funativity thinking about fun in terms of measurable cause and effect
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Chapter 2.0 Understanding Fun

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“Funativity” – thinking about fun in terms of measurable cause and effect. Chapter 2.0 Understanding Fun. Natural Funativity Theory. Basic concept is that all fun derives from practicing survival (and social, cuz it helps) skills

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natural funativity theory
Natural Funativity Theory

Basic concept is that all fun derives from practicing survival (and social, cuz it helps) skills

Key skills relate to early human context, but often in modern guise

Three overlapping categories

Physical, Social, and Mental

hunting and gathering
Hunting and Gathering

For most of our species’ history we were tribal hunter/gatherers

Current popular games reflect this

Shooters, wargames = hunting

Powerups, resources = gathering

Sims, MMO = social, tribal interaction

physical fun
Physical Fun

Sports generally enhance our str, con, dex, etc.

Exploration is fun

Both of local area and knowledge of exotic places

Precondition of hunting/gathering

Hand/eye coordination and tool use are often parts of hobbies etc.

social fun
Social Fun

Storytelling is a social activity

A way to learn important survival and social lessons from others

Gossip, sharing info w/friends popular

Flirting, showing off, finding mates is a key interest in social fun

Language is paramount

mental fun
Mental Fun

Our large brains make humans unique, improves our scalability

Kinds of fun that enabled civilization

Pattern matching and generation

Music, Art, and Puzzles all pattern based

Gathering also depends on memory

Various optimization problems

multipurpose fun
Multipurpose Fun

Games that mix several kinds of fun tend to be very popular

--> Incorporate ways to practice these skills to increase the popularity of your game

definition of a great game
Definition of a Great Game

A great game is a series of interesting and meaningful choices made by the player in pursuit of (a clear and compelling?) goal

interesting and meaningful choices
Interesting and Meaningful Choices

Choices convey interactivity

Choices may be dull and uninteresting because it was easy to code that way, or they may be the reflection of a lazy designer (!?!)

Meaningful choices are perceived by the player as having significant consequences

May not have actual consequences…

clear and compelling goal
Clear and Compelling Goal

Clear goals

it is not fun to flounder aimlessly

Avoid the “protagonist with amnesia” cliché

Compelling goals usually follow the concepts in Natural Funativity

Survival is always a compelling goal

a series of choices1
A Series of Choices
  • Meaningless choices
  • Obviously fold back into same path
  • Players discover this quickly
a series of choices2
A Series of Choices
  • Infinite choices
  • Quickly become unmanageable
a series of choices3
A Series of Choices
  • Choose wisely
  • Kill off player with any wrong choice
  • Better but frustrating (Dragon’s Lair)
classic game structure
Classic Game Structure

A convexity

Starts with a single choice, widens to many choices, returns to a single choice

convexity qualities
Convexity Qualities

Go from one to many to one

Can be a level, an act, an episode

Can be any kind of choice

Geography, weapons, tools, skills, technologies, quests


Exploring an island

Technology build tree

a series of convexities
A Series of Convexities
  • Many games are chains of convexities
  • Points of limited choice (A) alternate with points of many choices (B)
a series of convexities1
A Series of Convexities

Many overlapping or nested convexities in great games

Examples include Halo, Zelda games, Civilization, Diablo II, many others

Player can be starting one task or area, in the middle of another, and at the end of a third, all simultaneously

why is this structure so good
Why Is This Structure So Good?

Give the player choice but not an infinitely expanding set of choices

Mix of some “any order” choices (B) and some in fixed order (A), blending freedom with linear storytelling

Can be structured so players see most of the game, minimizing waste

Can have difficulty go up in new levels

psychological advantages of classic structure
Psychological Advantagesof Classic Structure

Alternating intense learning (A) with time to practice (B) is the best way to master new skills

Gradual learning and introduction of new skills at the heart of fun game play

“Easy to learn, difficult to master”


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

His book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”

Flow is a state of exhilaration, deep sense of enjoyment

Usually when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile

the flow channel
The Flow Channel

Start with relatively low level of challenge to match starting skill levels

Gradually increase challenge

Fast enough to prevent boredom

Not so fast as to induce frustration

the flow channel2
The Flow Channel

Flow state is common while developing same Physical, Social, and Mental skills noted in Natural Funativity

Best to introduce skills one at a time, let player master them, move on to new

This results in staggered increase in difficulty (wavy difficulty line)

typical game mechanisms
Typical Game Mechanisms

High difficulty increase: Boss monsters, climactic battles, quest resolutions

Low difficulty increase: Bonus levels, new resource- and treasure-rich areas, series of easy “minion” enemies

Overlap introduction of new skills, areas to explore, tools, enemies

story and character
Story and Character

Back to “interesting choices” and “compelling goals” – how to achieve?

Story and character can add emotional association, strengthen reaction

Storytelling has long history, but interactive storytelling can differ critically from traditional linear modes

interactive storytelling
Interactive Storytelling

Blend storytelling with design early

Use experienced interactive writers

“Do, don’t show” – let players experience story through interaction

Make it personal by having players make key choices, events affect them

it s all about interactivity
It’s All About Interactivity

Don’t make choices for the player

Story should add emotional context to the choices

Keep any cut scenes brutally short

Break up non-interactive sequences by adding interactivity, even if very simple


Characters can make the game world seem more real and exciting

Bold stereotypes may seem crude but are better than colorless characters, and can help avoid boring exposition

Bring out character through action, not description or exposition

gameplay trumps story
Gameplay Trumps Story

If you have a conflict between gameplay or story, first look for a compromise that favors both

Failing that, make sure that the gameplay is good at expense of story

Always signal player clearly in narrative to interactive transitions with visuals, audio