The Modern Gaming Litmus Test

Things to avoid in modern games.

gaming world

Will Faught

3 minutes

  • Design
    • Lightweight RPG mechanics
    • Loot
    • Skill trees
  • Monetization
    • Battle passes
    • Microtransactions
    • Season passes
  • Reviews
    • High professional review scores and low customer review scores
    • Reviewers couldn’t cover certain content under embargo
    • Reviewers couldn’t show their own recordings under embargo
    • Reviewers didn’t have access to all ports under embargo
    • Reviewers didn’t have enough time under embargo
  • Technology
    • Day-one DLC
    • DLC released within six months of game release
    • DRM on PC that impacts performance
    • On-disc DLC
    • Unnecessary online connection is required
  • Dark patterns
    • Accidental purchases: It’s easy to accidentally spend money without confirmation or ability to undo or refund the action.
    • Advertisements: You’re forced to watch ads or given rewards for watching ads.
    • Aesthetic manipulations: Trick questions or toying with emotions or our subconscious desires.
    • Anchoring tricks: Placing a cheap item next to an expensive item to make it look more affordable.
    • Artificial scarcity: Limited-time offers with unnecessary urgency.
    • Badges/endowed progress: Reluctancy to abandon a partially-completed goal, even one forced upon the player.
    • Can’t pause or save: The game does not allow you to stop playing whenever you want.
    • Competition: The game makes you compete against other players.
    • Complete the collection: The urge to collect all the items, achievements or secrets in a game.
    • Daily rewards: Encourages return visits every day and punishes you for missing a day.
    • Encourages anti-social behavior: The game incentivizes players to lie, cheat, or backstab other players to get ahead.
    • Fear of missing out: If you stop playing, you’ll miss out on something, or be left behind and unable to catch up.
    • Friend spam/impersonation: The game sends spam to your contact list or social media account.
    • Grinding: Being required to perform repetitive and tedious tasks to advance.
    • Illusion of control: The game cheats or hides information to make you think you’re better than you actually are.
    • Infinite treadmill: Impossible to win or complete the game.
    • Invested/endowed value: Having already spent time and money to improve your status in the game, it’s difficult to throw it away.
    • Loot boxes and gambling: Spending real money to play a game of chance for a reward.
    • Optimism and frequency biases: Overestimating the frequency of something because we’ve seen it recently or memorably.
    • Pay to skip: Spend money to avoid waiting for a timer to expire.
    • Pay to win: A player can spend real money to purchase something that gives them an advantage in the game.
    • Pay wall: The game becomes impossible to continue playing without payment.
    • Playing by appointment: Being forced to play according to the game’s schedule instead of yours.
    • Power creep: A permanently purchased item in the game becomes less valuable over time.
    • Premium currency: Exchange rate between real money and in-game currency disguises the real price of items.
    • Reciprocity: Feeling obligated to return a favor, share resources, trade an item, etc.
    • Recurring fee: Encourages players to play as much as possible to get their money’s worth.
    • Social obligation/guilds: To avoid letting down your friends, you are obligated to play when you don’t want to.
    • Social pyramid scheme: You get a bonus for inviting your friends and then they have to invite their friends.
    • Variable rewards: Unpredictable or random rewards are more addictive than a predictable schedule.
    • Wait to play: In-game timers that make you arbitrarily wait for something.
    • Waste aversion: Capped inventory forces you to destroy items or upgrade inventory. Also, having small amounts of leftover premium currency.