Learning curve


Characterization of progress of skill during the gaming experience.


Learning curve might refer to acquired skill or the necessary to play. And depending on a game type the term is more useful when referring to the experience evolving from game to game or during the single playthrough. The scheme below gives an idea what understanding of a learning curve is useful depending on type of the game.

acquired necessary
single game puzzles
provided content
many rules
multiple games emergence abstract

Skill possible to acquire during the game should never be lower than necessary skill to play. The "acquirable > required" rule is to make games a self-contained experience, so pervasive games may intentionally not follow it.

But as there is no general unit of skill and each experience with the game might differ vastly, you usually don't model the learning curve in detail, but use that metaphor to compare different games.

When sketching out a learning curve for that comparison, you can have at least four elements: skill floor, general steepness of the learning curve, the length of the experience and skill ceiling.

Skill floor

Minimum skill required to play the game.

If your game is backed up by technology, skill floor refers rather to conditions of game enjoyment — rules might be complicated and despite that playing proceeds smoothly because the administration is done by physics.

In board-like games skill floor might mean how much prior learning there is necessary to have an attempt at playing the game and this is even more the case with music games, because you have many types of skill involved.

Skill ceiling

Learning curve tends to flatten out with time to form a skill ceiling. However, the skill ceiling is hopefully not reachable if a game has enough depth. With high ceiling the game has potential to engage players for a very long time.

Other game design terms:

If you think anything should be added to this text, please drop a hint or a link for future editors.

Unless stated otherwise Content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. See licensing details