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Player Hands Partially Concealing the Protagonist or Obstacles in Landscape Endless Runners Games on Phones

Endless Runners Game genre consists of two subtypes: vertical or landscape (horizontal). Landscape Endless Runners’ Games are appealing due to their efficient utilization of the phone screen whereby the protagonist is positioned from the left of the screen and the difficulties and challenges appear from the right. The left-to-right mechanism forces gamers to position the phone in a landscape view while holding it with both hands. While gaming, the figure or thumb used to control the game would obscure the protagonist or obstacles depending on which hand the gamer is using. The issue is mostly associated with landscape endless runners’ games that use minimalistic schemes for control; touching anywhere within the screen to control the game (allowing the use of both hands). According to Pichlmair and Johansen (2021), game feel design is a deliberate game programming to contribute to progressive affection realization while a player is interacting with the game. However, with hands obscuring game objects, the game design could not be effective enough to boost game motivation; thereby, challenging the mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetic frameworks of Endless Runner Games.

Impacts on Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetic (MDA) Framework

Analysis of the issue can be best illustrated through the use of the MDA framework. MDA framework is a procedural analytical tool whereby game mechanics invoke game dynamics resultantly leading to achievement of desirable aesthetics (Junior & Silva, 2021). According to Junior and Silva’s (2021) description of MDA, the primary mechanic of the Endless Runners Games is to run towards the right side of the screen by evading obstacles appearing from the right side of the screen. The player’s body part is used for navigation and in turn, blocks the appearing obstacles or sometimes the protagonist alters the response rate of the player to the game rules (mechanics). Such an occurrence may happen repeatedly in a single game thereby reducing the interaction level of the player with the game and may lead to unexpected game outcomes such as the death of the protagonists or missing to be up emerging rewards.

The subsequent dynamic issue that arises due to the failure of the player to meet the mechanic (protagonist running) of the game due to screen blockage by hand are instances whereby the game software finds it hard to comply with the player’s responses to achieve a particular dynamic such as evade or shoot an obstacle. A player may input game commands on seeing an obstacle, but due to late response, the protagonist may not react accordingly leading to failure in achieving the player’s response. Such a scenario arises when the hand blocks some parts of the screen leading to reduced distance between the visible obstacle and the protagonist; thus, demanding a quick response that the player is not expecting. Therefore, it is challenging for a player to realize maximum satisfaction with the game.

Aesthetics are the desirable fun that the player is expecting from playing the game and achieving them depends on meeting the mechanics and dynamics of the game. Based on the problem scenario, the Landscape Endless Runners Game would lead to non-achievement of the submission and sensational fun by the player, thus, lowering the aesthetic value of the game. In class 3, MacIsaac (2023) stated that some players do not like losing; therefore, Endless Runners Game designers should rethink of redesigning the game to eliminate unintended game failures through hand-blocking the screen. Similarly, in class 4 MacIsaac (2023) emphasizes that the motivation of a player is through; for example, achieving their intrinsic rewards like in the Landscape Endless Runners Games it is evading or shooting the obstacles.

Wicked Problem

Understanding the issue with Landscape Endless Runners Games relative to wicked problems would require a prerequisite knowledge of the concept of wicked problems. Wicked problems a “complex and inherently ambiguous problems that lack transparency regarding solutions and consequences to action” (Nardo & Gaydos, 2021). The issue in reference in this paper is predictable, simple in understanding, and does not originate from compounding effects; thus, player hands (thumb or fingers) partially concealing the protagonist or game obstacles in Landscape Endless Runners Games on phones is not a wicked problem. The issue in reference is associated with design problems and is solvable through redesigning the game display features to improve user experience.

Player Centric Design

The most popular Landscape Endless Runners Games are Jetpack Joyride and Canabalt. The two-game example uses the minimalistic control scheme, that is, everywhere on the game screen is sensitive and responsive to control demands from the player. Thus, the games are player centrally designed. The two games contribute to user experience in that the players find ease during game navigation; however, the game control design still offers challenges by being the focal element in hindering the player from achieving their intrinsic fun demands. Therefore, even though, the minimalistic control scheme is user-centric, there is a need for improvement in redesigning it to achieve the intrinsic demands of the player a primary concern of the game development. Generally, aesthetic frameworks of the game should dictate the designing and development of the game mechanics and game dynamics for the utmost player or user experience.

Example of Games

The Jetpack Joyride uses a one-touch control system whereby a protagonist, Barry, with a jetpack, is controlled by the player along a vertical axis. The player touches the screen at any given point forcing the pack to shoot downwards and then giving Barry the necessary thrust to move vertically. If the player releases pressure on the screen, Barry descends. Such a control system gives rise to screen obstruction as discussed above thus rendering the game less immersive and interactive. The major issue with the control system is that it does not guide a player’s touch on the screen, thereby, some players will strive to put pressure on Barry by touching its screen position which is more nuance as a considerate screen display area will be blocked by the hand.

Canabalt is another example of the Landscape Endless Runners Games. The game also uses one touch on the screen to control the ever-running human model in the game. The one-touch controls the vertical movement of the human model, whereby pressure on the screen dictates the leap or jump level. Stronger press contributes to higher jumps. The game is easier to control than Jetpack Joyride as there is no game dynamic of holding the screen to keep the protagonist on air. However, the implication of hand blocking the screen is still eminent as the control touch is allowable anywhere on the screen.

Social and Business Implications

The influence of virtual social environments on real-life scenarios of other people is unavoidable. Some players in most cases will complete or associate their virtual game scenarios with their real life; thus, ending up impacting them enormously. Considering the issue in this paper, some players after playing and failing to achieve their intrinsic fun desires due to blocking screens with their hands or thumbs, may react by blaming themselves. Such players may use undesirable virtual outcomes to shape their real life; thereby, through blaming themselves, the players will develop low self-esteem that in turn negatively impacts their social and cultural development.

From a business perspective, modern businesses thrive on customer retention and Nano and micro social media influencing. Achieving such two parameters by a business leads to gaining of a competitive edge. In reference to the scenario in this paper, the challenge of achieving game mechanics, game dynamics, and desired aesthetic factors for the player leads to low player retention and negative remarks by the micro and Nano influencers; thus, impacting the business negatively.

Conflicting Priorities

In the game development industry, there are several antagonizing issues as the various stakeholders such as players, developers, and publishers have varied perceptions and needs to be met during game development. Developers have the knowledge and skills to design a game and they are majorly guided by the availability of input resources, project time, and vacuum for progress. However, publishers, who are involved in shaping and identifying user needs always have different views on game design. Publishers would push for designing a game that has a positive social impact, conveys message a particular to society, and observance of contemporary ethics; generally, publishers associate their needs in game designing as market-based. On the other hand, players tend to demand egocentric demand fulfilment in game design and development. Such varying perspectives may seem to worsen the issue discussed in this paper, however, publishers’ demand seems to always override the players’ demands as they influence them to join and support their (publishers’) perspectives. The conflict between publishers and game designers is typically solved through consensus between the parties. Thus, despite the presence of conflicting priorities among game developers, players, and publishers, the differences do not worsen the issue being discussed in this paper.


To summarise, Landscape Endless Runners Games portrays a significant design issue hindering players from achieving the game dynamics. Therefore, there is a need to redesign the game sub-genre to ensure that players are protected socially and the viability of the genre remains certain. Since the problem is categorized as not a wicked issue but rather a design problem, it depicts that the problem is solvable and developers should strive to achieve it. Similarly, the urgency to the redesigning demand should be guided by the reality that there exists negative social and business implications of the problem; hence there is a need for a quick response in redesigning to save the society from harm and retain the sub-genre in the business. In general, there is a need to develop a comprehensive framework that takes into consideration all the varying priorities of the stakeholders to shape designing and developing games.


Pichlmair, M., & Johansen, M. (2021). Designing game feel: A survey. IEEE Transactions on Games14(2), 138-152.

Nardo, A., & Gaydos, M. (2021). ‘Wicked problems’ as catalysts for learning in educational ethics games. Ethics and Education16(4), 492-509.

Junior, R., & Silva, F. (2021). Redefining the MDA Framework—The pursuit of a game design ontology. Information12(10), 395.

MacIsaac, J. (2023, September 26). Class 3:Losing and Rewarding Failure. CCT448: Game Design.

MacIsaac, J. (2023, October 3). Class 4:Altruism and Cooperation. CCT448: Game Design.


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