or simple it is. Just like Stan Lee once said, “every comic could be someone’s first”, the same applies to gaming.
To most gamers, tutorials can be a bore. They’re the vegetables that must be eaten before one gets their desert. Making them overly long or overbearing will disinterest your player, but at the same time your game must make some effort to teach the consumer in some manner. Good level and mechanic design can help you create tutorials that don’t even seem as such, but your game must still teach.
Learning Never Stops
Often, many designers will come under the assumption that the tutorial should teach the player everything. This can lead to tutorials becoming bloated, overbearing, and dull. Tutorials are similar to exposition, you do not want to frontload them. By all means, include a tutorial, just don’t be afraid to leave things out.
Much of the enjoyment that can be derived from games comes from experiencing new things. Consumers want variety in their game, they want to learn new things. By adding in new mechanics later in the game and giving the player freedom to experiment with them, players will always be learning something new. The Grand Theft Auto games usually do this well, as every mission does its best to introduce something new to the consumer. Up until the end of the game, players should continue to have things left to learn. The entire game should be a tutorial.
Learning is Inherently Fun
As consumers are always constantly learning new features of your game, they will need to be tested. This process is natural and is what we call the “difficulty” curve. Certain sections of the game might be easier than others to allow consumers the freedom to experiment, but as they go on the difficulty should rely on the consumers to utilize what they’ve learned. This is often how boss battles work in a Legend of Zelda game. Dungeons introduce new mechanics and gameplay, and the bosses are the final exam in which consumers must apply what they’ve learned.
Do not be afraid to punish or kill the consumer for making a mistake. So long as a consumer is not dying to bugs or poor design, don’t be afraid to “flunk” your consumers. The act of learning is inherently fun, and most of all, engaging. You must force your consumer to learn. The Dark Souls games have received critical acclaim for their difficult gameplay which challenges the consumer to adapt and grow. Most often, gameplay that doesn’t have some sort of learning or growth involved in it is seen as “repetitive” or “grindy”. Needless to say, you want to avoid this.
You’re either green and growing, or ripe and rotten. Challenges, adventure, and education all share the same roots. Whether or not we realize it, gaming is a learning experience. Spastic power fantasies are only enjoyable for so long, but by asking your consumers to think and giving them the tools they need to master your game, you can keep consumers glued to their screens.
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