The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece on casual games, especially via the iPhone. Regular visitors to this site probably know a lot of it already, but it’s worth a read.
I was particularly intrigued by the point about positive encouragement, which is pretty unique among “casual games” — and most definitely absent from “hardcore” games like Halo and Gears. (Although a case could be made that Call of Duty has begun introducing some of this with the “Comeback” points and etc.)
Like many casual games, Angry Birds uses positive reinforcement to make players feel good when they succeed: After a player lays waste to all the pigs on a level of the game, a raucous wave of cheers goes up. Other than the gentle mocking of the pigs, Mr. Hed says, “our game doesn’t really punish players.”
Game designers say this type of “reward system” is a crucial part of the appeal of casual games like Angry Birds. In Bejeweled 2, for example, players have to align three diamonds, triangles and other shapes next to each other to advance in the game. After a string of successful moves, a baritone voice announces, “Excellent!” or “Awesome!”
“That’s a big part of” the game’s success, says Jason Kapalka, chief creative officer of PopCap. “You’re getting this unambiguous encouragement.”