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5 Rules for Creating Crowd-Pleasing Interactive Games

By Scott Lozier and Stephanie Van Ness

At Integrated Computer Solutions (ICS), we create a lot of games for our clients for use at trade shows and conferences, and for sales teams to show off products. We’ve built a wide variety of game types, including target games, races, puzzles and 3D-immersion games. Most-often requested are trivia-based games.

Regardless of game style, we’ve found interactive games succeed when game creators follow these five simple rules:

1. Understand Motivation 

Why would someone play the game? To win a prize (extrinsic motivation), bragging rights or because it’s fun (intrinsic motivation), that’s why. From our experience, the best, most successful games are the ones people want to play because they seem like fun so use this to your advantage during game development.

As for your motivation as game sponsor, you probably want players to gather around, make noise and encourage more players to join in the fun. (More players means more people being exposed to your brand.) That’s always our goal. One way we accomplish that is by designing a compelling idle screen that offers just a glimpse of the game — a well-crafted teaser that captures the fun and excitement the game offers.

2. Determine Your Objective  

Objectives define what your players are trying to accomplish within the rules of the game, and give players something to strive for. Some common objectives — the purpose of the game — include:

  • Capture

  • Chase

  • Race

  • Alignment of protagonist (which team are you on?)

  • Rescue/Escape

Our latest game is a global race, where players compete to deliver the greatest number of packages from one city to another. Players can increase their travel speed by correctly answering in-game questions, which we’ve tailored to suit our client’s business.   

3. Create Clear, Logical Rules

People actually like rules. Rules give us structure and encourage us to be more creative and playful.

To be helpful, though, rules must be kept really simple because introducing and explaining them slows down the game. It’s another screen players have to wade through before they get to the fun! But it is a necessary evil. For our package-delivery game, we kept the rules as minimalist as possible: answer the question correctly, gain speed.

4. Provide Feedback

To remain engaged, players need to know the specifics of the rules they’ve agreed upon, such as how much time they have to answer a question, and how well an individual player is doing relative to the goals you set for them. That means providing feedback, specifically progress feedback.

While feedback can be positive (for an incorrect answer a player might be told “Nice try” or “Keep going!” ) or negative (“Wrong answer!” or “You’re losing!”), we always go for positive feedback. And immediate feedback. In our package-delivery game, players know right away when they’ve answered a question correctly — the indicator is a speed boost shown through animation.

5. Keep Score

Play into human nature. People love to compare themselves against others — and they like the boost of self-confidence that comes from doing well. That’s one reason we always make sure players — even losing players — get lots of points. Scoring 10,000 package deliveries is impressive (player feels good about him or herself), but not as good as the winner who scored 35,000 deliveries (losing player wants to play again to try to beat that high score).

Points can be in the form of badges, orders, coins or other tokens. We usually connect the point style to the theme of the conference or client. Consider adding a formal leaderboard if the game is competitive over long periods.

A Final Note

As experienced game developers, we've found these rules provide an effective plan for creating winning games. One more element of a winning game: branding. We’re always careful to brand a game specifically for our client so it supports their overall messaging. Without clever and appropriate branding, even the most compelling game would deliver little value to a client's business.

Here's more <fun /> game-related content. And, if you're thinking about creating a game for your business and need some expert assistance, get in touch.

Image Credit: Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

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