Posted by: dwaynedavies | October 21, 2009

Game Objectives

An earlier blog entry defined a game as such:

“Any recreational activity bound by a set of constraints on permissible player actions, with the intention of achieving one or more objectives.

So if one goes by this definition then all games have at least one objective.  As a game is a recreational activity it is fairly obvious that one objective of any game is to have fun.  This should clearly be any games primary objective.

However many other games often have other objectives, typically to develop some skill or some set of skills.  Two objectives of Scrabble for instance are to develop ones language and pattern recognition skills.  An objective of Minesweeper games is typically to exercise one’s ability to conduct reasoning by elimination (reasoning by elimination is the process of analyzing a problem to identify possible alternatives and then eliminating the undesirable alternatives).

Every objective should be there for a definite reason and reasonably achievable given enough time and a certain level of skill which is not unreasonably difficult to obtain (although it is reasonable to make it unlikely for the player to be able to achieve the objective without first acquiring a certain degree of skill).  By definition an objective is meant to be attainable, any perceived objectives that do not seem reasonably possible at some stage quickly frustrate players and detract from their enjoyment.

Are there objectives that a game should not include?  Generally there are relatively few objectives that are no game should ever include.  Any objectives that are clearly too difficult for the target audience to attain in a reasonable time frame are clearly to be eliminated.  Any objectives that clash with any other objective of the game should not be included.  Any objective that cannot be made clear is pointless.  Any objective that clashes with the values of intended audience are dubious, and should generally be avoided.  However, generally any reasonable objective may or may not be warranted depending on the case in question.

How many objectives should a game be designed around?  Well I would suggest that the answer to that depends on the nature of the game.  Although a certain number of the objectives of a game need to be determined before the nature of the game is determined, without clear objectives that the game is meant to achieve the vast bulk of the nature of a game cannot be determined at all, at least not beyond very vague generalities.

The game might even provide a broad range of objectives, not all of which every player necessarily share.  However typically the more reasonable objectives a game is perceived to have the more enjoyable a game is perceived to be.  However too many objectives can become confusing, so can seemingly clashing objectives, and might make the game seem frustrating and obviously less fun as a result.

It is important to keep in mind that the objectives of the creators of a game are not necessarily the same objectives of those playing the same game.

For example: the creators of some computer game where you type in the answers to arithmetic problems in order to shoot aliens might be for the players to practice their arithmetic skills, some people might not have this objective in mind when they play this game, they might simply be  simply trying to have fun.   Or maybe they are trying to improve their typing speed.

These different objectives might lead the players to have different expectations of the game then the creator expected.  Such a player might not enjoy having to solve harder arithmetic problems and might quickly come to resent having to do so and might stop playing before long.  Even though the creators of the game thought that it was important to provide harder such problem in order to provide the players some degree of challenge while playing the game.

One of the main facts I want this blog entry to highlight is that game creators need to understand the likely motivations of the players they are trying to sell their games to so that they can give the game appropriate objectives.  The creators need to provide objectives of the game that the intended players are likely to understand and to find worthwhile attempting to achieve.  The objectives might simply be to have fun although typically a game may want to set other objectives in to set the game apart from other games on a basis apart from being more or less fun than other games.

For instance say that you decide to produce a new game.  You decide that the game is to be a multiplayer card game.  That is a decent start clearly.  However what do you plan to be achieved by playing this card game?  Simply for a few people to meet up and have  bit of fun?  Well in that case you know that the game does not need to be very complicated and fairly simple rules will probably do.

However you still need to know more….

Is another objective of the game for the players to beat each other in same way?  Are players meant to try and defeat by clever bluffs or some such thing?  Well you decide that yes it that would make it a lot more fun.  Now you know you need to provide rules that give the players some chance to do so.

However then you decide that instead the game should really just about be having fun.  So you decide on very simple rules and to try to make a game that encourages teamwork and very little competition.  So you try to think of some rules that get players to work together perhaps to achieve some common goal that will end the game in a satisfying manner, but which is more likely to occur if the players work together.

Eventually once set the objectives for the game you will know enough to be able to determine how to go about starting to determine the games rules and how the game-play should work.  However until you set some objectives for the game then you will never make much progress in determining the rules or anything else in an objective manner.

Are there any objectives good games tend to share?  Yes there are, which shall be the topic of an upcoming blog entry. However I will provide some indication now:

Developing certain skills is often a good objective for a game.  Obviously by definition all games should share the objective of providing enjoyment.  Many games provide a good setting for people to socialize, some games even help one make new friends.

That is about all on the issue of objectives for now.  In the near future I shall explore some common objectives shared by many of the best games around.

However next time I shall look at the importance of rules, so stay tuned!

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