066 What's In An Addiction

As I ride the train to work, watching people play level after level of Temple Run and other such “Endless Runner” clones, I wonder what it is about them that’s so ridiculously addicting. I think I’ve broken it down:

1) They are easy to learn: You swipe left, you move left. You swipe up, you jump up. You run into things, you die.

2) They are one handed: These games are easy to play while doing anything else! Drinking coffee, playing Temple Run. Holding on to a pole, playing Temple Run. Walking down the street, playing Temple Run. Waving goodbye to your best friend, playing Temple Run. Eating a triple deluxe cheeseburger, playing Temple Run. Signing your divorce papers, playing Temple Run.

3) You can get better: When you ram your dumb avatar face into the back of a city bus, you almost immediately start the level over, with an opportunity to learn from that mistake. Next time you see that bus, you’ll be gracefully passing it by without a second thought.

4) Collect stuff!: There are new and shiny coins (or orbs, or money bundles) to collect at every corner’s turn.

5) Take risks, collect more stuff!: The even cooler things (like coins that are prettier colors, or fatter money bundles) are placed beyond maneuvers that take more practice at the game to reach. This is one of the main gameplay loops that creates the game’s addictiveness.

6) Upgrades?: The shiny coins you collect go toward something. This is the other half of the addiction; the amount of coins needed to buy upgrades for your character is an extremely thought out system. Too cheap, and you’ll have all the upgrades in no time, and quit playing the game; too expensive, and you’ll give up half way to your practically unattainable goal, and quit playing the game. The sweet spot in-between creates challenge and addiction (and also sometimes a true cash-cow, for the games that allow you shamefully buy your way to upgrades with real money).

7) Themes, I guess: Run in the city, run in the mountains, or run around some temples? Check, check, and done. Different games, each with a different theme to appeal to different demographics. Want to do it on a skateboard, instead? Sure. How about sprinting around in the land of Oz? Oh, yes. Or jetpacks? Yes! And those are the less ridiculous examples.

8) Finally, it’s free: And what better price, for a truly quality piece of media!?

March 7, 2015

#game-mechanic/system, #game-review/critique