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It's good how you translated to game development jargon the two key metrics besides monetization of web services: reach and retention :).

I love this idea of engagement in general rather than fun. I still like gameplay though, but we need clearer distinctions and this is a great start.

Finally, this is a good step into understanding and embracing different ways people enjoy themselves rather than judging them. This is a huge disruption and democratization of games, and as any such process, it will make every privileged group within the disruption to feel pissed of by "such vulgarities".

Mark Sorrell

You just renamed gameplay. Positive engagement, by your definition here, is gameplay, by your definition here.

Negative engagement is clicking on pretty things which tell a kind of sort of story, with nagging up the arsehole. See Zynga for details.

Positive engagement is playing an actual game. I enjoy doing this because it is inherently enjoyable.

Robert Massaioli

@Mark: I think the main difference that he was trying to get across was that you can measure engagement and not gameplay. A game can have great gameplay (in your opinion) but not end up engaging that many players. While you may think a game sucks and it still engages almost every muggle on the market. That is the difference and that is the change in thought required from going from great gameplay to great engagement. You might like good gameplay features to increase engagement but ultimately it is engagement that will be the measure of your game.

Mark Sorrell

Well measurements are based on the kind of game you're making. If you're making a game you expect to be played on a connected service, then you can measure how many people are playing, how long for, return rates, monetisation rates, etc.

You can then say that there's two ways of making those numbers 'good'. One is by making a game that's fun. It's good on its own terms, players enjoy it and come back for more of their own volition. I'm hard pressed not to say that this is the definition of good gameplay (perhaps not the only one, but certainly a pretty good one).

The other is a game that uses behavioural economics to get players to return through trickery and incentive. This kind don't require good gameplay, they require good economics.

Of course, a game can have both.

I don't see this as a useful distinction. The useful distinction is between games that have measurable levels of engagement and those that don't. And that basically works out as those that are a connected service and those that are offline.

Make your game a connected service, or use some other method so that you can measure what your players are doing and use those metrics to improve your game. Sure, makes great business sense.

But making this distinction is artificial, almost all games have a combination of the two things described here.

Simon Strange

I'm very interested to hear you list some examples of positive engagement. Would it be a long list, or a short list?

I coined some not-too-dissimilar terms myself a year back or so - positive tension & negative tension. "Negative tension" was very much what you describe as negative engagement - more compulsion than pleasure. But for me the opposite of that was "positive tension" - which was a flow-like state where difficulty was actively sought out by the player.

Exploring that idea led to an article (Game Developer Mag, March 2011, check it out!), but it would be great to have a conversation around these ideas with someone who's coming at it from a different direction.

Joe Cooper

I don't see the confusion with the other posters. I read it like this:

'Gameplay' is an aspect of the product and continues to be so. Just like visual arts or music. It's important, obviously.

'Engagement' is what you're measuring in the end product. It's an alternative to, for example, saying that "games should be fun", instead you'd say "games should be engaging; they need to grab and hold attention".

The connection between 'gameplay' and 'engagement' is that one used to be an important buzzword, now that latter is. Not that they're analogous and they're CERTAINLY not renaming one to the other. Engagement is not strictly dependent on any particular aspect of the product and many engaging entertainment products have 0 gameplay. There's a whole range of entertainments that engage in different ways.

The purpose of thinking in terms of engagement is that you have some guidance on what you're trying to achieve with all the tools you have; you want to see a player who is interested, has your attention, wants to interact, wants to know more.

Do I understand this correctly?


Tadhg, You've articulated something here I've been thinking a lot about, without having articulated it myself. Thanks I've now found my words. Regards, T.Sr.

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