7.1. Decisions

Sid Meier has been quoted as saying that a good game is a series of interesting decisions), and there is some truth there. But what makes a decision “interesting”? Battleship is a game that has plenty of decisions but is not particularly interesting for most adults; why not? What makes the decisions in Settlers of Catan more interesting than Monopoly? Most importantly, how can you design your own games to have decisions that are actually compelling?


There are two important exceptions, games which have no decisions at all: some children’s games and some gambling games.

For gambling games, it makes sense that a lack of decisions is tolerable. The “fun” of the game comes from the thrill of possibly winning or losing large sums of money; remove that aspect and most gambling games that lack decisions suddenly lose their charm. At home when playing only for chips, you’re going to play games like Blackjack or Poker that have real decisions in them; you are probably not going to play a slot machine without money being involved.

You might wonder, what is it about children’s games that allow them to be completely devoid of decisions? The appeal to children of these games is the challenge not of making decisions, but of executing the mechanics - say counting the right number of squares to move. So they still get to enjoy challenge that a grown up does not. In addition, the lack of meaningful choices serves as a balancing factor - only in a game where luck determines a winner is a child likely to beat an adult. This enables the child to enjoy a competition that might otherwise not be possible.

Materials on this page adapted from:
Game Design Concepts by Ian Schreiber (CC BY-NC 3.0)