…on life, the universe, and everything

What Makes a Good Game?

Fun is number one. Gaming is entertainment. Not a lifestyle, not a subculture.

Call me a filthy casual if you want. But do it quick, I heard Destiny raised their level cap again. Or can you skip the grinding with an in-app purchase now?

My other values largely follow from that.

Story Telling

Do it well or don’t do it at all. Script, voice-acting, and themes will be evaluated against the best from hollywood.

Yes, games require exponentially more content, and that is hard. But that’s not my problem. The story doesn’t care that the medium is expansive. It can be done, I’ve seen it done.

But, not all games need story. If the game is great fun without story, then toss it. Tacking on a crap story will only hurt the game.


Should match the player’s ability. Where possible it should dynamically adjust. Challenges should be achievable but, you know, challenging. If it’s too easy it’s boring, if it’s too hard it’s disenchanting.


If the grind is fun, then the grind is the game (and, I’d say, it’s unfair to call it grinding probably). If the grind is not fun, then it’s unforgivable.

For those who only care about the trajectory of the story, you should be able to continue through the game without grinding, but of course there has to be some reward for doing the grind. That’s a balance that must be achieved.

In Borderlands 2 you can grind for better gear and stats, but you can also just power through without worrying much about it on an easier difficulty setting. That design worked pretty well (along with many other complementary game elements).

Novelty, gimmicks

Novelty is worth something. I won’t dismiss a game because it has a gimmick. Novelty wears off though.


I appreciate the value of a deep universe and lore, but each game must stand alone. I not going to watch every Star Trek movie ever made before seeing this year’s blockbuster, and I won’t play all of a games predecessors before I start on it either. I just won’t.

If the game is great I may play the predecessors afterward. There may be spoilers in the sequels. I understand the risks.


Truly free games make me suspicious - I need to know why someone invested that much effort for no financial reward.

Free-to-play games should be free-to-win. Without a level playing field we’re really just playing a game of “who’s willing to spend the most money on a false sense of superiority?”

But, really, one way or another, I want to pay for games.

If you like games (check), and you want games to keep being made (check!), then the people who make games need a reward for their effort (e.g., to get paid).

It doesn’t matter if you, specifically, pay for games. Because guess what? The game makers who get rewarded will be the ones who make games for the people who pay.

The more you (and people like you) spend on games, the more developers are going to make games for people like you.

That also applies to in-app purchases. Every dollar you spend in Farmville is a vote for more games like Farmville (whether that’s good is up to you!)

Execution beats ideas

Really. Execution above all else. This is not exclusive to games, but it’s just as true for games as for all other products.

A good idea badly executed is still a bad game. A bad idea executed terrifically can sometimes reveal the idea to be quite good. Some ideas really are bad. You need both.