If you are a game designer, use this one weird tip to annoy your players—it’s for their own good.
Modern video games are, with a few notable exceptions, generally designed to minimize the amount of irritation and aggravation that the player experiences.
However, one flip side to the general “smooth sailing” experience of gameplay is the lack of any “stake” of the user in the gameworld, which reduces the tension and (frequently) enjoyment as well.
Generally, any setback is extremely minor. Careless play leads to your character impacting the ground at 100 m/s? No problem—instantly respawn nearby, or load the previous save. Thus, there is no sense of danger associated with this form of escapist entertainment.
We can add back the sense of danger (and investment in the well-being of one’s video game avatar) by making the consequences of failure more dire. However, this is often difficult to reconcile with game design. For example, if a player walks onto a land mine after exploring a huge ruin, it seems excessive to make them re-explore the entire ruin. But with this proposal, the player can still be punished, yet without making them repeat content that they have already experienced.
Specifically, every time the player encounters a significant setback (i.e., crashes a racecar, gets exploded in a war game, fails to clear the viruses from the Dr. Mario bottle), they are faced with a timer that must count down to 0 before the game can be restarted. Perhaps this would increase; the first failure within an hour would result in a 30 second penalty, then the second one would result in a 2-minute penalty, until finally perhaps the player has to wait a full hour to resume the game.
Fig 1: The respawn timer increases as the player continues to meet their demise in a short period of time. This would probably work especially well for an open-world game like Fallout (or any other game that allows quick-saves), which otherwise have few feasible ways of punishing the player for setbacks.
PROS: Adds danger and excitement even to the most generic open-world game and/or game with generous save slots.
CONS: Probably would result in lots of whining on message boards.