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Behind the Gamers Curtain

5 game qualities that engage players

By Ollie Clarke

Gamers are more diverse today than they have ever been. Everyone from three year olds to the elderly play video games on multiple devices and platforms, giving indie developers amazing leeway to create unique, innovative games. However, the need to find a secret sauce remains. Games need to be fun, and they need to value players’ time.

We spoke with Ollie Clarke, Director of Modern Dream in the U.K. about the game qualities that truly engage gamers. The creator of Typing of the Dead and LA Cops provided five qualities to consider:


Games need to allow players to interact with objects within the game’s world—such as other characters, the environment or other players. They need to be able to discover new things that they can share with other people—both in the game and on outside channels such as YouTube and message boards.


Gamers need to be able to create something that they own within the game—whether it is a custom character, weapons, cities, kingdoms or even new levels and gameplay. The world within the game needs to be constantly changing and moving and needs to allow players to experience something that doesn’t exist anywhere else.


The most successful games are owned by players who are constantly creating content that they can share with the rest of the community. In fact, some games allow players to make money off the content they create. Developers need to listen to the community and engage with them, creating interesting gameplay that allows them to own part of the game they are participating in.


The low-risk associated with indie game making enables anything to happen. You can virtually create almost anything in a game as long as you can dream it up. The large AAA studios don’t have this same freedom to take risks. There are lots of ways to tell a story. With games, you can incorporate music. Create amazing art and innovative gameplay. The interactions can be three dimensional and whole communities can form around worlds that you create. Infinite things can happen.


Whether your game is free or premium, you need to constantly make the player feel rewarded for engaging with it. As gamers spend time with a game they often want to get something in return for their commitment—new weapons, badges or cards. They also need to feel accomplishment. Letting them build something that means something to them gives them a sense of accomplishment and ownership.

Indie developers have the freedom to create whatever game they can imagine, but first and foremost, games begin with the people who play them. Give your potential users a way to interact within a new world or community, let them create their own content, experience something new and feel like their time in your world is well spent.

Selected as a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit in 2013 Ollie Clarke established Modern Dream and released Typing of the Dead: Overkill for SEGA. Ollie is also proud to be an ambassador for Special Effect, a registered charity that enables otherwise disabled to play video games and access the internet.

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