Daily Challenges Make Every Game Worse

Does anyone actually enjoy doing daily challenges in games? I for one resent logging in to play and finding a list of chores to do. Even trivial challenges – something I would accomplish through normal play – rub me the wrong way. I don’t know what I’m more upset about: that someone invented such an anti-player progression system, or that every developer in the world took one look at it and said “Yep, that’s good enough for us.”

Challenges do not make games better, and the designers know that just as well as we do. When a game asks you to get three kills with a sniper rifle or win matches with a specific character, it isn’t trying to increase your enjoyment or help you improve. Challenges are nothing by hollow engagement boosters designed to increase player retention. Someone at the top of the ladder needs to see an increase in hours played month-over-month, and the fastest and dirtiest way to do that is to coerce players to complete daily challenges.

Think about how you engage with daily challenges. If they can be accomplished without any additional effort, then there’s no point in having them. But, if they make you do something you don’t want to do, then they’re having a negative impact on your experience. So either they’re nothing or they’re bad, but they’re never good.

A progression system designed around completing challenges is meant to make you play longer, that’s it. Instead of playing a few games and logging off, many players will continue playing until they’ve finished their challenges. By offering a small number of challenges every day, games exploit the fear of missing out to ensure players keep logging in just so they don’t fall behind. Neither of these are player-friendly motivations. This is negative reinforcement disguised as positive reinforcement.

Challenges also incentivize deviant play, which creates a negative game experience. In team games, this means pursuing goals that are different from the rest of your team. The stated objective of the game – get the most kills, score the most goals, capture the most objectives, ect. – may not align with the goals of each individual player. We’ve all seen (and been) the player ignoring the objective while trying to sniper headshots because we had a challenge for it. Both teams suffer when players are asked to do something different than the game’s objective, but the person messing up the game for everyone else is getting rewarded for it.

But it’s a problem in single-player games too. If I’m losing a game in Marvel Snap I can retreat and I won’t lose as much rank, but if I have a challenge to play cards in the last turn, I have to see it through to the end, even when I know I’m going to lose. In these instances I have two competing objectives – win the game or play a six-cost card. When you’re playing as though you’re trying to do something other than win, you’re engaging in deviant play. Games should not encourage this, yet almost all of them do.

You can argue that the game isn’t making you do challenges, and if you don’t like them just ignore them, but that’s also an argument against daily challenges. All of the XP or battle pass progress you earn by completing challenges could be accomplished easier and faster in ways that don’t exploit players’ time. The big studios like Blizzard and EA are going to have to use their unlimited talent and resources to create a better system than this soon, because the current daily challenge system everyone uses is lazy and predatory.

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