‘Not Too Much, Not Too Little’: Programming Luck Into Video Games

In fully digital video games, luck is even more deeply baked into the experience, and must be actively simulated. When the soccer ball sails past the goalkeeper in FIFA, or when, inexplicably, a herd of race cars slows down to allow you to catch up, a game designer’s hand has just acted to provide some ghostly rigging. The effect of this manipulation is to flatter you and thereby keep you engaged. But it’s a trick that must be deployed subtly. A player who senses that he’s secretly being helped by the game will feel patronized; after all, luck is only luck if it’s truly unpredictable.

Which is where the problems begin.

— At Nautilis, Simon Parkin examines the responsibilities and challenges of engineering luck into video games.

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