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The Learnability Principle

 

Disciplines > Game Design > Principles > The Learnability Principle

Principle | Action | Discussion | See also

 

Principle

If people cannot easily learn the game, they will likely abandon it. If they can learn, they will enjoy it.

Action

Make the game easy to learn. Ways you can do this include:

  • Design the game to be learned, for example making options easier to see.
  • Describe the goal (the 'what') of the game up-front and gradually add methods (the 'how').
  • Write the rules in ways that are easy to reference.
  • Have a 'help' system that can be consulted.
  • Tutorials step through what to do next, removing the person's choice while showing them how to play.
  • Tips can appear through the game, offering suggestions of what to do next.
  • 'Sandpit' or 'playpen' scenarios let people play without being harmed.
  • Experienced players may be rewarded for helping newer players.
  • A handicap system (like golf) can help new players keep up while they are learning.
  • 'Levels' of play where lower levels require less skill.
  • Added complications appearing only when the player has mastered more basic skills.
  • Hiding more complex elements where beginners will not see them.

Discussion

Some games are very clever, very complicated and very difficult to learn. Such games may have a few dedicated players but will not get widespread adoption as we will easily give up on games that are not easy to learn. Even quite easy games are quickly abandoned if the way forward is not abundantly clear.

The ideal learnable game reveals new elements only as they are needed, matching new information to both the game play and also the ability of the player to learn new elements.

The brain rewards us for learning, adding a pleasant 'aha!' to the confusion of new things.

See also

Learning

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