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Design Entitlement

The notion of player entitlement is a common one in the industry, and rather often an applicable one. The industry has often failed to inform the audience of the effort a lot of things take, and presented itself as flawless and perfect. That created unreasonable expectations, and aggressiveness was considered part of the culture – all of that inevitably led to disproportionately aggressive responses to balance changes, and other forms of player entitlement.

There was a lot of discussion today about the use of guides for the gorgeous The Witness, and whether that’s appropriate or not, or whether it’s the right way of playing the game. Obviously it’s not the intended way of playing, but I guess there’s also such a thing as design entitlement. Games nudge players in a certain direction and evoke a certain intent – creators like to think of our work as something with an intent and purpose, and (hopefully?) often end up getting personally attached to our work. Since often that intent is clear, we think a game has a right way to be played, and the honest reality is that no one can make that call but the player. I’d encourage you to embrace or even encourage more wrong ways of playing in your design and conversation. After all, that attitude did bring us anything from tower defense to speedruns, Twitch Plays to beautiful game photography and many more.

There’s no wrong way to play, and the value of your game might come from unexpected places.