The Craft of Game Design Cannot Be Measured By Any Metric
Defending Game Metrics

The Purpose of Metrics in a Game

Brian Green (AKA Psychochild) has a piece responding to last week’s firestarter and arguing that there is a purpose for metrics in a game. Here’s an extract:

I dislike the absolutist nature of the argument, and prefer the more nuanced version. As a creative person, I still like things like food, a roof, and perhaps air conditioning when the temperature and humidity get high outside. But, I think it is important to realize that there is a decision to be made. One can choose to pure creative energy to create experiences on one extreme, pandering to tastes and maximizing for profit on the other, and a lot of room between the two extremes. And, as much as we might lionize the indie iconoclasts, the reality is that sometimes it takes a lot of work and understanding what people actually want to survive as an indie.

The argument Brian refers to here is art vs. commerce. Personally, I don’t accept a significant divide between art and commerce here… the vast majority of art is commercial in the sense that this term is used today: music recordings and performances are sold, paintings are auctioned, theatre and cinemas charge an entry fee. Knowing that games are artworks doesn’t mean the people who make them don’t deserve to be fed. I absolutely agree with Brian that game developers are no different in this regard: part of my argument in The Craft of Game Design Cannot Be Measured By Any Metric is precisely that indies, in rejecting commercial design considerations, are gambling on their livelihood.

So I accept Brian’s point that metrics can be used responsibly, at least in principle. My argument is only that there is a tension between the craft of game design, and engineering systems for commercial exploitation. Developers who can use metrics to assist their game design practices ought to make clear how this can be achieved without it becoming exploitative. I welcome the discussion here – it is this discourse that I feel is substantially missing.

You can read the entirety of The purpose of metrics in a game over on Psychochild’s Blog – check it out!

Comments

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I agree it's a useful discussion to have. My parallel with the classic "art vs. commerce" discussion was an attempt to bring it into a larger context.

I agree that art and commerce largely have to co-exist, but I think deciding where to balance these two elements is an important part of the design process. Going too far to either extreme leads to poor games, either one that is very "creative" but likely to fail to find its audience, or a game that extracts maximum revenue from players without bringing them any joy from the experience.

But, I worry that as with a lot of other business-related elements, indie game developers don't recognize that this is a decision to be made. Discussion is an important first part here!

Thanks for the original article, Chris. And for inspiring me to respond. :)

Hey Brian,
Thanks so much for participating in the discussion! I've felt for a long while this needed to be had - hence the panel proposal - and it's great that this firestarter has provoked conversation on this contentious issue.

I also hope we are not yet finished talking about this - I suspect you are sitting on knowledge concerning how to apply metrics that respect the player... any chance you might be able to share this at some point in the future?

With profound thanks,

Chris.

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