Game Design: "Natural Attractors" make your game more fun

Snowflakes falling,  waves breaking on the shore, bubbles floating through the air, spiders weaving webs and birds flocking in the air.

“Natural Attractors” – that’s my term for these events or elements which seem to introduce a natural fascination in people all over the world.

Each is a combination of “order” and “randomness” which naturally captures our mind as we have that innate urge to watch, just for a moment.

Sometimes these natural attractors can be relaxing, like waves crashing on the shore. Other times they are wrapped in fun, like children blowing bubbles in the park.

I think the core of the attraction is the apparent orderly unfolding of similar yet random elements. The net result being that we intently look for “how things turn out”.

“Natural Attractors” are an “easy way in” to the human brain.

Build a game with one or more “Natural Attractors”, and you’ll probably find people playing because “it’s fun”, even when they can’t put their finger on why.

Ever been fascinated by a time lapse movie of a plant growing? How about fish swimming around a fish tank?

I keep a mental list of “Natural Attractors”. Have any new ones you want to share?

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3 Responses to Game Design: "Natural Attractors" make your game more fun

  1. Muyang November 20, 2009 at 9:31 am #

    I totally agree with you…
    Red Alert 2 was a perfect example, how “Natural Attractors” can literally make a game more fun… Tourists, Civilians, Terminator, Animals, though they are not controllable but they interact with you.

  2. David Glenn November 20, 2009 at 5:28 pm #

    good explanation of why Koi Pond was such a big hit early on the iPhone… just about any sort of moving water fits into the category of “Natural Attractors” and why waterfront living is so desirable.

  3. David Chu December 14, 2009 at 10:46 pm #

    Hey Mark. I was excited when I read this post. Instead of “Natural Attractors,” I refer to it as “Controlled Chaos.”

    I can probably list an endless list, but here are some of my favorites.

    – The sound of rain hitting the roof
    – Pedestrians in the crosswalk during rush hour in Tokyo
    – Times Square on New Years Eve
    – Ant trails
    – Flags flapping in high wind
    – Lightning strikes

    And for 49er fans… Frank Gore knifing through the defense on a touchdown run!!!

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