Games with Game-Over Conditions
Not all games are trying to push the player to a game-over condition through victory conditions. Some games will even practically go on forever if the player achieves perfection in achieving victory conditions. In these games, the design goals are to create game-over conditions. Most of the classic arcade games of the 1980s used this type of mechanic. For example, in the arcade game Asteroids, victory conditions were fulfilled by surviving the level, but the game did not end. A new wave of asteroids was always ready to begin the challenge again. For games like this, the game-over condition is more important. Players will typically only have a certain number of mistakes they can make before the game ends. If the gameplay was fun and engaging, they will not care that the goals of the game are repetitive; they will want to play again and improve their skill level.
The Never Ending Story
Some games want none of those pesky victory conditions or game-over conditions. For some games, the experience of the game is about exploration, growth and socialization. Social media games often fall under this category. Many games are built around the concept of creating an ever growing and improving “theme park” of some kind: farm, carnival, zoo, etc. They don’t have defined victory conditions because there is no real winner or loser – only degrees of prosperity. In addition, there is no game-over mechanic threatening to end the game if the player makes a misstep.
Sometimes this mechanic is blurred for the sake of emergence. For example, in World of Warcraft, players do have victory conditions that feel like achievements and allow for character growth, but the threats do not actually ever create a game-over condition. The player is merely inconvenienced (or otherwise penalized) and then allowed to continue playing.