I said that last night while discussing the state of Flash/Facebook games with my friend David. Cracked.com has a great article explaining some of the techniques video games use to keep players engaged.

Notice that I said engaged, not entertained. They are two different things. Games used to want players to have fun so they will eventually buy another game. If it was so the players will buy another game from the same studio, it was called building a brand. If it was so the players will buy another sequel, it was called building a franchise.

But that is a very risky thing isn’t it? To always build new games and hope it does well? A brand can be trashed with a few not so great games, see Rare. Sequels can be milked to death, see Tomb Raider. So the new way to make games is to engage the players so they don’t want to stop playing. The players don’t have to enjoy the experience, but have just enough rewards to keep them coming back. Now you can charge users more and more money for the same game without having to risk making something new. You can tweak your reward delivery channel, aka game, to ensure maximum engagement and of course maximum profit.

Not all game company think like that of course, just the more profitable ones. The problem is that this way of viewing players is growing. When engagement games grows, it takes time and attention away from enjoyment games. To compete for time and attention of the players, all games will adopt the same kind of techniques to keep players playing.

How do you see the future of gamings? Will it be drowned by the sounds of pavlovian mouse clicks?

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