Jonathan Blow, the creator of time-meddling Xbox LIVE Arcade and PC title Braid, has spoken at length with Gamasutra about game design, achievement-driven gameplay and his new title, The Witness.
In the course of the interview, talk turns to ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ game designs, a concept which also touches on the topic of game addiction raised over the past day or so.
“When you look at the design process in [Farmville], it’s not about designing a fun game,” Blow says. “It’s not about designing something that’s going to be interesting or a positive experience in any way – it’s actually about designing something that’s a negative experience.”
“It actually makes people worry about it when they’re away from the computer and drains attention from their everyday life and brings them back into the game … it’s about, ‘How do we get players to exploit their friends in a mechanical way in order to progress?'”
Blow stresses that he’s not trying to tell designers what kinds of game to make, but rather “Think about what you’re making and be careful when you make it and try not to exploit players.”
Instead, he feels, games should be about learning – about levelling up the player, rather than the avatar. He cites Super Meat Boy as a title which does this very effectively, appearing daunting and near-impossible at first but teaching the player the skills necessary to succeed. After a while, it’s possible to return to those ‘impossible’ levels and breeze through them.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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