Playability Heuristics For Games Design Computer Science Essay

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The aim of this project was to produce my own playability heuristics components, which will be employed into computer video games. The implementation process will involve me to observe a number of people playing games, and on this basis develop a set of my own playability heuristics. Then I will design a simple prototype game and evaluate it using my heuristics.


Introduction ………………………………………………………………………

Background reading ……………………………………………………………...

Defining usability in relation to games ………………………………….

Game heuristics from the literature …………………………….............

Familiarisation with the Heuristics and why they are important.......................

Why bother with heuristics? ……………………………………………..

Could heuristics be helpful in evaluating game usability? …….............

Case study and Observations..........................................................................

Introduction ………………………………………………………………...

Participants ………………………………………………………………..

Procedures ……………………………………………………………….....

Analysis …………………………………………………………………...

Design, Implement and simulate a simple game using my own heuristics.............


References ………………………………………………………………………...


Heuristics are essential guidelines which serve as a useful feedback tool for both product designers and usability professionals.

Such as Video games have different design considerations and usability issues than other types of software. In video game usability, effectiveness and efficiency are fewer considerations in relation to satisfaction. It can be said that a consumer may need to purchase or use other software to perform necessary tasks, but a game is bought on a basis purely for entertainment value. It can be that a game is not fun to play; it will not sell in the Media that well. To the satisfaction of game players, considerable approach is taken by the game designer and could be better guaranteed with the use of usability evaluation procedures by game developers and designers.

Many Game development companies can benefit, like other software industries have, from a good understanding of usability principles. Providing formal evaluation procedures can often save time and money, on the contrary usability testing increases overall production time and overhead costs on projects. So it is not easy task, but it would help solve the problems caused later in the selling of the product.

Many other software industries could benefit by gaining a better understanding of the principles at work in designing games. Games Industry will succeed in many areas then other types of software struggle and often fail.

Like the game design process other software industries could learn these techniques and make the implementation and usage of their tools in businesses much more cost effective. Software developers could also benefit from learning to make their products more fun, because we know that people often believe that things are usable simply due to their aesthetic value (Tratinsky, 1997), and count things that are fun as more usable. The result of software packages being more fun could potentially alter buying decisions by consumers (Carroll and Thomas, 1988). Therefore, learning a few valuable lessons from games could help other software more attractive to consumers thus less costly for companies to implement.


Defining usability in relation to games:

The definition of usability comes in three measures: effectiveness (accuracy and completeness of users achieving set goals), efficiency (the resources expended to complete goals), and satisfaction (the users' play attitude). Frokjaer, Hertzum, and Horbaek (2000) argue that these components should be considered as separate and independent aspects of usability. Like other types of software, games have an interface that needs to provide an efficient and effective means for the user to interact with the game. When looking at past the interface to the playability of the game, which is integral to a game's usability, it is apparent that all three measures are not important or applicable.

Efficiency: Generally equals with the use of time and the amount of resources to complete the goal. Users mainly play games to achieve a goal with great deal of energy. If there is no challenge to the player while aiming for the goal, the game is boring and not entertaining. Therefore, if a game is efficient but have few resources on the part of the player, it may not reward in its mission to provide worthwhile entertainment. Since Games are for entertainment purposes a user may wish to spend a lot of time playing these games.

There is a specific endpoint to a game (which is a set point to consider a game complete) and an explicit path to get there (a way to determine accuracy), effectiveness could possibly be measured for that game, though in many cases there is not an ideal path nor one set endpoint, so this measure would be impossible to make and not valid to the overall usability of a game. One goal of the game developer, as described by Peter Bickford (1997) in his book on interface design, is to keep the user "in play' as long and as deeply as possible". If the goal of the developer is to keep the user playing as long as possible, then there is no sense of when a game is truly completed. If a goal is determined as complete by one player and that point may vary considerably by different players. Even if there is a clear-cut endpoint to the game, there may be many paths in which to achieve it and the player keep returning to the game in order to discover more ways which ultimately clouds the fortitude of what path is accurate in obtaining the goal.

To judge the productivity of the software, efficiency and effectiveness must be measured though this outcome is not useful for games since often people are seeking escape from productivity by playing them.

The aspect of the ISO definition of usability that relates easily and directly to both a game's interface and playability is satisfaction. Unit in system satisfaction should be central to the evaluation of the usability of games since the goal of any game is entertainment not productivity. The satisfaction for games is a multidimensional concept which should involve fun, involvement environments, and gripping experiences. Can designers define and create fun, immersive and compelling games. Yes they can.

Are usability approaches helpful for designing games

Usability heuristics are identified as usability principles that trained evaluators to assess the integrity of software design. This particular usability evaluation method is rather quick and cost effective, usually requiring three to five evaluators each spending one to two hours to do two passes through an interface while producing a list of heuristic violations (Nielsen, 1994). Heuristics also provide a clear understanding of the principles with which a design can be built.

This tool is typically used to evaluate the usability of software interfaces and could also be supportive in evaluating the usability of games. In game development, game heuristics could be used to produce successful games more constantly in other types of software development as well, a list of game heuristics can be used to find many ways to incorporate fun and entertainment into new products which can be used to increase customer satisfaction.

Game heuristics have become more accepted and widely used method of usability evaluation in internet and software development. These would be guidelines for the creation and evaluation of a usable game. If a usable game is one that satisfies the user by providing entertainment, then game heuristics should include design elements that ensure the fulfilment of the user.

Nielsen's (1994) development of heuristics can be useful in evaluating game usability? "Ten Usability Heuristics" which can be used to perform heuristic evaluations on websites and software. Are they all related to games?

Visibility of System Status

This method of heuristic applies to games, through score and the level of information. These scores assist in telling the player what they have achieved; it is a form of positive feedback that encourages how good the player can play the game. (Shneiderman 1992) In addition to text feedback, audio can also offer the player useful information regarding their play in the game.

Match between the system and the real world

Games do not need to be related to the real world since they can be entirely fantasy based but user interface to the real world may help players understand how to direct through an environment and work together with other characters or objects during game play.

User Control and Freedom

Nielsen's third heuristic is about the "undo" function which is not applicable to games, but the idea of freedom and user control still central in game design. If the player believes they are restricted to boundaries, they will be prone become frustration and the outcome could be loss of interest in the game (Norman, 1990). So, the player should feel they are in control, not just movements of the character, but the way the player explores the game environment. For the player to get the impression of control of the character actions within the game, their actions need to be responsive inside 0.2 seconds (Bickford, 1997). One important way of offering player added control is to offer the player, the ability to reset their input device, i.e. keyboard, so the key function the player uses are the most comfortable. They should also be given the power to save their game state at different stages, which gives the user the freedom to explore the game at the time and pace of their choosing.

Consistency and Standards

The game user interface should be constant throughout. When possible controller functionality should remain which allows easy access to the players.

Error Prevention

To prevent errors it requires careful usability testing. The phrase error prevention which can include warning messages such as "Are you sure you want to quit?" or "Do you want to save this game before quitting?" that assist the user in making less serious errors.

Recognition rather than recall

Instructions for the system should be retrieved within the game, although quite often games are built with the intention to teach skills early in game play so that instructions are not that important. Manuals should not be relied upon for beginning game play.

Flexibility and efficiency of use

Players of different skill levels should be able to be played the game. Variable difficulty levels should be provided within the game at the start.

Artistic and minimalist design

Game on screen interfaces should be simple for the player to recognise and not get in the way to provide easy access to the game environment.

Help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from errors

As is pointed out by Ben Shneiderman (1992), error messages are not necessary during game play because errors commands are made by the players actions which can be reversed easily but the players is in control of the charter. In contrast to the game play issues, this heuristic is relevant to the game's user interface which has the ability to assist the user in recovery or prevention of errors (as discussed in the Error Prevention above).

Help and documentation

Help needed to engage in the game play should be largely displayed throughout a tutorial but smaller help items can be offered via on screen interface of the game.

Nielsen's heuristics fail in addressing game play issues, but appears to be helpful when analyzing the interface of a game. The sum of 30 identified game heuristics, 14 logically fit into one of Nielsen's heuristics. 14 out of ten of those are interface issues. The 16 remaining game heuristics not addressed by Nielsen's top ten all related to game play. This outcome is not unexpected since Nielsen's (1994) heuristics were not made with games in mind and are mostly used by Human Computer Interaction (HCI) professionals to evaluate software interfaces only.

Letters e and i of Nielsen's Heuristics deal with error prevention and recovery and do not apply to game play but still can be useful in the evaluation of game interfaces. It is in a game designer's interest to reduce player annoyance, and a helpful user interface that aid the player in avoiding or recovering from errors can only add to overall player satisfaction.

Game designers might feel it is only fitting to develop heuristics for the interface or mechanics of a game, not game play, but I consider all three should are essential because they all eventually involve player satisfaction, which is, as I have argued, the most principal measure for the usability of games. For that reason, I think heuristics should intergrate the three major areas named by Clanton (1998): game interface, game mechanics, and game play.

Clanton (1998) argues that HCI professionals could advice on the evaluating of interface and mechanics issues, but HCI professionals could take it further if they also had prior gaming experience, by offering feedback on all three areas of game development (mechanics, interface and game play).

In addition to being able to contribute to the development process in a greater way,

HCI evaluators with vase amount of experience in gaming will also be more likely to be accepted into the gaming industry with this background because usually in the game development industry, testers are always gamers (Collins, 1997).

Game heuristics from the literature:

After reviewing the available literature, I identified the following heuristics of game design and related each one to the three areas of usability.

Literature for Game Interface

Peter Bickford offers a practical guide for designing easy-to-use software in his book Interface Design: The Art of Developing Easy-to-Use Software "...that we should provide users with as many choices for configuring the system as possible..." Personal computing should allow us to focus on a given task in a way that encourages us to accomplish more than we otherwise could. Every means of interaction within the system should support the task at hand with as little interference as possible.

Fitt's Law states that "The time required to acquire a target is a function of distance to the target and its size" This law has some interesting extensions and corollaries. For example, targets located along the edges of the screen are easier to reach than those located in the middle. Even more, the four corners are the least-effort area of the screen, in terms of ease of access. So games should keep the most important buttons and controllers in these areas.

Daniel Sánchez-Crespo Dalmau says "the spatial layout techniques outlined, greatly improve interaction, by make games more intuitive." This is a very important feature, especially in the first minutes of game play, which decide whether the player will stick to the game or get bored and stop playing.

Bruce Shelley suggests in a Guideline for Developing Successful Games "minimize the layers of an interface (menus within menus), and control options (being able to play a strategy game using only a mouse is a good thing)." Providing an interesting and absorbing tutorial is important, otherwise learning controls and operations can be daunting if the player must learn a huge amount of information before beginning play.

Jason Bay comments that "In a game's GUI, you might be able to leverage the player's pre-existing knowledge by labelling controls with familiar pictures/icons to jog his memory." In the game world itself, it's dangerous to rely on your players' pre-existing knowledge; if the player doesn't know what you expect them to know then they will have trouble executing core tasks.

3.2 Literature for Game Mechanics

Daniel Sánchez-Crespo Dalmau mention's "Graphics indications are probably the most popular, but many games have made great use of sound as a feed backing tool." This is true whenever you select a unit in a Real Time Strategy game, it answers with a "Yes, sir?" kind of message, the main purpose of which is to acknowledge the selection. We (the players) give orders, and the game must perform them, and return us any info or result derived from our orders. Whenever the game returns us info, we are talking about feedback.

Heather Desurvire quotes in her PLAY Principles of Playability paper "The first ten minutes of play and player actions are painfully obvious and should result in immediate and positive feedback for all types of players" When the player first starts playing the game, he/she should feel confident that he/she would be able to play the game, and would not give up due to it being too difficult to figure out.

Mahdi Jeddi writes "If the game has a budget limitation, they can spread the introduction of new features across all levels, and maybe make some special levels for one feature. This way the game will maintain its freshness to its end and the player will be saved from boredom". Games should not present all their features in the first few levels, and then don't have anything new to offer in the later stages of the game.

Bruce Shelley talks in a Guideline for Developing Successful Games "Provide a Great First 15 Minutes of Easily Accessible Play" A player must be actively engaged by a new game within 15 minutes of starting or risk of losing the player forever. The player need to get into the game quickly and easily so that they are absorbed and having fun without any frustration. I believe when done properly, the player gets into the game successfully and significant time may pass before they are aware of it.

3.3 Literature for Game Play

Chuck Clanton says in a conference: An Interpreted Demonstration of Computer Game Design. "Assists the player with familiarisation of the game's environment and the achievement of the game's goals early on" The game should have an unexpected outcome and there should be a clear overriding goal of the game presented early.

Sven Joeckel of University of Technology, Ilmenau (Germany) discusses in his paper Games that Sell Determining Factors that Explain the Success of Video Games. "Games with a medium or variable difficulty level tend to be slightly more successful than games with a hard or easy difficulty level." Difficult games go hand in hand with a game play that requires the gamer to learn to play a game longer. As long as the games do not get too difficult, the "learning" curve does not interfere with a game's economic performance.

Justin Keverne talks about Multi-level decision making "Multiple goals in every level; these twists not only keep things lively by giving the player multiple goals to achieve for each level." Having multiple goals within a game will make game play more interesting and keep the player occupied on the game for longer.

Chris Crawford in his paper claims that "Games should not be solvable, but instead should provide the illusion of winnability" I believe games should ultimately be solvable because everyone's favourite game is the one they have managed to complete.

Chris Crawford claims in the paper The Art of Computer Game Design "strength of computers for game design purposes is their ability to provide an intelligent opponent" Most games are far less intelligent. Instead, they rely on overwhelming numerical advantage to make up for the superior intelligence of the human player.

3.4 Game heuristics gleaned from the literature:

After reviewing the available literature, I identified the following heuristics of

game design and related each one to the three areas of usability identified by Clanton


Game heuristics from the literature

Game Interface - Controls should be customizable by the user

Game Interface - The interface should not get in the way

Game Interface - Be able to identify their score/status in the game

Game Interface - Short learning curve

Game Interface - Interfaces should the same in control, colour, typography, and

dialog design

Game Interface - Hiding the main computer interface during game play

Game Interface - Minimize the menu layers of an interface

Game Interface - Minimize control options

Game Interface - Use sound to provide important feedback

Game Interface - Should not expect the player to read a manual

Game Mechanics - Feedback should be given quickly to display user control

Game Mechanics - Get the player involved swiftly and easily

Game Play - There should be a clear objectives of the game presented early

Game Play - There should be different difficulty level

Game Play - There should be many goals for the player

Game Play - A good game should be hard to master but easy to learn

Game Play - The game should have an unforeseen outcome

Game Play - Artificial intelligence should be difficult yet winnable

Game Play - Game play should be reasonable so that there is no one way

to win

Game Play - The game must maintain an illusion of success

Game Play - Play should be fair

Game Play - The game should give hints, but not a lot

Game Play - The game should give rewards

Game Play - Pace the game to be hard, but not frustrate the player

Game Play - Provide an appealing and interesting tutorial

Game Play - Allow players to modify and build content

Game Play - Make the game so the user will replay it

Game Play - Create an exciting storyline

Game Play - There must not be any single method of winning strategy

Game Play - Should use sound and visual effects to arouse interest

As you can see from the list the three factors (user interface, game mechanics, game play), game play is the most important element to the usability of a game. This finding agrees with Clanton's (1998) statement that, "game designers and publishers alike are adamant that game play is the deciding ingredient of a good game"

Analysis Fun in Games

Games can be played for fun. This sort of entertainment can be used to escape boredom through the day. They can be described as superior to other entertainments, the fact it is cheap and you do not have to go far to entertain yourself. One can lose the real world and create his/her own environment. In psychology cognitive terms, Lombard (2000) describes the captivation or the "illusion of no mediation" as an episode when "a person fails to perceive or acknowledge the existence of a medium in his or her communication environment and responds as he or she would if the medium were not there"

As user can be sure that as they create their own interactive environment they can forget they are actually participating through a medium. In the Game development community interfaces are best unnoticed by the player. (Sanchez-Crespo Dalmau, 1999).

Fun does not just relate to user interface of a game only; it also relates directly to game play. Given that the concept of a game means there is an objective of the game (Malone, 1980), it is not remarkable that Myers (1990), in his study of Game Player Aesthetics, found 'challenge' to be, the most chosen quality of a favourite game. As Karat and Ukelson (2000) mention in there discussion of interfaces and motivation, players find enjoyment in mastering a game and reaching a desired goal, so are willing to spend a great deal of time in doing so. Providing challenge and the prospect to master a skill seems to offer incredible motivation for players to engage in games. The challenge makes the activity fun and satisfacting. Dan Bunten of MicroProse's thinks fun lies in unforeseen prospect for growth and that games offer a fundamental reward of needed brain stimulus (Aycock, 1992).

Richard Garriott who aided in the development of Ultima claims that what makes particular game fun is its engagement in a virtual reality (Aycock, 1992). Users can choose to fantasise and loose themselves into that game, thus giving them the pleasure of trill of playing that game. Maybe, it is the engagement rather than the virtual that is so desirable about the gaming experience.

Myers' (1990) research was based on arcade games, which most likely involved different kind of engagement, different players, game type, and time investment. For instance game play on a PC or console is created specifically for that specific platform. Normally, console games require great dexterity (Wii), PC games are more the use of the intellect; intellectual (strategy), and arcade games are quick and easy because they are not saveable, and because the goal of the game is to get the player to spend as much money as possible, which requires a much smaller time play time than either PC or console games. Likely the fantasy based world takes a lot longer time obligation than the arcade games.

There is no real study conclusion that says that all games are the same when played by users. The most important thing is how to keep the user playing on games and the industry keep selling them. There are thousands of people who enjoy computer games and spend lots of money buying the latest games for thrills and entertainment, but there are people who buy certain games for fun and enjoyment.



4.1 Introduction

In order to gain insight into the usability evaluation processes within the game and to research the explicit and implicit heuristics of game design, I spent one evening with a group of gamers.

The game I observed was Left 4 Dead 2, playing on a campaign setting with four participants thus four players. I thought this would be an interesting game to observe as the game involves co-operation with other players, to achieve their goal and thus evaluate the usability, interaction and game play of the game.

4.2 Participants

Each participant gave me permission to record their game play and expressions, so I taped some of them playing the game and observed them, while they played.

Ben Davis

Piotr Piasecki

Chris Stanton

Justyna Pultowicz

4.3 Procedures

The observation period lasted about an hour. I instructed each participant to go about their business as usual, and not to pay any special mind to me as they played.

Though I had hoped to simply be able to silently observe each individual, it was understandable that most were uncomfortable with simply having a stranger looking over their shoulder and being filmed.

4.4 Analysis

It can be argued that one of the main reasons for playing games is to achieve an emotional reaction of the player. To be surprised, happy, angry or anxious - to perceive different emotional states - is one of the main reasons to play games.

I compared my observations to Nicole Lazzaro 4 Fun Keys, best known for her work on game usability, emotional reaction and interface. Also because Lazzaro's thesis, which looks particularly prescient given the massive rise of Facebook games from companies like Zynga and Playfish, is that social and experiential elements are becoming key in gaming.

The 4 Fun Keys create games' four most important emotions:

Hard Fun: Fiero - in the moment personal triumph over adversity

2. Easy Fun: Curiosity

3. Serious Fun: Relaxation and excitement

4. People Fun: Amusement

I believe the game I observed fall in the 4 Fun Keys, particularly fiero - an Italian word for "hard fun of accomplishment"; excitement - the "serious fun of creating value", and amusement: "the people fun of socializing."

I found from my observation that, there was a social side of playing, were the players would communicate and warn each other of danger, complain and help each other out, with health pack, weapons and so on...which fits in with what Nicole Lazzaro pointed out, "that social media has zero barrier to entry and is incredibly viral, and full of 'social tokens' ".

The group was concentrating a lot, which I felt that fiero was particularly key because the game needed to balance difficulty carefully between frustration and boredom, allowing for regular spikes of fiero-style accomplishment happiness and relaxation. Seymour Papert believes "what is best about the best games is that they draw you into some very hard learning" and when observing, I saw strategy rather than luck and varies players calling out what to do and how to achieve the overall goal. Hard Fun created emotion by structuring experience towards the pursuit of a goal, which was surviving and reaching the safe house.

Figure 1 shows the concentration of hard fun

In the study players enjoyed the Hard Fun of Challenge, within the game most participates and even though there were periods of frustration, there were also feeling of accomplishment and success (fiero).

Throughout my examination, once key aspect I observed was the socializing side of the game, the people fun of playing a game. Nicole Lazzaro says "games that offer both cooperative and competitive modes offer a wider variety of emotional experiences", teamwork and light-hearted rapport between the participles flourished when they pursued their shared goals.

Many of the players comments centred on the enjoyment from playing with others outside the game. Prominent emotions include Amusement, Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others players and enemies and Joy of achievement. Nicole Lazzaro described "Teamwork, as well as opportunity for social bonding and personal recognition that comes from playing with others" I suppose players using this key see games as mechanisms for social interaction.

In the study players whose enjoyment came from interaction with other people said that:

I don't play games that much, but it was a fun way of spending time with people I know.

Playing with people made the game more enjoyable.

It was better playing with friends than strangers.


Design Requirements from the fun types

Productivity and games software share many qualities. Tasks are supported through features within games. Games have familiar GUI fundamentals, such as text entry, controls, dialogs, cursors, and menus. It is realistic to say that player's perception, cognitive and memory limits also affect performance of a game. It is necessary to demand consistent and clear feedback within game challenges.

Player focus design process relates to certain aspects of games only, but it is important to identify that games support a different type of experience than information or productivity software.

Fulfilment by completing a task has a different value than having fun. Measurements of games focus more on the positive side of emotion reaction than on the negative ones. Unlike productivity, games that offer a certain result and complexity well within player skills makes a game boring and not pleasing. Game play needs goals that are not easy rather than easy to achieve. Making a game that is simple as possible takes away the very characterises of the game experience. A 100% success rate gets rid of most of the feature that makes the game fun.

It is clear that designers and industrial video games can make use of player feedback. Established usability method such as frequent error tracking, testing, time on task, heuristics, and satisfaction studies have already improved the player experience of games. On the other hand, usability measures do not increase the quality of all positions of the player's game experience such as to stir up; excitement. The view of HCI turns from interface design towards player experiences and methods to gauge them are being developed. Thus the function of these tools will allow the creation of more deeply enjoyable player understanding.

The experience of Flow "so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, with little concern for what they will get out of it, even when it is difficult or dangerous" (Csikszentmihalyi 1990) the experiences of flow has eight sections, as follows:

(1) The completion of a task;

(2) The power to concentrate on the goal;

(3) Able to concentrate on a task because of clear goals;

(4) Able to concentrate on a task because of immediate feedback;

(5) Having the ability of control over actions;

(6) Removing the awareness of the frustrations of everyday life with effortless involvement.

(7) Concern for self disappears, but to come forth with a self emerges stronger afterwards the task is over;

(8) Losing a sense of time and duration of time is altered.

Completing the above sections will bring a sense of deep enjoyment which is rewarding enough that players feel that spending a great deal of time and effect is worthwhile simply to be able to feel the flow (Csikszentmihalyi 1990) furthermore, an important relation to a flow experience is a match between the player's skills level and the challenges level linked with the game, with both being over a certain level.

The majority of flow experiences coupled with actions that are goal-orientated, which have rules and involve mental energy and the right skills. For instance according to Csikszentmihalyi, reading which has a goal of concentration and understanding of rules of writing, reading skills with literacy, which involve the ability of turning words into images, identify with fictional characters, identify historical and cultural contexts, predict plot twists, and analysis evaluate.

The express purpose of games, sports, and literature has been developed for enriching life (Csikszentmihalyi 1990). The key component in flow is that the activity must be essentially rewarding and believing. This is true in games as individuals play games for the experience itself, as there is no clear reward. Lastly, every flow activity gives a feeling of being transported into a new reality, (a familiar sensation for game players) a sense of discovery.

Enjoyment flow has been researchers and applied in a wide variety of fields. Applications of flow include workflow (Vass 2002), which was created for the creativity in problem-solving. Flow has also been used in appealing commercial websites (Jennings 2000), also to engage enjoyment in an interactive music environment (Pachet and Addressi 2004), and to measure information systems (Artz 1996)

Integrating Flow to Games

A wide-range of literature on usability and player experience in games was conducted to establish how the stages of flow evolve in computer games. The enjoyment in games was structured from the literature based on the stages of flow and the demonstration of flow experiences in games. From Cziksentmilalyi's experiences of flow, eight core bases where constructed, which are:





clear goals




Each base is composed of a varying number of criteria that relate to Cziksentmilalyi's 1990 stages of flow, as shown in Table I.

My Observations of the participants



Be able to concentrate on the task


The completion of a task

Player Skills

Apparent skills match challenges and both must exceed a certain level


Have a sense of control over actions

Clear goals

The task demonstrates clear goals


The task presents instant feedback


Intense but easy involvement, reduced concern the player and loss of time

Social Interaction

Create involvement and team play

Table 1: Mapping the Elements from the observation to the Elements of Flow Games Literature

The elements in table 1 are very much related and interdependent with each other. Games should keep the player concentrating with a massive work-load; but the goals must be challenging to be enjoyed. The player skill must be high enough to participant in the challenging tasks, the tasks must be given obvious goals so that the player can finish the tasks, and the player must be given clear feedback on progress towards carrying out the tasks.

If the players skill sufficiently enough, plus the objective has clear goals and feedback, then he or she will feel a perception of control over the given task. Thus keeping the player occupied will ensure the player is in total immersion or engagement in the game, which will make them lose awareness, unconcern for themselves, and lose their sense of time. The last element of player enjoyment, the social interaction, the interaction with other people, despite the task, players will play games they do not enjoy or even when they don't like games, but enjoy the co-operation and teamwork of games.

In table 2 the manifestation in games is described and its relation with each element of flow, drawing on the games literature, player experience and usability. Based on the finding and primary table of player enjoyment in games (Game Flow) was created. For each element, of the Game Flow table contains an overall goal and a group of central criteria that can be employed to design and evaluating games with acknowledgement to player enjoyment.

Table 2. GameFlow Criteria for design requirements in Games


Central Criteria


It is necessary for games to have concentration and give the player the ability to concentrate on the task

games must provide a lot of motivation from different sources

games should provide incentive that are worth attending to

games have to grab the players attention and uphold their focus throughout the game

players should not be given trivial goal that burden the player

games should have lots of tasks, while still being suitable for the players' perceptual, cognitive, and memory limits.

players should not be disturbed from tasks that need completing or need to concentrate on


Games ought to be adequately challenging and match the player's skill level

challenges within the games must be equivalent to the players' skill levels

challenges should grant different levels of tasks for different players

the difficulty of challenge should raise as the player progresses through the game and increases their skill level

games should provide new challenges at the players pace

Player Skills

Games must encourage player skill mastery and development

players should be able to get into the game quickly and start playing the game without reading the manual

learning the game should be part of the fun, not boring the player

games should include menus of help e.g. exiting the game

tutorials should be provided to the players or opening levels that feel like playing the game

player's skill should increase at a certain pace as the player progress through the game

Rewards should be appropriately for the players effort and skill development

game mechanics and interfaces should be straightforward to learn and use


Players should believe they are in control of their actions in the game

players should believe they are in control over their characters or units and their actions and interactions within the game world

players should have control over the game interface and input devices

players should have a feeling of control over the game menus (starting, stopping, saving, etc.)

players should not be allowed to make errors that are harmful to the game and should be able to recovering from errors

players should possess control and influence the game world e.g. like their actions are important and they are having a impact on the game world

players should feel a sense of control over the actions they take and the strategies they develop and they are free to play the game the way they feel fit. Not simply being forced into actions and strategies planned by the game mechanics

Clear Goals

Clear goals should be provided to the player with at proper times

the overriding goals should be made clear and presented early in the game

the same applies to the intermediate goals which should be clear and presented at correct times


Players must receive suitable feedback at right times

Feedback is important to all players on the progress they have made toward their goals

Immediate feedback should be relied back to the player on their actions.

It is only fair that the players should always know their status or score


Players should encounter deep but

easy connection in the game

players should become more drawn into the game and become unaware of their surroundings

players should become less self-conscious and escape from everyday life

players should experience sense a loss of time

players should feel emotionally involved in the game

players should feel actively involved in the game

Social Interaction

There should encourage and create opportunities

for social involvement through games.

competition and cooperation between players should be supported by games

there should be support and social communication between players (chat, etc.) by games

social communities inside and outside the game should supported


The application of grounded theory to game design seems a worthy one, and this research provided some similar findings to prior work. It also identified some new criteria, and provided an intuitive set of high level categories for analysing games. It suggests that the most important elements of good game design are cohesion, variety, good user interaction and some form of good social interaction.

Heuristics are only as good as the game designers. Game design is not a specialized form of programming. All the great designers have a broad range of intellectual interests: economics, history, music, science, etc, also, a continuing insatiable intellectual curiosity. All the great designers are avid readers. Heuristics are only guideline for the great work designer do.

It is evident that evaluating player gratification needs special goals, processes and techniques. Developers need more methodical ways of collecting and examine videogame characteristics, than the usual product sales, press reviews, and market surveys. Good methods should be observable, prominent to the player, significant to the player experience of fun, be used in a wide range of games genres and hardware platforms and be changeable by the game designer.


Based on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's positive psychology research, when a person totally focus into an activity and forget about time and pressure, he reaches the optimal experience, Flow. There are many conditions in order to reach Flow.

In the field of game design, there are three fundamental conditions:

As a premise, the game is intrinsically rewarding, and the player is up to play the game.

The game offers right amount of challenges to match with the player's ability, which allows him/her to delve deeply into the game.

The player needs to feel a sense of personal control over the game activity.

In order to enhance Flow experience, here are the methodologies games designers can pick up and apply to their own designs and make them enjoyable by a much broader audience.

Expand your game's Flow coverage by including a wide spectrum of game play with different difficulties and flavours

Create an Player-oriented that allow different players to play in their own paces

Embed DDA choices into the core game play mechanics and let player make their choices through play

With the successful commercial games designs match the above methodologies, designing games enjoyable by both gamers and non-gamers is totally feasible and should be applied to help expanding video game market and essentially make video games a more mature media.