What Van Ryder Game are YOU playing?
Here is the theory in visual form. Look at this model:
Let me preface these next comments by saying no scientific study or survey has been done. No data has been collected whatsoever in fact. Maybe that kills this discussion for you before it even starts, I don't know. But if not, keep reading...
One more thing... Unless specified, anywhere I mention "play again" I am referring to immediately playing it again after having just played it.
I've thought a lot about game length of late and what I can gather from reactions at the end of the first play of a game to get the other players' true feelings on the game. Did they like it or not? Did they LOVE it?
Typically if a game falls in the range between "not bad" and "good" you will get some sort of verbal reaction of similar nature. A lot of times that is a good indication of the true feeling, but not always. The majority of games probably fall into this category.
How do you get below the surface and get to someones true feelings? Well, I suggest this... Ask them if they want to play it again. If the reaction is neutral to negative, they probably are even less positive on the game then their original response indicated. If they respond quickly with a yes, then there is probably something compelling about the game they want explore further. That or they just had a good time playing it (which is good news). This is the first key indicator of game satisfaction.
Hold on a minute A.J., the game took 2.5 hours and you want me to ask them to play it again? Ah, great question astute reader and critical thinker! You are right, so far we've not considered game length aka the time investment the players just put in. What do you think the odds are the gamers in that 2.5 hour game want to play again? Likely 0% or close to it. But does that mean they don't like the game?
This brings me to my second key indicator of satisfaction: Thinking about the game in the hours or days after it was played. We've all played those games we couldn't stop thinking about, pondering decisions later that night or the next day. What a great indication the game was interesting! When players contact you with a rules question or to proactively provide you with some thoughts on the gameplay, that is a great sign! But really what it comes down to is are they thinking about the strategy and depth of the game. This is a key indicator in longer games. While I think it can happen with shorter games too, I don't believe it to be a strong indication of the potential success of a shorter game. What do you think? Am I off the reservation?
So that brings us back to time. As you can see in the model it is my belief that the shorter a game is, the greater % of frequency you need to have people asking to immediately playing it again. If no one wants to play your 10 minute game again after the first play, you need to work on it because something is probably missing. Similarly, if by the end of your 3 hour game all people care about is that it is over, you've got some work to do.
Obviously the assessing the longer games is a much greater challenge. Determining if there was post game critical thought from the players can be quite difficult. And even then, is it meaningful. You have to figure out how to best measure that.
What if my game falls in the middle? You know those 60-90 minute games. Well, those can have attributes of both indicators and you should look for both. Lots of people will be willing to play a medium length game again if it has the depth and fun factor level. You likely need to weigh both indicators fairly equally. Use your judgement, but assess critically if you are getting enough of each,
So there it is, I know maybe not a mind blowing revelation, but hopefully something other designers and publishers may apply or think about differently.
Am I crazy? Are there better indicators? Please disagree! Weigh in. I'd love to discuss!