Recurring Play describes a method of game design that centers around maintaining player interaction over a period of time, usually weeks to months, but sometimes more. Games such as Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games or Player vs Player (PvP) combat arenas often have a model to maintain a player base for long periods of time. However, many 'social games' - that is, games deployed to social media platforms - and mobile games are also using this model to encourage players to return and interact with shorter experiences.
Playing games can become a daily routine
Carefully drive additional engagement with a game by providing meaningful gameplay that can be extended across a multiple play sessions. By adding large amounts of content or deep game mechanics, designers can inspire players to continue engaging with the game for much longer periods of time. The danger that must be considered is addiction and the effect the game will have on a player's life. Designers must be careful to consider how their game will be used (or possibly abused) and ensure that responsible steps are taken to make players feel safe and free to disengage with the game at any point.
The Call of Duty (CoD) series has always been known for it's intense and realistic military action. However, once the developers began building a polished and exciting PvP multiplayer mode, the game really took off. CoD has been refining (and redefining) their multiplayer model for years now, and the yearly releases draw record breaking sales. One reason for these impressive numbers is the game's ability to provide a deep gameplay system with a simple experience based progression system.
By rewarding players for playing longer, as well as playing skillfully, the game encourages players to come back and play a few more rounds often. Another important piece to this is the length of play sessions. CoD matches, depending on the mode, are around 10 minutes in length, with little down time between them. This quick loop to maintain a gameplay state, combined with the intense action of the actual combat, makes for a very engaging formula, and one that has attracted millions of players over the years.
Though players may enjoy a recurring pattern of player for a short time period, if nothing new or different or interesting is presented to add variance to the gameplay, players will often get bored or lose interest. It is important to work to ensure players have enough to do at any point that they feel as though there are a manageable number of options before them, but not so many that a given choice seems arbitrary, because there are so many options.
Designers must make sure that they are aware of the power of engaging recurring play and how it can entrap players if not designed carefully. Though the question of what is morally or ethically correct in terms of engagement in games, designers must ensure they are building the kinds of experiences they desire, rather than something that gets out of hand and could be harmful to players.
The pattern is a rising method of design.