Essential experience is a game design concept coined by Jesse Schell in his book The Art of Game Design. Essential experience is the first "lens" that Schell recommends that a game designer look through.
To use the lens of essential experience one must ask the following questions about their game:
- What experiences do I want the player to have?
- What is essential to that experience?
- How can/does the game capture that experience?
The lens can also be applied to existing games to help evaluate a game. For example one can look at games in the Sonic the Hedgehog series:
- What experience does the game want a player to have? Although many arguments can be made about what the essential experience of any game is, I believe that 'speed' is definitely a major experience in the Sonic the Hedgehog games.
- What is essential to that experience? One thing that is truly essential to the feeling of speed is the way the world around you blurs and streaks as you speed up. Objects appear to be elongated.
- How does the game capture that experience? The developers of sonic took the time to ensure that the artifacts moved smoothly and quickly through the screen when moving fast. The sense of speed is captured through speed lines, the way that enemies and platforms fly past when moving fast, and even 'speedy' sounds.