Designing the fun out of games

Okay, this is going to be a bit of a rant. I suspect that it also might make me look a bit sad, playing computer games on a Saturday afternoon, but here goes…

In my spare time I’m currently playing one of the Nancy Drew adventure games, the Haunted Carousel. Now usually I like the games in this series as a bit of brain candy, they’re very traditional adventure games, not too hard, with a bit of a sense of humour. But I have (or rather Nancy has) just spent over an hour playing ‘barnacle blast’, a variant of Little Brick Out (incidentally the first computer game I ever played), so that the tokens gained can be used to win a harmonica. In an adventure game. Grrrrr.

There is no way to skip this embedded game or alternative way of getting the tokens. You just have to play it over and over again. And again. And again. Until eventually by luck (or I like to think, the magic of shouting at the computer) you manage to complete the game. I play adventure games because I like adventure games (and, admittedly, have practically no co-ordination whatsoever) and to have a ‘twitch’ game forced upon me half way through is surely just bad design?

Anyway, rant over. I feel better now. I wonder what I have to do with that harmonica?


  1. Tom

    harmonicas should only be played amongst consenting adults (and i dont consent)

  2. Emma

    Hmm I hear your pain. I strongly object to cheats for games, as without a doubt they remove the pleasure from the playing.

    I also love adventure games, and recently (after buying a naughty r4 card) have been playing loads of new games on my DS.

    Lost magic (use the stylus to make little spells)
    Drawn to life, RPG platform mix with some cute design aspects for the player
    Trauma centre – gory surgeon game where you gouge bits out of people.

    at varying points in all these games you hit a wall. A mini game becomes difficult, way beyond the scale of all the others. Yes I expect games to get harder, but these are clearly not play tested well enough.

    After a while I’ll look online for a walk through, and I usually find that everyone else has hit this problem, and the only way around this is either try, try, try, again till you give up or cheat.

    With drawn to life I managed to extend my health with a little cheat to get past the baddie then went back to normal.

    With trauma centre my cheat is stuck on now, so that I’m amazing at everything – therefore have no interest in playing.

    Lost Magic I just had to give up on.

    I realise that bad workmen often say disparaging things about their equipment, but this is beyond that.

    But I still cheated. This annoys me.

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