Not Everyone Needs a Goal

Videogame theorist and academic Jesper Juul outlined in his GDC keynote the role "goal-less" games can play in widening the market

In his Serious Games Summit keynote speech, "A New Kind of Game: Broadening The Idea Of What Games Can Be", Juul explained that open-ended games that provide a multitude of meaningful choices will attract a broader audience. A wider range of potential and current gamers could be attracted to games with no or optional goals.

He used The Sims 2 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as examples of this type of game, and went as far to say "They are almost the same game." He added, "The game is a menu between sandbox mode and a story mode."

"You'd think goals are someting you need intrinsically in all games, but not everybody likes playing a game with goals all the time," he said. During the session, he drove the point home by stating that narrow gameplay equals a narrow audience.

Juul also insisted that a more varied audience can be reached if games would allow some means of expression. While he acknowledged the "user-created content" buzz-term, he noted that it could be dangerous if (well... "when") players create offensive content.

Juul offered up a short list of the elements that make a successful goal-less game:

  • A combinable range of actions: You have a choice of different ways to solve problems.
  • The use of general systems, rather than a specific solution; the game should be flexible.
  • Player decisions should present emotional dilemmas.
  • For inspiration look to style, culture, fashion and problem-solving styles.
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