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Games as Comfort


Disciplines > Game Design > Games as Comfort

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We sometimes play games for the sense of comfort that it gives us. At such times we seek familiarity rather than novelty, ease rather than challenge. Hence we will choose and play games that give us that warm sense of comfort.

When we are playing with others, the invitation to play starts with 'Let's play...', followed by a game with which the other person is very familiar, whether it is chess, Monopoly or the latest video game that you both have been playing.


It's been a long week. How about a game of Scrabble and a glass of wine?

A person regularly goes home from work and spends an hour unwinding while they have a go on an old flight simulator game, perhaps flying to a familiar airport and enjoying the sights along the way.


Sometimes when I watch a movie I want to be challenged or stimulated. Sometimes I want to have to pay attention and to be made to think. And yet other times, I just want something relaxing that I can enjoy without having to get my brain in gear. I might even re-watch an old favorite, just for the smile and basic satisfaction it brings.

Games can be like this too. We typically seek comfort first when we are tired and stressed. When there is already too much tension in our lives, we cannot cope with further thrills and challenges. All we want is something with which we can feel good.

One of the basic ways that our brains reward us is when we identify familiar patterns. It says 'Well done, you understand what is going on and are in control. There is no need to be alert to dangers as you are now safe.' Sometimes this is all we want from our games.

Even within challenging games, it can be a useful point of design to give comforting breaks during which the normal difficulties are kept at a distance. Hence we can pause when we reach the end of the current 'level'. Sometimes also a smart designer puts in an easy level as a bonus for getting so far.

See also

Control, Consistency principle

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