GameDev Thoughts: The Untapped Power Of Minimalism In Game Design

Many designers encounter issues by putting too many choices in their games. All designers mean well when doing this, but in the end, all you do is simply frustrate your players. Too much choice usually becomes a problem when there are more than five options to choose from. For newbies, choice overload can cause decision paralysis, leaving them unable to make a decision, thereby halting or seriously postponing any progress in the game. You can alleviate decision paralysis by either creating fewer choices, or by categorizing choices.

There are countless psychological implications associated with too many choices within gameplay. This article will debate some of the pros and cons of having too many options, as opposed to having too few options, and details on how to reach an optimal level. No matter how many choices are present, you player should be able to make any choice decision relatively quickly, and they should feel freedom in their decision making and in control of their own destiny throughout the game.

Creating too many choices initially will lead to higher quit rates. Yet, studies have shown that the more invested the player is, the less likely they are to quit simply for this reason alone. Studies have also shown that having too many choices is not only frustrating, but that it also decreases satisfaction once a decision is reached. Perhaps the player is saddened by all the things they did not get to choose, or perhaps the player is not truly happy with their decision. Or, perhaps they were too burdened by the decision process all together to receive any real pleasure from it. Whatever the case may be, you do not want this scenario as a game designer.

This situation leads designers to carefully consider exactly how they want their players to feel whenever they make a choice, and designers then concentrate on this first. Giving your players opportunities to test all potential options until they find a good fit is one option; this will not give the player decision deferral, but it will instead prompt them to play around with various options. In this case, no decision is so permanent that it cannot be undone. This type of flexibility truly makes your players feel in charge of their own destiny.

One way to help prevent decision deferral is to temporarily reduce the number of options available. Perhaps only certain characters and weapons are unlocked at a certain point in the game, or only after a certain amount of gameplay has been completed. By being able to unlock certain attributes, your player will feel more motivated to unlock as many items as they can. This options makes the number of decisions available completely dependent on the player’s motivation to play the game. At this stage, a large number of options will not feel like a burden, but rather a privilege and an achievement that your player has earned over time.

Important Takeaways: Including too many choices for players within games can often be a problem for designers, but there are several methods to resolve this. It is possible to limit the number of decisions which need to be made within a game, and you can also reward players for the decisions they make throughout their game progress. As we know, every game will feature at least some level of decision making, and it is important for the designers to make sure players don’t get decision deferral and become frustrated with the game. It’s up to the designer to ensure the decisions players make are a positive part of the gameplay experience.