There are three forms of pull

They are the Pull to Begin, Pull to Continue, and Pull to Return.

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2 There are three forms of pull

Based on our imaginary scenario, there are three competing pulls that vie for your attention:

  1. The book that wants you to begin it
  2. The tv show that wants you to just stay and continue
  3. The game that wants you to return to it

These are the three forms of pull:

  1. Pull to Begin
  2. Pull to Continue
  3. Pull to Return

If you notice, this is also the life-cycle of an item that wants to be consumed; first, you have to begin consuming it, then you have to continue consuming it (assuming you enjoyed the start and didn't lose interest), then you have to return to it after taking a break (you want to complete the consumption).

So, what makes us want to begin something?

According to the Manifesto (1.2.1), the Pull to Begin relies on triggering our interest using our sense of sight. The product pulling us could be using engaging visual art, screenshots, trailers, and ads. In the case of video games, this will include actual gameplay that captures the core concept and fantasy of the game.

Now that most of the media products we consume have moved online, the Pull to Begin has become even stronger. We no longer have to wait for days for the release of a book or go to a store to buy the book. We can just easily buy and download it online in a matter of seconds. So the main question is: do you like to read the book? Does it have a strong enough Pull to Begin?

For video games, most companies use the following principles:

  • (9) Beautiful by Default - when you see those trailers, ads, and posters, the games always show themselves in their best appearance. Even for the Souls games that are infamous for intentionally having some of the most disgusting levels and areas, they do not show these when triggering the Pull to Begin. They always show the best-looking areas of the game.
  • (9.1) Maximize Beauty - many video games are well known for being extremely beautiful, in addition to being truly good games. Examples of these are Horizon Zero Dawn, Ghost of Tsushima, and Ori. It is no coincidence that these games can easily create an extremely strong Pull to Begin, even among consumers who have no previous knowledge of them. Do you remember when Sekiro was first introduced? The trailers didn't forget to show and highlight the beautiful world of Sekiro. And they did it again, later on, with Elden Ring.
  • (8.6) Presented at Its Best - even for games that are midway between being beautiful and ugly, they would always show the beautiful side of the game, as it is the visuals that would form the basis of the Pull to Begin.

Interestingly, this visual factor also works for other media. Though we know that we should never judge a book by its appearance, have you experienced saying "No" to a book because of its thickness? How many of us have turned down Les Misérables because of its length? Have you also experienced reading a book just because of how thin it is?

Video games also have other ways of increasing their Pull to Begin through their use of these principles (which you rarely see in other media forms):

  • (8.1) Get Early Feedback - game creators engage with their consumers by getting feedback as early as the design process. You rarely see this in books, tv shows, or movies. Sometimes, they even allow the community to contribute items or characters to the game and get paid for it.
  • (8.1.1) Provide a Demo - but the most common and effective way of increasing the Pull to Begin is by providing a Demo. Most of these demos include the early part of the game or an early boss. Even FromSoftware has been doing this since the first Souls game, Demon Souls, and up to their latest, Elden Ring. There is a simple reason for this, they are maximizing their Pull to Begin with their most loyal fan base and then moving the competition into another form of pull, the Pull to Return (because you have already tried and liked it).

After starting the consumption of a media, that which makes you want to stay is called the Pull to Continue.

According to the Manifesto (1.2.2):

The fate of the game is decided in the first session of gameplay. In the first session itself, the player should experience what the whole game is all about. People will decide to continue and then later on return based on this impression.

And this works for other media as well. The fate of the product is decided during the first consumption. Ever tried buying a book in a store? First, you try the first three sentences, the next three paragraphs, and then the first three pages. Do you like it? Is it a pass or a fail? Based on this impression, the book will either get bought or not.

Have you ever wondered why James Bond films always begin with an action scene and not a build-up? Because they want to set the hook early and make you want to continue.

For video games, most companies use the following principles:

  • (12.1) One Mission - the player should know what the whole game is all about in the first session itself. He should never leave the first playthrough without knowing what it is he is playing. Coincidentally, this works for Manga as well: the whole journey of the hero is set during the first chapter. Naruto wants to become a Hokage, Luffy wants to become the Pirate King, Tanjiro wants to save his sister, Ichigo wants to protect his loved ones as a Shinigami, Eren decides that he will kill all Titans, and so on. That One Mission is set through the first session itself, and the game should ensure the player gets it. One good example of such games is Pokémon: you should get the mission to catch them all from a Pokémon Professor in the first five minutes of gameplay, no exception.
  • (3.5.1) Tutorial as Gameplay - tutorials are boring, and FromSoftware is one of the few companies that have mastered the best way to handle tutorials: by turning them into gameplay. Whether you are in Bloodborne, Sekiro, or Dark Souls, you would never know that you are in a tutorial area, as they have perfected this part into a recipe. We will cover this in detail in later chapters.
  • (4.4.1) First Death ASAP - as part of teaching the game's mechanics, most companies ensure that the first death (or loss) should occur in the first few minutes of gameplay.
  • (1.3.2) Game Loop - Most importantly, the player should experience the Game Loop in the first session. This is the essence of the game. It would be weird to play a monster hunting game without actually hunting in the first session or a monster collecting game without actually catching a monster. Pokémon and Monster Hunter have perfected this recipe as well.

After starting the consumption of a product and spending an hour on it, you have decided to take a break. Maybe you wanted to do some errands and just take a nap.

That which makes you want to return to the media later on, is called the Pull to Return.

Have you noticed that sometimes, after reading a book for an hour, you do not feel any motivation to read it again? Or maybe some anime or tv show? That's because they have a weak Pull to Return. They could not compete with other media with stronger Pull to Begin or Pull to Return.

According to the Manifesto (1.2.3):

After the first session, all subsequent plays of the player are due to the Pull to Return.

The player will surely return if the game succeeds in creating engagement in the first session and encourages continuing that first enjoyable experience.

The key concept here is the word engagement. If a product fails to create engagement, a consumer will not return to it and just do other things.

Hence, products try to ensure that the first session is highly engaging as early as possible. This is why the first episodes of tv shows are often cliffhangers: you have to return. This is also why some first episodes are double the length of the normal episodes: they maximize the Pull to Continue.

For video games, most companies use the following principles:

  • (1.3.1) Attachment Principle - players can get attached to a game for various reasons. It could be the music, the visuals, the combat, the story, the characters, or the world. Companies give their best to identify the key facets of their game that can create an attachment with their players. Most people playing Diablo 3 say that they keep returning to it just because it makes killing monsters extremely enjoyable, reflecting the team's dedication to making the combat visceral.
  • (1.3.2) Game Loop - some games are, by nature, inherently engaging. We will cover this in more detail in later chapters. Game Loop is the reason why some players can spend hundreds if not thousands of hours on the same game long after the novelty of the visuals or the music or the combat has been gone. The games Monster Hunter and Pokémon have perfected this.
  • (1.4) Why We Play Games - the most important principle that designers must understand before even creating the Game Loop. This is what makes the players keep on returning to the game. We will cover this as well in the next chapters.