Fun pt 2, Can’t Spell Overanalyzing without-
In my earlier article on fun, I admitted that I couldn’t figure out why some subset of games were fun. As I’ve had some time to reflect on it and consider the myriad of other games I’ve been addicted to in the intervening time, I have arrived at some conclusions.
As I spin through my current plethora of addictive mobile games (
Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, Drop Assault, Clash Royale, Shop Heroes <3 ), I’m starting to see something of a trend when it comes to their ability to grab my attention (or not) and the associated sense of “I need to keep playing this game”. One of the most interesting of which is the sense of progression. As I pause to reflect on my base/village/island/shop in these games, I realize that there’s so much going on that it is nigh-incomprehensible. So many resources to manage and track, so many buildings to repair/upgrade/build, so many units/items/etc. It’s enough to make one’s head spin, if the game were to start from that point. It doesn’t, though, and I think that’s one of the tricks. These games start with an extremely simple premise, then slowly add progressively more things to keep track of while consistently increasing the value and time to complete the tasks. In Clash of Clans, one starts with a simple village and a few types of units, gradually upgrading until one has an armored fortress, guarded by some god forsaken underworld demon spawn. At no point does the progression feel jarring or overly difficult.
Even the more sedate pace and calm gameplay of Shop Heroes has the same concept of gradually increasing the complexity of the game. Where one starts as a simple shopkeeper, crafting simple knives and walking sticks out of rocks and wood, one is eventually crafting magical staffs, throwing stars and firearms to sell to an ever-increasing retinue of heroes who are constantly growing more powerful and breaking things. I swear to whichever god is in charge of this otherwise forsaken world, Albert, if you break another freaking set of leather shoes on a simple milk run quest, I will strip you of all your gear and leave you out in the streets to die, somehow!
As fans of the game can attest, the ramp up of this particular title causes a surprisingly amount of engagement in the plight of one’s little avatar and his or her shop. One also starts to develop a general distaste for the annoyingly childlike requests of the denizens of one’s little city. Even within these strangely-retail-worker-like annoyances, the game feels oddly empowering. Crafting the different items unlocks blueprints to craft even MORE complicated and cool-looking items, which, in turn, require more complicated resources and eventually unlock more blueprints, etc.
All of these things fit together in the various topics I’ve covered before. We have a need to progress and grow, lest we fall victim to habituation or complacency. We need the sense of efficacy that comes from being able to fabricate neat little baubles and devices, without having to actually injure ourselves. All of these provide that visceral sense of productivity and success that we have grown to like. And, most interestingly, none of which is directly competitive with other players. In fact, the main point of interaction with other players is sharing your city resources with them, which costs you nothing and everyone gains a bonus. When considering the progression and expansion of game aspects, the addictive qualities become very clear. It’s exactly like our ability to learn new skills in real life and our tendency to develop a sense of pride and achievement when those skills have taken considerable time and effort. As a motivator in life, that’s a tough one to beat. Especially when there’s shiny things on the line!