This is another good article from Gamasutra, by James A. Portnow.
From his intro:
Risk is one of the most important and most confusing factors in gaming today. It affects every game we play and every game we create. It helps us define the “casual” player and the “hardcore” player. It is one of the key factors in what makes a game too tedious to play or too easy to endure. It is an inescapable part of the concept of ‘game’, and yet, too often, it seems barely considered.
It’s worth reading even if you’re a game player but not a game designer. And if you’re not a game designer: why not?!? Come check out Phrogram! 🙂
Risk in game design is similar to but deeper than the hard versus easy design point, which I talked about in the article I wrote with Larry Serflaten about his KPL version of Missile Command. Risk and difficulty are each critical factors that make for a really great game – and if you think about your own favorite games, I think you’ll find they do a particularly good job on these design points.
Well, except for those brain dead relaxation games we like to play when we’re chillin. We all have those! Funny thought about that: some of my own favorite games (like Sid Meiers’ Civilization series) give you enough control of the risk and the difficulty factors as you start the game that you can actually play them as brain dead relaxation games. Or steam-venting games. Pity my AI opponents when I make them dumb and poor and passive! 😀