GameDev Protips: How To Optimize Player Decision-Making In Game Design

As game designers, we have to think about all aspects of a game. One of the most important aspects of game development is making sure that there’s a solid decision-making process early on for players. Newer designers oftentimes miss the mark when it comes to this. So, let’s talk about horrible decisions. Here are three types of bad or otherwise uninteresting decisions your player can make that will probably not result in any positive outcomes.

The first type is known as a useless decision. These types of decisions have absolutely no effect on gameplay whatsoever. Whether the player swipes left or right, the outcome does not change. These types of decisions do not guide or alter human behavior in any way. This can limit or even damage the player’s perception of interaction. A worthless decision is as good as no decision at all. An example of this kind of decisions might be changing the color palette of the player.

Next, there are the types of decisions that are blatantly obvious. These are decisions where the outcome is known by the player from the get-go. Although not entirely worthless, their effect on gameplay is minimal at best. These types of decisions are considered freebies and don’t really teach the player anything new about the game. They don’t allow the player to increase their decision-making abilities because the answer is sitting right in front of them. While it’s good to throw a freebie in every once in awhile, too much use of this type of decision can decrease the complexity or level of dimension in the game. This lowers the player’s perception of interaction. An example of this could be having a clearly overpowered weapon in the game that is chosen every single time.

Lastly, there are blind decisions. While these do have an effect on the game, they are so arbitrary that the outcome is pure guesswork. A player cannot adjust their actions because they cannot account for what might happen — good or bad. It’s akin to spinning a wheel and getting some unknown prize. You just don’t know what will happen. But these types of decisions can potentially break up the monotony a game (think of a lucky draw after each level in order to gain a prize to help you with the next stage of the game), but they aren’t particularly useful because like the other two decisions, they do not guide human decision making. An example of this would be selecting a random prize after a game from a choice of mystery prizes.

Important Takeaways: While these three types of decisions could potentially aid players, they do not guide human decision making. Players cannot control it in any way. They could potentially all be done away with because they do not make games more immersive or interactive. While there are caveats to each, on their own they are each rather flat and one-dimensional. It goes without saying that there are entire games that have built themselves entirely upon one or more of these three principles and they are sufficient in their own way, so these three decisions cannot immediately be dismissed, but rather considered less often. Remember, make sure that players are treated to meaningful decisions much as much as possible — and feel free to leave useless, obvious, or blind decisions at home.