Goals & Feedback

For this post I chose three games and examined their goals and feedback. I believe the examples I chose show how a game’s goals influence how effective its feedback is.

Beat SaberCorrectly hit as many incoming blocks for
the entirety of a song
Display system showing when a player
misses or incorrectly hits a block
Civilization VI Become the most dominant civilization in
science, culture, religion, or military
Ranking system, reactions from NPCs
The Sims 4Simulate lifePositive and negative emotional states

In Beat Saber the feedback is more physical than in the other examples. When the player successfully strikes the incoming blocks a satisfying buzzing is felt in the hand controls. The controls also buzz when the player strikes the blocks in an incorrect way, but the sensation is different and not as satisfying. In addition to this physical feedback, there is also a counter that keeps track of combos and misses. At least according to screenshots and gameplay. Truth be told, I was unable to see anything other than the incoming blocks while playing Beat Saber. Granted part of this is due to me being nearsighted (the Oculus Rift can pose challenges to those of us with poor vision), but my unlucky genetics and/or long time screen usage is not totally to blame. The numbers are small and placed near the center of the screen. Considering players are focused on hitting the blocks, which are coming at them from the center of the screen, it is easy to not notice the counters.  And as I learned within my first 10 seconds of playing, it is important to keep track of misses. Should the player miss a certain number of blocks the game will end. If the counters were moved to the corners and enlarged it would be easier to notice them, which would allow them to serve as better feedback.

When you’re beating boxes with sabers there’s not much time to look for numbers.

The main feedback source for Civilization VI, a leaderboard, is standard and effective. However, while it is a minor feedback feature, the player’s relationship with other leaders (which can reflect ranking in the leaderboard) and how it is tracked is interesting. While leaders’ current disposition towards the player is indicated by icons on their portraits, figuring out what their feelings will be as the game progresses is not as clear. There is no visible bar showing where on the ally-enemy spectrum leaders lie. In gameplay, this means that after doing trades or giving gifts to a leader who hates me, there is no way to see how much (if at all) it improved our relationship. Some may see this as a feedback drawback, but I’d argue it adds to gameplay. By not giving too much detail of leaders’ feelings, Civilization VI forces the player to keep track of their previous interactions and rely on what they know about that historical figure in regards to what will please or displease them. For example, Gandhi is easily triggered by a military focused playstyle (fun fact: I once had Gandhi denounce me after I built two warrior units in a row, even though at the time those two units made up my entire armed forces). (Note: there is a DLC that adds an option for a diplomacy victory that I assume relies more on alliances and relationships than the base game, but I have not played it myself and was unable to determine via research if it adds anything to the feedback system).

Several trade agreements later, Catherine De Medici is still mad at me for conquering Dijon.

The feedback in Sims 4 at first doesn’t seem like it’s that bad, but like many aspects of that game it falls short. While there is a UI element that displays sims goals and wants (referred to in-game as “whims”), there is little indicating what will make sims unhappy besides the obvious (lack of sleep, food, etc.). In previous Sims games the UI featured fears as well as wishes and goals. I would argue this was a better feedback system as it clearly indicated what would make sims unhappy. This is significant because not all players want to make their sims happy. The goal of the game is to simulate life, and life is not always pleasant. Many a time while playing Sims 2 I intentionally made my sims fears come true to create more drama and realism. By foregoing the display of fears, Sims 4 gives less feedback to players making it harder for them to achieve the game’s goal of simulating life, whatever that might mean for the player.

In Sims 2 you can want and be afraid to have a baby. If that’s not an accurate simulation of life, I don’t know what is.

This post is based on Exercise 4.4: Goals and Feedback (“Pick three games and list the types of feedback generated in each. Then describe how the feedback relates to the ultimate goal of each game.”) from Chapter 4 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton (quote taken from pg. 100).


Beat Saber. Prague: Beat Games, 2019.

Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 4: Working with Dramatic Elements” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. New York, NY: 2K Games, 2016. Video Game.

The Sims 4. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts, 2014. Video Game.


Beat Saber screenshot – “How To Download And Install New Custom Songs On Beat Saber – Summer 2020 Update.” UploadVr, https://uploadvr.com/download-install-new-custom-songs-beat-saber/.

Civilization VI screenshot – taken by the author.

The Sims 2 screenshot – “When you want to have a baby but it is also your fear” Reddit, https://www.reddit.com/r/thesims/comments/6egcx3/when_you_want_to_have_a_baby_but_it_is_also_your/.

The Effectiveness of Procedural Rhetoric

In middle school my classmates and I would spend our free time in between classes playing video games. However, the school IT department was relentless in blocking any sites that might distract us from academic work. Amidst this student vs. IT cold war, word started spreading about an unblocked game that allowed you to manage a McDonald’s. There was great rejoicing among the student population upon this discovery of a new unblocked game. I was particularly excited to try it out, since my health-nut mother forbid our family from patronizing the golden arches. Little did I know when I started up McDonald’s Videogame that I was about to get schooled on the dark side of fast food. I recall when I cut down my first swathe of rainforest thinking “it will be OK, more forest will just grow back,” only to realize too late that there was no way to replant the destroyed resource. The longer I played the game, the more ethically questionable choices I was forced to make. Eventually I decided on a strategy of intentionally sabotaging my operation. If I don’t have enough meat to make burgers or intentionally serve illness-inducing food, surely people will stop coming and I won’t need as much, right? Wrong. I asked a teacher if the game accurately depicted how McDonald’s works in the real world, and to my horror she confirmed the game’s accuracy. After that day, I never begged my parents to take me to McDonald’s again.

How does this tale of youthful ignorance relate to the dry academic title of this post? It’s because when my classmates and I played McDonald’s Videogame we unknowingly came into exposure with procedural rhetoric, or “the practice of using processes” (in this case videogames) to persuade. (125) In his article “The Rhetoric of Video Games” Ian Bogost gives a thorough explanation of what procedural rhetoric is and why it is useful. While Bogost does mention how not all games have intentional procedural rhetoric, he does not touch on what might happen if an audience is unaware of procedural rhetoric’s presence. Based on my own experience, I would argue that regardless of whether or not an audience is conscious of procedural rhetoric it will still work. In fact, the persuasive power of procedural rhetoric could be enhanced by the audience being unaware of it’s presence. This is because if they were aware, they might not be open to the process or hold bias. For example, if my classmates and I had been told McDonald’s Videogame would teach us about the ethical ills of the titular fast food giant, we likely would not have been keen on playing it. This is because the implied educational intention contradicted our reason for playing video games (i.e. as a way to take a break in between being educated). While Bogost does not highlight it in his article, I believe an audience’s awareness of the presence of procedural rhetoric can influence it’s persuasive power.


Bogost, Ian. “The Rhetoric of Video Games.” The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Edited by Katie Salen. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 117–140.

McDonald’s Videogame. Molleindustria, 2006.

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