The Importance of No Fail States
I recently had the pleasure of playing two micro games made by Moth Likely, a craft games studio that focuses on creating games sustainably. I played Constellarium and Nineve, which both have similar premises. Each invited you to create music through the game, but more importantly didn’t hurt you for playing.
Constellarium was first. Upon opening the game, I was presented with a starry night sky. Each star had a particular tone it emitted when pressed. By connecting the stars, I created a small tune that would repeat. Again and again, I found myself drawn to connecting as many dots as I could. Before I knew it I had created a piece of music that I could just sit back and enjoy.
Conversely Nineve took place by a pond, surrounded by an abundance of stones. I walked around and skipped the stones across the pond, again generating a tune. These tunes were layered depending on how many stones I skipped. I spent the most time in Nineve, wandering around and seeing how many differing pieces of music I could create.
Why Play Micro Games?
These two games were incredibly calming and almost meditative. There was no timer nor was there a major objective. If I wasn’t streaming the games as I played them, I’d have fallen into a trance like state, continuously creating and listening to the music I had generated. But it was the lack of fail state that really kept me enamoured. I could continue to grow the game world that was set in front of me and truly play with the game without being told off.
More and more I find myself turning to micro games. They’re not replacing my love for other videogame genres (I will always have a place in my heart for JRPGs, no matter how long they are), but these are the comfortable, non-judgemental experiences I find myself craving during those quiet moments I have. They’re what I’m most likely to play as a way to wind down before bed, or if I’m taking a break throughout my work day. In fact, as I mentioned on stream, they’re exactly the kind of game that I want on me when I’m experiencing a high stress activity, such as travelling.
So please, make more games that have no fail states. Focus on how your player can freely explore and play with the environment you’ve created. Show them that you’re willing for them to craft their own experiences, just as I have been able to craft mine.