7 Game Design Elements That Can Make Game Fun

Why some games are fun, and why others are boring? These are questions that game developers must take into account in their game design. There are many elements that impact the fun factor – and here’s 7 game design elements that can help making a fun game.

#1 – Collecting stuff
Some (perhaps most) people are collecting something. Somebody likes collecting stamps, somebody music DVDs of certain bands, somebody movies, somebody games. We people like collecting stuff – and that’s one factor that makes many games fun. One reason why Diablo or World of Warcraft games are fun because you can collect stuff. Lots of stuff.

#2 – Personalizing stuff
Think Sims. There’s no aim in that game, yet one can spend ages just to decorate his house (not to mention how many hours those sequels and expansion packs can take) and make things look personal. Think World of Warcraft (or even Diablo) again – wasn’t it fun to make the character look personal?

#3 – Improving stuff
Whether it’s improving your character, weapons, city or anything – people like if they can improve stuff in game. If they can get Sword of Flames that gives them +3 damage instead of Sparkling Orc Hammer (+1 damage against green enemies) they will love it. Getting more money, getting more experience, getting more points – getting more improved stuff is what players are after.

#4 – Challenging stuff
Challenge in games is tricky issue. Sometimes it can make the gaming experience, and sometimes it might even kill the gaming experience. We people want to overcome challenges (otherwise game gets pretty boring), but finding the right challenge levels is sometimes pretty darn hard to do. One could think about having different difficulty levels… but that might be pretty dull system and might make it hard to find the right factors to adjust. One option – if you need to have different difficulties – is to have certain objectives that must be done (a car game example: getting to finish line) and then having optional goals for those who want a real challenge (for example: not crashing your car and driving through special routes). This is a tricky game design element: players want challenging, but not too difficult game.

#5 – Controlling stuff
Admit it: you want control in your life. You want to be in charge of what you do with your life, and you want to have control over certain things. Perhaps you want to control where you spend your spare time, or perhaps you want to control projects at work. Whatever it is – you want to have control over something. Similarly players want control (otherwise they’d be watching movies instead). They want to make sure the car goes left when they tell so. They want to command their units so that they actually follow player’s orders. They want to feel that they can control how the story goes by making different decisions. They want control. The more you give it (or a feeling of it) – the more fun game might be to some players.

#6 – Creating stuff
Some people are creators: they want to build and create stuff. They want to create anything from huge cities to smooth plumbing systems. They want to build the highest towers and finest cities. They want to create greatest restaurant or finest levels. People like to create – and if you give them tools for creating stuff they will like it.

#7 – Mysterious stuff
People love mysteries and secrets. Why Half-life game was praised for its story? One reason is that the story has mysterious men in black suits – who are these guys? What keeps players completing levels in Hitman? The game was fun, but in addition it the mystery behind the main character just had to be revealed. If you can bring some kind of secret or wrap a mystery around your story, some players will like it. They will crave for the answers.

Juuso Hietalahti