Notes from BFIG Talks 2017: 3 Ways To Make Your Game “Fun”

BFIG Talks is a game dev conference run by the Boston Festival of Indie Games. It features both digital and nondigital game devs, and there’s a lot to learn in the crossover. The rest of my BFIG Talks notes are over here.

BFIG Talks speakers: Please contact me (carolyn at if:

  • I included something you said that should not be included, or
  • I quoted you without attributing (when you would prefer attribution), or
  • I made a factual error (I take notes by hand, and I make no pretense of infallibility!)

3 Ways To Make Your Game “Fun”

Speaker: Raymond Naseath

(This speaker promised that his talk would be easy to take notes for. He was right.)

It’s okay to make games that are just supposed to be fun!

How to make fun games:

  1. Each turn, every player should feel like they are making important and meaningful choices.
    1. The choice should have an impact on the game. This creates engagement and investment.
    2. Making choices will make the player choose priorities. This creates value.
    3. The choice should create interaction, which is to say that it should affect what other people do, and be affected by what other people have done.
  2. Every player should feel like they have a chance to win right up until the end of the game. The experience should be one of hope rather than despair.
    1. The game needs a clear focus and goal. It’s impossible to have hope otherwise because it’s impossible to strategize.
    2. One way to handle this is to have some “hidden winner” component, like hidden victory points, so that it isn’t obvious who will win until the end.
    3. Another is microwinning, which is to say moments when the player feels excitement and accomplishment at doing well.
      1. Example of all of the above: Smallworld, which finishes after X number of turns, makes it hard to keep track of who is winning, and has many “microwin” experiences.
      2. The ideal feeling is “I won less” rather than “I’m a loser.”
  3. There needs to be an element of luck/chance/fate in the game, where luck/chance/fate are defined as “things outside the player’s hands”. This may include influences from other players, so another way to look at this is “when is the player in control?”
    1. No one wants to play a game that they know they’re going to lose.
    2. Replay value comes from change. A game with no change is a puzzle rather than a game – you solve it once and stop.
    3. Ask yourself: what elements does the player control? Do the uncontrolled elements outweigh the controlled?
    4. Uncontrolled elements must affect all players equally.
      1. Examples of doing this well include Puerto Rico and Power Grid.
    5. Ask yourself: how can players interact with the elements they don’t control? Can they mitigate them, adjust them, or otherwise reduce the risk?
  4.  (bonus) The most important thing you can do to improve your game: playtest!
    1. “It’s not fun” – what does this actually mean?
    2. Have players measure the gameplay experience against the characteristics of fun listed above.
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