Just when he wanted to stop, they would bait him again. It didn't matter so much what they did. What mattered was that they kept him in.

"We have extensive access to his psychology," one of them told me. "It helps us decide what we need to dangle." Options included things directly related to quests players were on, but they also used unrelated bait as well. "We'll create a new quest if we have to, so long as we keep him in-game."

It was in those moments when he would catch glimpse of something so perfect, so wondrous, that he would feel compelled to go on. "We make it almost too good to be true, but keep it just barely out of reach enough that we can get him going without actually allowing him to find any flaws."

"How long do you keep that up?"

"Rarely more than a day. Then we go back to giving him more realistic expectations, more subdued goals."

"Does it make a difference?"

"We can't let him get used to perfection, or it will stop being perfection. We build a series of contrasts, and it is the difference between the valleys and peaks that maximizes experience."

They built a cat and mouse game out of the bait used. The glimpses into perfection would be so short that he would be made to doubt if they really happened. But there would be enough of them to lead him on.

"We can't ever let him achieve all his goals though. That's a sure way to get him to stop playing."

They would intentionally tarnish his targets, convince him to settle for smaller goals, and only try to draw him out again if he seemed on the verge of giving up. Not only did that save resources, they didn't have to spend as much effort actually trying to define perfection. So long as it was kept just out of reach.

"There are a lot of games out there to choose from. We do what we can to keep ours engaging. We are composing the longest song we can. Any part of the song can become boring if we keep repeating the same thing over and over."

"You don't think the game would be better if you allowed just a bit more perfection in?"

"No, we don't believe in a clear definition of that. We believe in amplitude of contrasts. There are other games that attempt your strategy but I think you'll find ours to be more successful."

"So you're intentionally making him suffer then."

"If the song needs a few dramatic moments, then we'll need something to contrast the peaks with. If we want him to enjoy the overall experience, then he'll need to be able to look back over a long list of the things he has overcome."

"You're trying to prevent your game from being boring."

"There are many easier games out there, but we find that ours are more popular. Relaxation has its place, but an eternity of that is its own kind of hell."

I spent a few more days with them, learning the ins and outs of their mechanics and design philosophy. Then I was scheduled to interview the creators of a similar game.

I had already decided this was going to be the genre for me, but I wanted to make an informed choice before devoting the next decades of my life to them.

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