Dirk Knemeyer

Facebook game design

Facebook game design, February 9, 2011

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

The design of Facebook Games has abandoned the old-school approach of trying to design a great game experience for players and instead is trying to design an engine to optimize revenues from the players. It is a huge difference in philosophy, where the marketers who are paid to make money have taken over from the engineers who are paid to make great experiences and in the process are reducing video game design from a deep and joyous hobby to a prettied-up form of interactive advertising. It is ironic, because we are at a moment where these games can be made much more cheaply than before, and there is plenty of money to be made even if the outcome is a great experience not a cash optimization engine. But these designers just can’t help themselves. Either through corporate mandate or their own misguided design philosophy, they are focused on taking more money from the player while giving them far, far less.

[…] Unfortunately, in the game design of all the games I played, the focus is only on the profitability of the developer and not on the joy of the player.

[…] Let’s for a moment stipulate that whatever they need to do to bring in more players is necessary for their viability. It’s not, but let’s stipulate it. Well, at least let us really make the most of our friends playing. Let the shared nature really enhance our experience. It doesn’t.

[…] The problem with the revenue model for most popular Facebook Games is that they compel the player to spend more, FAR more, than much better games would cost in order to play an inferior experience.

[…] Now, we shouldn’t be terribly surprised about this. People are flocking to these games. There is seemingly no incentive for them to change what they are doing because this is a money machine. Well, I have two points to make on that. First, this is going to change. The market will stop responding to these black holes of suckdom. It may not be today, or tomorrow, but it will change. There will be a demand for the experience-to-investment ratio to get substantially better. And then the games will dutifully shift to meet the market. But my second point is the more immediate one. Remember the Golden Rule? Treat others as you would like them to treat you. I can assure you that the designers of these games are not designing experiences they want to play. They are designing business-driven income generators. We live in a capitalist society, and a game development company needs to make money to stay in business. What we have instead are games that are generating massive profits while being true embarrassments of experience design. The design decisions are shameful, and I can assure you if the designers were creating something they wanted to play they would craft things that were far different.