The motivation for this post came after reviewing some of my work from thirty years ago. I realize there is room for improvement. For starters, I could have modified my list of criteria and weighted some more/less than others. However, I believe that it can serve as a framework for arcade and mobile games today.
As a further caveat, these methods were based on my experiences from 1982 – 1985. Without prior experience in a new industry, still thought of nothing more than a passing fad, it really was the “wild west”. I analyzed what I felt was important with the tools that I had.
I could have altered my past work to appear more wise or current, but that wouldn’t really be truthful. For me, the fun was in the journey. It was a learning process and I used what was available to me. Back then I didn’t even know what game analysis or user research was. I would learn more at Atari Games, but that wouldn’t be until 1987. I plan to write about those years in the future.
Today game analysis involves analytics, with access to more data than anyone could ever want. User research and gamification sometimes make games appear to be more science than art. The mistake is when the science becomes the art and games feel mechanically transparent. Mr. Arakawa reminded me we sold “entertainment” and it has guided me ever since.
Criteria I initially labeled as “easy to learn,” “perception of goal,” “concentration required” and “randomness & variety” now fall into the broad categories of engagement and retention.
Perform your own game analysis. Analyze your own game against similar games today and yesteryear. How do they measure up? What are the common denominators? Define your own key metrics and the criteria you deem necessary for a successful game. Each genre will have different metrics.
Or use such a tool as a means to identify what’s important for success. Then use it to help keep a game on track. Working on a game for months (or longer), yet being able to stand back and view as only one of thousands of choices isn’t easy.
It’s the rare indie who can objectively view their game through the fresh eyes of a consumer. This is a worthwhile check-in that should occur through multiple points during iteration.
As an advocate of engagement, if you’re reading this…mission accomplished! I’d love to hear your comments.
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