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The Session and the On-Ramp

By on June 11, 2019

The Pyramid is a framework for the strategy of your game design. The Session is tactical. It forms the fundamental building block of service games. It addresses the questions: How will I get my players to open my game? How do I let them have fun? How do I signal that it might be time to go? How do I make sure that they come back?

Player journey through one session and beyond

The Session

Let’s start from first principles. Each time a player starts playing your game, it is inevitable that they are going to stop. I don’t mean eventually. I mean at the end of that session. Humans have other responsibilities and needs. They need to work, to eat, to sleep and to go to the bathroom. At some point, they need a break. The successful game designer thinks about the four components of the Session.

The On-Ramp

The On-Ramp makes it easy for players to decide to fire up your game, rather than choosing something else from the plethora of alternative entertainment choices (including other games but, more dangerously, Facebook, Instagram and other social media experiences).


Playtime, when the players have a fun, rewarding and enjoyable experience.

The Off-Ramp

The Off-Ramp, also known as “Time To Go,” when we start signalling to players that they have had a good session (whether that be measured by fun, achievement, progression, etc.) and hint that now might be a good time to leave.

A Return Hook

A Return Hook, which gives players a reason to come back at some point in the future, whether that be minutes, hours or days away.

These four elements, taken together, form the core of your game design. It is one of the most useful conceptual structures for understanding and designing better service games.

This is an extract from Nicholas’s new book, The Pyramid of Game Design – get your copy here!

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: