Industry vet Don Daglow on how failure is a tough sell for American gamers

Don Daglow on how failure is a tough sell for American gamers

Americans, according to Don Daglow, have trouble with failure, especially when it comes to their games. He should know, he has an impressive resumé, dating all the way back to the Intellivision and the early days of Electronic Arts and extending through the likes of the original Neverwinter Nights. Daglow directed his comments to developers during a panel at GDC Europe, exposing just one of the facts about American culture that baffle European game designers.

While traditional education systems teach students to try to succeed and learn from their failures, he said, the American education system has evolved to the point that failure has largely been removed from the equation entirely. "The idea of failure has been dramatically reduced," he said, noting that American students don't "fail." Rather, they are "challenged," a concept that Daglow believes European developers should keep in mind when trying to design games that will succeed in the American market.

The concept of failure as an inducement to try again and succeed is difficult for many Americans to accept. Many will blame their failure on the game itself, instead of recognizing their mistake and trying again. The key to breaking through to an American audience, he said, is encouragement, individuality and grabbing the player's interest as quickly as possible. "If you think of the best James Bond movies, the first ten minutes is an experience all unto itself. You're on this joy ride," he said, "don't wait to entertain people."

On the bright side, once you do grab a player's interest, the habits of Americans and Europeans are practically identical. Once a player enjoys a game, said Daglow, they will stick with it despite their cultural leanings – and their abject failures.