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Pigeonhole Principle

In game design, the Pigeonhole Principle refers to a concept where a limited number of options or categories are insufficient to accommodate the variety of possibilities or player choices within a game. The principle suggests that when designing game mechanics, systems, or decision-making structures, it is essential to provide sufficient flexibility and diversity to account for the potential range of player actions or strategies. Failing to do so may result in a rigid and limited gameplay experience that restricts player creativity, choice, or meaningful decision-making. Game designers strive to avoid the Pigeonhole Principle by creating systems that allow for a wide range of viable options and meaningful player agency.

Pigeonhole Principle - Age of Empires

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In game design, the Pigeonhole Principle asserts that a constrained set of options or categories may be inadequate to encompass the diverse array of possibilities or player choices inherent in a game. This principle emphasizes the importance of providing ample flexibility and diversity when devising game mechanics, systems, or decision-making structures. Failing to consider this principle may lead to a game experience characterized by rigidity, limiting player creativity, choice, or the capacity for meaningful decision-making.

Consider a strategy game that offers players a selection of character classes, each specializing in specific roles such as offense, defense, or support. If the design restricts these classes to strictly defined roles without allowing for hybrid or versatile strategies, players may feel pigeonholed into predetermined playstyles. The Pigeonhole Principle, in this context, suggests that the design fails to accommodate the potential breadth of player preferences and creative strategies.

To avoid falling victim to the Pigeonhole Principle, game designers could introduce a flexible skill or talent system. This system would enable players to customize and hybridize their characters, allowing for diverse approaches that go beyond the initially defined roles. This flexibility not only aligns with the principle but also enhances player agency, encouraging creativity and strategic thinking.

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