Game Development Reference
Ignoring is, where possible, often better than disallowing or punish-
ing because the player feels less controlled, and the behavior stops quickly
when the player gets no interesting reaction. Players understand that game
mechanics have limits; it's often better to make those limits simple, obvi-
ous, and dull than it is to try to camouflage them.
Sometimes we can incorporate the desk jumping into the narrative.
Players desk-jump for humor, mechanics exploration, and power up-
grades. These aren't unhealthy motivations. Sometimes it's better to em-
brace the actions players are taking and spin the narrative around them.
For example, in Deus Ex , while exploring the spy office, the player can
go into the women's restroom. If he does, he is confronted by a shocked
female coworker and later told off by his boss. It's a funny response to a
funny action by the player.
Some games positively revel in desk jumping. In Duke Nukem Forever ,
the player's traditional health bar is replaced with an Ego bar, which ex-
pands when Duke plays pinball, lifts weights, throws basketballs around,
and harasses strippers. This reinforces Duke's over-the-top macho
The key problem with incorporating desk jumping is that it can lead to
an ever-expanding scope of what must be incorporated. If the player jumps
on the boss's desk, and the boss says, “Get off my desk,” we've incorpo-
rated desk jumping. But what if the player keeps jumping on the desk?
Does the boss have more dialogue asking the player to get off his desk?
Does he eventually take physical action against the player? What about
after that? Does the player eventually get court-martialed and thrown in
jail because of an office shootout that started with a disagreement over his
jumping on his boss's desk? A player who is motivated to explore game
systems or create humor can always keep escalating. To solve this, it's best
to seek ways to incorporate desk jumping in a closed and complete way, as
with Duke Nukem Forever .
The best solution to desk jumping is to design the game so that players'
motivations and abilities line up with those of their character.
We can always deal with desk jumping. But the best way to handle it is
for players to never want to do it in the first place.
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