Designing Discomfort Into “Free” Games…

Airports purportedly design the baggage claim areas to be uncomfortable in order to minimize crowds. What are other examples where designers deliberately create an unhappy user experience? Check out Quora to see what others have been sharing. See, What are examples where designers intentionally design for discomfort?

Game designers involved with pay to play games have intentionally been designing “discomfort” into their games to get their consumers to pay. It isn’t always coercive monetization where consumers are tricked into making a purchase, but with enough motivation and discomfort they will highly consider paying to play. These apps for our phones might be free to download and play but eventually there will be enough discomfort that you will end up spending significant money over the life of the game perhaps.


For example, according to Leana Lofte on her Candy Crush Saga: It’s Bejeweled for ruining your life, there are the following discomforts:

  • you have a specific number of moves to complete a turn. If you are not successful you always have the option to buy more moves or start over
  • before each level you have the option to buy a booster that will increase your chances at beating the level
  • consumers can also buy charms that permanently give you boosts
  • if you run out of lives you can also buy more or wait 30 minutes to continue
  • to get past certain levels you are required to either spam your Facebook friends or purchase more levels

What are your thoughts about designing for discomfort? Does it make that $5 game more interesting to you if you don’t get advertisements and can play as much as you like?


About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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1 Response to Designing Discomfort Into “Free” Games…

  1. Game based learning is fast catching on in the corporate world– as a means of delivering impactful training. We are working on a radical step forward in GBL – With the help of motion-sensing technology, like that of Kinect in Xbox 360, Leap Motion, Tobii etc, learning can be made ‘motion-aware’ or ‘motion-based’. Here is a detailed article on what we have worked on so far.

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