Theory: Make Things Appealing

Take a look at this rest stop along the New York Thruway:

ny-thruway-rest-stop
“Pembroke Travel Plaza,” thruway.ny.gov

Wood framing suggests a natural environment, and perhaps a cozy log cabin. It melds well with the stone for a set of calming earth tones. Grass, flowers, and small trees add to the natural atmosphere. This is a rest stop that looks welcoming during a long drive.

Now consider this one, found on the Pennsylvania Turnpike:

pa-turnpike-rest-stop
“Service Plazas – Lawn,” paturnpike.com

While this also has stone and wood framing, the effect is ruined by prominent siding. The multicolored, industrial, garish roof forms a big part of the rest stop’s visual area. Rather than grass or trees, the parking lot extends all the way to the front walk. Overall, this is a rest stop that looks like it probably has dirty restrooms.

How something looks has a tremendous effect on how welcoming it is. When your design is made of inviting objects, people will want to interact with it. By contrast, you have to convince people to try uninviting things.

Brendan Byrne has pointed out that this applies, not just to service plazas, but to more directly game-related things like buttons. Simon has big, happy-looking buttons that are easy to press; they imply a game that’s easy to learn and play.

simon
“Simon,” boardgamegeek.com

Compare that with your average fighting game layout:

sf-cabinet-layout
Image from forums.arcade-museum.com

I don’t think anyone could look at that without thinking that this game is pretty complicated.

Try to make your game look welcoming. One of the greatest barriers for any designer is simply getting people to try what you’ve built. You’ll find your audience much faster if you don’t have to get them over the hurdle of a system that appears hostile.

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