Game Development Reference
there. And they're important, because decisions are powerful sources of
When we explain a decision, we use logical reasoning. We describe
the why and how of the circumstances surrounding the decision, the de-
sired goal, and how our choice gets us to that goal. But in reality, logic is
only part of the process of choosing. The other part — and often this is the
largest part — is driven by emotion. The purely rational human decision is
a myth, no more real than Spock from St ar Trek .
Whether you're choosing which pair of socks to put on, whether to get
a divorce, or which opening move to use in chess, your decision is guided
by how you feel about each option. You look at the black pair of socks and
feel a twinge of boredom. You look at the orange pair and something lights
up inside you. So you reach for the orange. Or you think about advancing
your queen and a trained instinct injects you with a shot of unease. You
look over at the pawn, and you feel better. So you move the pawn. In each
case, some part of the unconscious evaluates the decision and triggers
an emotion to guide your behavior. Those emotions are part of the play
Understanding decisions is critical in game design because decisions
are the only emotional trigger that is unique to games. Many media can
provoke emotion through spectacle, character, or music; only games can
do it through decision.
But crafting decision-generating systems is wickedly hard. Decisions
themselves come in countless shapes and sizes. They can be important or
inconsequential, difficult or easy. Some involve lots of information, others
very little. They can be crystal clear, or shrouded in uncertainty. Some
are rushed, while others allow long contemplation. They may be packed
together, or generously spaced. Each variation and combination creates a
different emotional flavor.
As an added challenge, we can't design decisions directly without
breaking them. More than in any other field, in game design decisions
must be emergent to work well. So instead of writing them one by one, we
have to create systems that generate them on the fly.
Decision design is game design at its purest. While games can be
enhanced by narrative, fiction, image, and sound, none of these is essen-
tial to the form. The heart of games is in interactivity, and the heart of
interactivity is the moment of decision.
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