Mastering the game: Experience goals

Designing a game without an experience goal feels like this.

If you’ve ever read a book about game design, you have probably heard about “experience goals”.

In short, experience goals are the whole foundation and core of game design process. If game designer wants players to experience “fear”, then all the design decisions should be evaluated based on whether they evoke fear or not.

Experience goals are also a very powerful tool for game masters: When you start creating your next campaign, scenario or session, think about your experience goals. Do you want your players to be scared? Do you want them to feel powerful, alone, hunted?

When you have your experience goals clearly stated, they help you to concentrate on what’s important in your game. Look at your notes, and review your ideas. If some idea doesn’t support your experience goals, you might consider refining it, or even removing it completely.

I have also noticed that experience goals help me to brainstorm idea for upcoming sessions. Instead of brainstorming around “what could happen”, it’s easier to brainstorm around an experience goal.

Example. In my current Twilight 2000 campaign, my experience goal is something like: “Players are always underdogs. They can’t trust anyone.” I have tried to convey this experience with things like:

  • If there’s a conflict, player characters are always in mortal danger and usually outnumbered.
  • There’s lot of propaganda and lies circling around, there’s not one truth about the state of the world.
  • There are things happening in the world that don’t make any sense to the player characters. They can’t be sure on anyone’s loyalty.

And so on. The important thing is to remember your experience goals while you are designing a session, and then make sure that everything (ideas, NPC’s, props, soundtrack…) supports the experience goals.

If you want to know more, you should read Game Design Workshop by Tracy Fullerton or A Playful Production Process by Richard Lemarchand.

Until next time!