Replayability

Maze

Last weekend we played Unlock!  It’s a co-operative, puzzle-solving, escape-the-room game.  It reminds me of those point-and-click PC adventure games that I played when I was young.  Do watch the video if you’re not familiar with those type of games: it was an amazing experience!

The game comes with three scenarios (each lasting an hour) and once you’ve played a scenario, you can’t play it again.  You know the solution to all the puzzles, so it has zero replay-value.  We played the tutorial, then the first scenario, and everyone was like, “Let’s do the next one!”

So we played the second scenario and after that, everyone paused and looked sheepishly at each other.  You could see what everyone was thinking.  We all wanted to play the last scenario, but it felt decadent somehow.  Like buying a boxset of your favourite TV show and watching the entire thing in one sitting.  We should exercise some restraint, shouldn’t we?  Spread out the enjoyment?

Hell, no!


We gobbled it all up like a kid eating candy.

I recorded a Boardgame Opinions review afterwards and at least two people stated explicitly that they would rate it higher if it weren’t for the fact that you couldn’t play it again.  Well, until they release expansions of course (please, take my money!).

I was surprised.  I had a great time and I rated the game based on my experience of it.  It wasn’t like I played it and then realised with horror that I couldn’t play it again.  We all knew going into it that we could only play each scenario once.

I equate the experience with watching a crime drama at the cinema.  In theory you could watch it again, but you would know ‘who dunnit’ from the start, which would take much of the enjoyment from it.  You pay your money knowing you will only watch the film once, and that’s fine.  You enjoy it for what it is.

It seems, however, that replayability is a big factor for some people.  And I say this without any judgement.  Games are becoming more and more expensive these days and value for money is an important consideration for many.  Paying £50 for a game you play ten times is much better value for money than paying £20 for a game you only play once, isn’t it?  Or is it?

Would you rather play a great game once or an average game ten times?

Would you rather play a great game once or an average game ten times?  It’s very hard to quantify the enjoyment we get from a game.  It’s much easier to quantify the number of hours of entertainment we get from a game, but if we start talking about the quality of that entertainment, things get fuzzy fast.

Maybe it’s the stage of life I’m in, but I find time to be a very precious commodity.  I want to achieve the maximum enjoyment I can out of the time I spend playing games.  So for me, value for money is not so much to do with how many hours of play I get, but how much enjoyment I get.  And Unlock! ticked all the boxes for me.

What do you think?  How important is replayability for you?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn’t doing anything else, he designs games.

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