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Considering people with short attention span in games

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larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

With the arrival of cells phones, internet and information overload, people now tend to have a short attention span which makes people unable to focus more than 10 or 15 minute without having the need to do something else.

This has major drawback to board game design because those people do not seem to be willing to play games longer than an hour. Of course we can make shorter games, but sometimes a certain experience can only be reached after a certain time is investment. Also, sometimes you want to play a game which has more meat.

So I was trying to see if there could be methods or techniques that could be used to keep people with short attention span into the game.

One thing that came into my mind is to take advantage of down time. Many games like eclipse, twilight imperium and arkham horror divides the turn in micro turns. This has the "advantage" of making the player always focused into the game and there are no longer period of time where the player does not play the game, they are always playing.

But for people with short attention span, that could be a nightmare. So may be if players played 1 turn at a time, player could be doing other thing while other are playing. Maybe that could be more convenient for short attention span people.

Probably having a balance between both poles could be essential for the transition, but eventually when everybody has short attention span problem, all game will have to avoid the constantly engaged mechanics.

Can you think of other solutions?
Do you have personal experience to share with short attention span people?

lewpuls's picture
Joined: 04/04/2009
You could add this problem:

You could add this problem: traditional family games were designed so that those who didn't pay much attention (the younger kids) would still have a chance to win. Eurostyle games were originally "family games on steroids", though there are now many offshoots. And they were designed so that someone could screw around for half or two thirds of the game, and still have a chance to win. Yet that is anathema to those who like strategy games: they believe those screwups should lose every time. That leads to a discussion of catch-up mechanisms, doesn't it?

Constant engagement (micro-turns) helps, I think, as compared with games with a lot of downtime. Perhaps that's why a game like Diplomacy, despite its great length, is still popular: with a lot of negotiation and then simultaneous movement, you're always involved in what's happening.

We can go back to Monopoly and its rule that if you don't notice that someone has landed on your property, he doesn't have to pay rent. I never liked that rule personally, but it does require constant engagement for success.

Joined: 02/01/2013

Simultaneous play when possible. That can eliminate downtime significantly.

Word Nerd
Word Nerd's picture
Joined: 02/02/2012
I'll be brief...

Let them play Chutes and Ladders.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
This is ridiculous...

Why not have Johnny do his homework while playing a game?! Or Sally can text her BFF while it's not her turn...

Seriously, when you sit down to play a game, any game, you should invest your entire attention on the game. You should want to know what your opponent has played and how it affects your standing in the game.

Tailoring games to people with a limited amount of attention span is... well... RIDICULOUS. Not to offend anyone, but I personally (IMHO) have a distaste of having to design a game for such people.

But I don't think if you target a *gamer* that he/she will have such a problem. They already enjoy the time spent playing board/tabletop/video games. I used to be a HUGE Video gamer, would spend all my money on faster and better hardware (video, sound, motherboard, cpus). These days my interest lie in designing card games...

Can I build a better mouse trap? Not sure yet. But the fun is in trying...

Note: This is the OPPOSITE of Video games that design *mini games* within larger games (Casino games, Puzzles, etc.) This offers the gamer an even more complete gaming experience...

lewpuls's picture
Joined: 04/04/2009
Mini-games, investment

I've always found mini-games embedded within video games to be a sure sign that the main gameplay was so uninteresting that other games had to be scattered about in it to maintain player interest.

I agree, people playing games should invest their being in playing the game. But people don't. They're accustomed to doing two or three things at once - none of them very well, of course. How many people nowadays automatically turn on the TV when they're at home, even when being visited by a friend? To me, if you have the TV on you should be watching it; if you're not, turn it off. But that's a minority view amongst younger people.

In the end, it's a question of what market you want to address.

RGaffney's picture
Joined: 09/26/2011
Seems relevant

did any of you notice the recent XKCD?

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Interesting content I always

Interesting content

I always said that technology needed to be the slave of the humans ... but not the opposite.

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