A Look At Negative Game Mechanics

I was thinking of writing about how the point of old-school arcade games are NOT fun. Their purpose is to get people to pump quarters into a machine, so they employ all these design mechanics to ensure that they get a steady flow of coins. It sounds like Zynga games.

But this article is better than what I would have written.

Most machines were designed around metrics to determine how far someone should get on a single quarter, and then the mechanics were tweaked to meet those metrics. One of the early examples of negative mechanics was in beat-em-ups, in the form of special attacks. Special attacks were designed to cost the player some of their energy with each use, bringing the player closer to death faster. Items that would restore health were few and far between, meaning that the player will usually die before finding more health.