Game Development Reference
Sometimes we want to encourage players to take certain actions, but we
don't want to tell them exactly what to do. In these cases we use methods
of indirect control .
INDIRECT CONTROL methods can guide player behavior without the
player realizing that they're being guided.
This isn't anything as exotic (or stupid) as subliminal messaging or
neurolinguistic programming. Indirect control is about using straightfor-
ward methods of arranging information so that players' behavior naturally
flows in the intended direction. UI and industrial designers have been
doing this for decades.
There are three basic methods of indirect control: nudging , priming ,
and social imitation .
NUDGING is changing player behavior by changing how choices are
presented, without changing the choices themselves.
Players tend to follow the path of least resistance in any situation. They'll
choose the default option and take the most obvious route. This means
that we can nudge them whichever way we want just by rearranging op-
tions and changing defaults. For example, a dialogue system could be set
up so that the default selection is always the one that leads to the most
We can also nudge through visual design. A lit doorway draws players
in better than a dark one. A line on a floor suggests a path for the player.
A blinking button demands to be pushed. In each case, players will usu-
ally make the choice that leads to the intended experience, without being
forced to do so.
Nudging is useful because it is cheap. It usually costs little to imple-
ment, and it doesn't restrict options or change incentives. It simply arrang-
es options to make the intended answers more natural than the wrong
ones. There is almost no reason not to nudge at every opportunity.
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