quinta-feira, 9 de agosto de 2018


I have already discussed in this post and this another post how anxiety and fear, which are disturbing feelings by definition, can play a major role in the designing of digital games. People’s desire to experience horror/terror games, or games that present many stressful situations, has created an interesting and profitable market niche, congregating a large number of players who are really enthusiastic about this kind of experience.

There are other disturbing feelings that can be strategically used in the process of game design. Today I would like to talk about uncertainty in games.

In this context, I ought to mention the book Uncertainty in games (2013), written by Greg Costikyan—the man behind classic games like Paranoia and Toon RPGs.

Costikyan (2013, p.16) argues that in real-life situations—like when we’re shopping online, electing a congressman or using software for work—we want no uncertainty, “we prefer simplicity, surety, and consistency.” While we always look forward to eliminating uncertainty when it concerns quotidian situations, products, and services, when it comes to games “a degree of uncertainty is essential” (COSTIKYAN, 2013, p.16), for it is a key factor in creating an immersive and entertaining experience for players.

How would you imagine a version of Dark Souls where enemies could be killed by a single weak blow from your shitty level-one weapon? Would you like to play a Super Mario Bros. game that lacks deadly cliffs and requires jumping just to collect coins?

Costikyan (2013, p.17-71) analyzes different kinds of games and explains that sometimes uncertainty comes from programmed random results; other times, uncertainty lies within opponents and how they perform; ultimately, uncertainty may result from the player's own abilities in the game.

I strongly recommend the book cited herein, and I would like to invite you to analyze ten of your favorite games (digital or analogic) in the light of this post. Try to figure out what kind of features caught your attention in those games—uncertainty was probably one of them.



COSTIKYAN, Greg. Uncertainty in games. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2013.