Fast forward to current games and those principles still exist. Just on a turbo scale. Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto keep players hooked even more intensely now because they have also added in a social and collaborative element and mixed it in with a huge dose of freedom, ownership and informal play.
Now you can just as easily join up with a team from the other side of the world to make friends and do battle as you can play on your own and wander and explore.
Psychologists will tell us that there are a lot of subtle things going on that add to this addictive experience. Constant feedback loops are present in any successful game. Be it ranking, score, lives left or time. The game tells us how we’re doing and we like that. We experience ‘The Gambler’s Fallacy’. The belief that the game is beatable and that success is inevitable at some point. We get small pockets of success which adds to the dopamine effect that acts upon us and it’s those small bursts of pleasure that keep us playing.
That’s why some people invest so much of their income into fruit machines. It’s not because they never win - they do regularly - albeit often small amounts. But the game keeps them coming back for more. Instead of money, what if the football practices we design had our players investing time, effort, persistence and practice in a bid to ‘beat the game’?
Nowadays it is more than just games manufacturers who have embraced these principles. Companies such as Nike have us constantly running further, faster and for longer in a bid to unlock the next challenge whilst encouraging people to be more active.
If we can use our imagination (or the players) and bear some of these ideas in mind when we are designing practice for our players, whilst not forgetting that it is the game of football that we’re trying to help them learn as the end product, then we might just have them spending more time in the penalty box than on the Xbox.
So, what's the recipe of a good game?