FAILURE TO PROVIDE CLEAR SHORT-TERM GOALS
The first time my wife sat down to the play the original text adventure, Colossal Cave, she saw the opening words:
You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building. Around you is a forest. A small stream flows out of the building and down a gully.
Then it just sat there, waiting. "What am I supposed to do?" she asked the guy who was showing her the game. "Anything you want!" he said proudly (this was 1979, and games with parsers were brand new). But she didn't know what she wanted to do. The game didn't give her any incentive to do anything in particular, and we've lived with the same…Condition for nearly 30 years -- it still happens, believe it or not.
AMNESIA AT THE GAME'S BEGINNING
Moving on from game balancing to storytelling, Andrew Stuart writes about games that begin:
"You wake up in a strange place. You don't know who you are or how you got here. You have amnesia and your objective is to find out who you are and what you are doing here." It's hard to believe but it seems every second game has me waking up with amnesia. It's okay after a night out on the booze, but in every second computer game? Enough!