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Making Games Challenging but Accessible Through Graceful Failure

  • Gaz 

As any avid gamer can attest, video games can be challenging, frustrating, and downright difficult at times. However, what separates a good game from a bad one is the ability to keep players engaged and motivated to keep trying, even when the game is pushing back hard. One of the ways game designers accomplish this is by using a concept called “graceful failure.”

Graceful failure is a design principle that allows players to make mistakes without being punished too harshly. This is done through a variety of game mechanics that make the game more accessible and less frustrating. For example, in many platformers, players have a brief period after walking off a platform where they can still jump. This gives players a chance to recover from a mistake and avoid falling to their death.

Another example of graceful failure is in racing games where players are allowed to restart a race from a checkpoint instead of starting over from the beginning of the race. This way, players can learn from their mistakes and try again without having to repeat the entire race.

There are many other examples of graceful failure in video game design, from tutorials and hint systems to difficulty scaling and adaptive AI. The goal of all of these techniques is to make the game more accessible to players of all skill levels and to reduce frustration and discouragement.

Avoiding obstacles in Boing
Avoiding obstacles in Boing

In side-scrolling games, graceful failure is often used to help players navigate tricky platforming sections. For example, in the game I am currently working on – Boing, players control a bouncing ball as it travels through a randomly generated level avoiding obstacles. One of the ways the game makes this gameplay more accessible is by giving the ball a grace period before hitting the ground and after bouncing off the ground where the player can still trigger a jump. This allows players to make mistakes and recover without hitting an obstacle and bouncing off the side of the screen, which would result in a game over being triggered.

In conclusion, graceful failure is an essential concept in video game design, allowing players to make mistakes without being punished too harshly. By using a variety of game mechanics, from difficulty scaling to checkpoints, game designers can create games that are both challenging and accessible. And, as demonstrated in Boing, even small design choices can have a big impact on player experience.


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