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The First Hour Experience: How the Initial Play can Engage (or Lose) New Players

Gifford Cheung, Thomas Zimmermann, and Nachiappan Nagappan

Abstract

The first time a player sits down with a game is critical for their engagement. Games are a voluntary activity and easy to abandon. If the game cannot hold player attention, it will not matter how much fun the game is later on if the player quits early. Worse, if the initial experience was odious enough, the player will dissuade others from playing. Industry advice is to make the game fun from the start to hook the player. In our exploratory analysis of over 200 game reviews and interviews with industry professionals, we advance an alternative, complementary solution. New design terminology is introduced such as "holdouts" (what keeps players playing despite poor game design) and the contrast between momentary fun vs. intriguing experiences. Instead of prioritizing fun, we assert that intrigue and information should be seen as equally valuable for helping players determine if they want to continue playing. The first sustained play session (coined "first hour"), when inspected closely, offers lessons for game development and our understanding of how players evaluate games as consumable products.

Details

Publication typeInproceedings
Published inCHI PLAY '14: Proceedings of the First ACM SIGCHI Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play
PublisherACM – Association for Computing Machinery
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