Game designers set out to create an experience for players. To make it an enjoyable experience they start with something people need to find their way in the game. They start with a structure.
There are three primary types of games which all have their structure.
Sandbox games are those with tightly fixed boundaries within which there is radical freedom. In a way, it is like a sheet of paper. Within its perimeter, everything can be done.
Games based on a quest are there to achieve a certain end and thus earn a reward. They compare with a hero’s journey.
The third type is cycles, which are games that are played in a loop. The idea is to perform better each time a new loop appears. They resemble the path to mastery, where every new experience built on the previous one and expands it.
These structures are universal and immediately recognizable. It’s this familiarity that helps people recognize how to proceed. Knowing it creates a sense of safety easing the moment when they are playing and about to dare the next leap.
Having a structure reduces the cognitive load that comes along with having to recognize what is happening or having to decide what the next step is. It eases stepping into doing the work and being performant at it.
Defining a structure is work people are not always used to. They’ll take the other way round and benefit from the things that structure their day. What they don’t perceive is how they are being defined by a structure that establishes itself almost randomly as events occur. Or that they have aligned themselves with the structure that is built on regular events happening during the day, like commuting, eating, and sleeping.
It makes designing the way we experience our days a matter of choice and awareness.