The Addictiveness of Balls and Numbers

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The mobile game Ballz checks off every characteristic of the “casual game.” It has a pause button which allows the player to stop and resume at any time. There is a fixed map which everything takes place on and every interaction can be easily learned in a short amount of time. In fact, there is only one thing you can do in the game. Aim.

The objective of the game is to bounce your ball off the randomly generated blocks. The blocks contain a number of at least one and gradually increases with each round. Each bounce with the ball causes the number to decrease by one and the block disappears once it hits 0. If any block reaches the bottom, the game is over. Like many casual games, Ballz is deceptively simple. I found myself getting stuck in the 30s for days at a time. While the mechanics of the game are easy to learn, they are difficult to master. It’s all in the angles. After playing several hundred rounds of the game and making it to Round 121, I realized that only way to advance is to bounce the balls off slightly horizontally so it rapidly builds momentum and destroy blocks left and right. The game is more or less built on repetition and luck (as you do not know how many blocks will enter the frame the next round, what number they will be, or what position they will be in).

In terms of “juiciness” or positive feedback loops, the game is similar to Tetris. We like having the ability to destroy and simultaneously clear spaces. There is a counter in the upper corner which shows your high score, incentivizing people to play more and beat their own record. Like many app store games, there are some microtransactions as you can buy points which enables you to change the color of your ball. That’s it. A simple reskinning. Unlike other games such as Candy Crush or Clash of the Clans, there is no buying of lives or “pay-to-win” strategies. Your money only gets you a tiny, superficial aspect of the game, an option of individualization. The strongest contrast between Ballz and other mobile games is that it has no narrative. Unless, you want to compare it to workers getting doing their work only to receive an exponentially large course load, but I wouldn’t read into it that deeply. Given its simplicity in both mechanics and aesthetic, Ballz is a definitive example of a casual game.

Source: The Addictiveness of Balls and Numbers