A Look at the Players’ Bill of Rights

Phoenix Wright

For Did You See This Wednesday, we’re taking a look at a classic piece of writing on games.

Over at Gamasutra, writer Laralyn McWilliams resurrected an old essay by Graham Nelson, who, if you’re not aware (and I wasn’t), did a lot of legwork for the interactive fiction medium. These adventure games essentially formed the basis of video games as we know them.

Perhaps Nelson’s most famous essay about game design is known as the Craft of Adventure, in which he meticulously outlines what he titles the Players’ Bill of Rights. These rules are a set of standards that game creators must honor when dealing with players. And oddly enough, it’s still just as meaningful almost 3 decades later.

Here is a list of the Players’ Bill of RIghts:

1. Not to be killed without warning.

2. Not to be given horribly unclear direction or asked to do unlikely things.

3. To be able to win without experience of past lives or future events.

4. Not to have the game closed off without warning.

5. Not to need to do boring things for the sake of it.

6. Not to have to figure out an unspecified or unclear interaction.

7. To have decent, clear controls and UI.

8. Not to depend much on luck.

9. To be able to understand a problem once it is solved.

10. Not to have too many dead ends.

11. To know how the game is getting on.

12. To receive good value for money spent.

It’s interesting how true all of these are today. And in her article, McWilliams actually dissects memorable instances where these player rights were violated in terms of the games she’s played, and just how it was so frustrating for her.

I actually identify with these things quite a bit myself. There are so many games I play where it feels more designed for cheap deaths rather than uninterrupted play. Too many modern games also rely on boxing the player in with dead ends, or making them do tedious things just to pad some time. It’s funny how wrong it feels when these rights are violated, on a fundamental player. These basically read like some of gaming’s most deadly sins.

So what do you guys think of the Players’ Bill of Rights? I thought they were too interesting not to share with you guys. What are some of the things in this list that really set you off when you run across them in video games? Go!

Source – Gamasutra

Image by Oldhat104 on Deviant Art

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

4 thoughts on “A Look at the Players’ Bill of Rights”

  1. Number 7 is definitely one that’s important for me. If the controls require deciphering some ancient tablet then consider the game traded in for me. Number 5 is also one that gets at me. When you have to do those repetitious fetch quests in rpgs… my interest has been severely sapped.

  2. If only all games fully followed that these days. I also wish game could be more like old games like the old Gex games and Donkey Kong 64. Games had a soul back then. And i mean the comedy in the old games. “I’m out of´╗┐ order?! You’re out of order! This whole level’s out of order!”

  3. I have actually never heard of this. And most likely, a majority of developers haven’t either. This piece is going on my hard drive.

  4. Hahaha, #1 made me snort more air than usual out of my nasal passages. Near the end of Metal Gear Solid 2, there’s a part where Raiden fights Metal Gear RAY and it’s supposed to simulate a malfunction in the “system” or somewhat, I don’t know my memory eludes me..but during the boss fight the game over screen would flash in the middle of fight making you think you actually died, but when in reality it was just the overlay, and on the top right of the overlay where the picture of the Colonel would usually be is actually the game itself minimized to that small box. Meaning you were still alive and well, it was just giving you a mind-fuck of sorts. I just thought it was hilarious now because it took me, believe me I counted, 8 fake flashes of the game over screen to realize I didn’t actually die. I would just get pissed and press the reset button on my Xbox. Man I almost broke my console that day.

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