Moving Out Of The Comfort Zones Of Single-Player And Multi-Player
Last week we adopted a Golden Retriever named Grady. His personality was very different from our previous dog, Scout, who had recently passed away after being part of our family for fourteen years. Scout was very much a loner: he would spend much of the day snoozing under the dining room table, and when we had to leave for the day, we simply left him in our den by himself with food, water, and his bed. Every evening he’s like to play with me for about five minutes, but when I took him on walks, he would bark at passing dogs and people he didn’t know.
Grady is the polar opposite. He follows me from room-to-room and is always ready to play or cuddle. He is a pleasure to take on walks, wagging his tail happily whenever we pass by someone else walking their dog. However, he does not like being left alone. We tried keeping him in den while we went out for a couple of hours, but when we returned, he had gnawed away half of the door frame, trying to get out.
People can be just as different from each other. There are introverts who need their alone time, and extroverts who get energized from being around others. Similarly, there are gamers who prefer playing single-player games and gamers who prefer multi-player games.
There are many different elements that a game designer can use to engage a player in a single player game: a compelling story with interesting characters in an immersive environment; activities that allow for the construction of game items and other forms of creative expression; the exploration of uncharted territories and the discovery of Easter eggs and other surprises; completing a task before a countdown timer runs down; gathering rare items and completing collections; solving puzzles and overcoming other obstacles; surviving a situation for as long as possible; or earning achievements and besting one’s own record.
There are also many elements of either a cooperative or competitive nature that appeal to players in multi-player games: storytelling and role-playing with other players; fulfilling group quests; being the last one standing in an elimination contest; becoming the king of the hill in a goal that can be achieved by only a single player; or simply having the opportunity to meet and chat with other players.
One thing to remember is that a game doesn’t strictly have to be a single-player or a multi-player experience. Sometimes introverts enjoy the company of others, and even extroverts need their alone time. So, it is quite permissible to combine single-player and multi-player elements in a game, either to give each player an opportunity to change their playing habits for a time or to appeal to a broad audience.
Another thing to bear in mind is that even players who prefer the single-player experience may like to interact with other players but not necessarily in real-time. For example, someone who likes single-player games may like having their score posted on the scoreboard either to boast about how high their high score is or to have the goal of being someone else’s score. Players in single-player games may enjoy opportunities to boast about their other game achievements or to share their creative expressions with other players of the game, a feature that was very common to Facebook games. Some players might even prefer to chat asynchronously, by sending emails or other types of messages rather than engaging in real-time chats that they may find to be distracting.
As I’m typing this, my very social new dog, who preferred to sleep by my feet as I work, has now felt comfortable enough to try out a bed that we put out for him on the other side of the room. Just as dogs can learn new behaviors, so can people, so think about putting in a variety of loner and social opportunities in your game for players who have lived in your game long enough to move outside of their initial comfort zone.