Does fun, like the princess in the castle, seem to be just beyond reach? Well, button mashing won’t help! Challenges need to get harder and more surprising as players solve problems and learn new skills. This is because fun is created by uncertainty. Dancing just on the line between too hard and too easy is what leads to the “Aha! I got it!” moment, which motivates players to keep going. Neil Long has a great analogy: Good game design “is like a broken circle—make that break too big and the player won’t bridge the gap. Make it too small and it’s too easy, and the player gets bored.”
We added bonus ramps and combo cubes as surprising, non-biological elements, which proved to make the game more fun and kept attendees engaged (see Figure 4). We used points as well as color changes and pulsing glows of the game pieces and background to create an emotional connection and to reinforce good plays. We also showed players their final score, which was a combination of both individual and team efforts.