playable vs game

it's frustrating: as i playing this i find myself thinking about all the ways this could be more engaging, all the progression loops and feedback systems and things that would make me want to stick around longer, playing this miningesque puzzle game. but do i want to do any of these things?

i'm trying to figure out which of these instincts are gross and which i actually want to explore and for what reasons.

my earlier writings on resisting the "more engaging" elements: gamified play - droqen was here


jewel miner 19 MB
Nov 18, 2019
jewel miner 19 MB
Nov 18, 2019

Get being jeweled


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I like the concept of this - and by this, I mean the focus of the development. The specific thing you made remains ambiguous of course, but perhaps the levels could be less dense so that it's easier to see more successful interactions.

I'm thinking of some terms that describe the boundaries you're working with adequately and what came to mind at first was "physics", or maybe "metaphysics". But I was a little bit unsatisfied because of the implication that it's just collision and movement, or just abstract laws, and browsed Wikipedia and saw "natural science", and I think "nature" might work. Skilled play is often called "a science", but if that's a science, what you're working on is the thing that gets studied, which emerges from the nature of the thing itself, and the nature encompasses not just laws of physics but initial conditions, context, etc. By resisting the rules that would develop this game from the playable stage to a complete game loop, the nature of it is different, more open to suggestion - and it can be deemed a complete artwork at this stage, for the same reasons as Impressionist paintings. Perhaps the enjoyment is in imagining what it could be.

Lately I have been very interested in pinball, and the nature of a pinball experience is not just the game rules, the playfield, or the physics, but what parts of the machine are worn, whether the playfield is dirty, and other details about the particular setup that day. During the course of play, the nature of the game changes with the wear and tear, and interaction is fully connected with the outside world - it's not "knowable" like knowing facts about Super Mario Bros., studying the laws of the land, or writing mathematical proofs. The knowledge is more ephemeral and illegible, that this particular instance of the game behaves in a certain way and the tricks that let one play around that behavior. And the gamified parts of pinball have never been the thing that attracts new players: nobody knows or understands the rulesets and scoring at first, there is no expectation of tutorials or teaching moments, and only the enthusiasts get excited about competition. Everyone just walks up to the thing in a bar and starts playing however they like. They enjoy the aesthetics and the action of the ball, and then everything following that develops from wanting to study those things in more detail. Digital pinball simulations can recreate the major elements of this experience, but they still change its nature.

And I do believe that sensitivity to nature is most often absent from explanations of what games are, all the attempts to pin them down into airtight definitions and then plop a formal theory on top. Nature suggests the frequent inversion of thought process that occurs in artistic design between "what happens when I make these rules? better try it and find out," and "what rules do I need to make to study the nature of this?" It's acknowledging that the nature of the thing may change when the rule is added, that one rule suggests another, and that there isn't a moment where it has to stop evolving.

It was and still is a huge thing for me to grasp that I could apply any kinds of rules to any kind of creative work, defining the result as "my interpretation of the rules", not just "my creation": I could apply storytelling rules to games, ethical rules to stories, musical rules to ethics, game rules to music, and so on. A rule like "do not gamify" is one more way to go about it. It might be insufficient on its own to bring you to something you can let go of, but in that case you can always look for more rules to add to give it some shape.

Here's how I think of it:

If adding content or progression to your game makes players actually get more out of it, then its fine and perhaps even good. If not, you're right to think that it's gross.

For example, a lot of games have power-ups that drastically alter gameplay. Giving that to the player after a certain amount of play can lead to really interesting discoveries about a system, like realizing that removing certain mechanics breaks the game... or that certain powerful-looking upgrades don't actually affect power level very much.

Even with regular "numbers go up" upgrades, it can be (slightly) interesting to recognize and compare additive, multiplicative, and exponential growth.

For example, I played Clash Royale a while back, and thought it had some clear examples of good and bad gamification:


- Give the player more units over time. (Especially since players start with simple units, and are slowly given more complex ones, AND everyone gets units in roughly the same order, so players can see how the metagame changes when reaching a new "arena" where everyone has access to new units.)

- Give the player achievements/rewards for trying out different types of units.

- Reward players for winning, so everyone on ranked mode is actually trying to win, and the player feels interested in playing the game as intended (trying to win).


- Reward the player for things unrelated to the real game, like opening chests or playing a certain amount per day.

- Give the player upgrades that increase a unit's stats by 10%.