The Five Principles Needed to Make Speed Pleasurable

In Brief
In order for speed to be pleasurable it needs to have the following four elements:

  • tag_player_choice.png The player should have some degree of control over how the speed is experienced.
    • Without this choice, the player is no longer an ‘active doer’, but a ‘passive viewer
  • tag_fairchallenge.png Challenges should take into account the difficulties in reacting to obstacles when moving at super fast speeds.
    • This will allow challenges to remain fair removing frustration.
  • tag_realism.png The presence of even a small amount of realism (such as real world physics), allows the speed to seem authentic.
    • This makes it easier for players to engage with it
  • tag_contrasts.png Slower paced sections offer a contrast to the speed.
    • This emphasises and increases the impact of the speedy sections.
    • It also prevents the speed from becoming repetitive
  • tag_superpower.png There must be sections that demonstrate the benefit of Sonic’s speed.
    • This allows the player to value and respect the speed as a ‘superpower’.


As noted in the problems of speed section, choice is central to video games, but speed can limit choice.

Despite the problems speed creates, it is still possible to include choice in Sonic games.

Level design, which is more fully analysed in The Choice Zone is central to enhancing choice. However, many of the mechanics discussed in The Speed Zone offer scope for player choice and control and are marked with The pleasure principle of Player Choice tag.


As noted, challenge is an important to video games, but speed can make challenge frustrating.
Challenge is fair when the player has a chance to react to an obstacle even when travelling at high speeds.

There are methods for ensuring that speed mechanics create a fair challenge. These are marked out in The Speed Zone with a The pleasure principle of Fair Challenge tag.
Other (non-speed related) mechanics for challenge are examined in The Challenge Zone.


A game about a super fast hedgehog may seem far from realistic. However, adding a small amount of realism helps to:

  1. prevent speed from becoming uninteresting (a problem of speed)
  2. improve spectacle (a pleasure of speed).

Players have first hand experience of real world physics, (such as gravity and acceleration) and if these are missing, the speed will seem artificial or ‘wrong’, which hinders player engagement. Adding realism supports engagement and so maintains player interest in the speed.

Realism can also enhance spectacle. It allows the player to know that Sonic’s stunts are achieving the impossible and are not merely activities that are wholly possible within his ficitonal world.

Realism applies to many of mechanics discussed in The Speed Zone and is marked with the The pleasure principle of Realism tag.


As noted in the problems of speed section, speed can become uninteresting. Slower paced contrast sections prevent this from happening in several ways:

  • Contrasts provide a slower ‘baseline’ for the player. This makes the faster sections stand out, increasing their impact.
  • Contrasts add ‘value’ to speed: Contrasts generally consist of obstacles, which interrupt speed. Completing the obstacles allows the player to enjoy the speed again. This positions speed as a ‘reward’, which makes it more valuable.
  • Contrasts make speed desirable: When encountering an obstacle, the player is eager to experience Sonic’s speed again and so will happily compete the slower section. This eagerness makes speed desirable.
  • Contrasts reduce repetition: Contrasts add variety, which prevents the speed from becoming repetitive. This allows the speed to remain ‘special’.

Contrasts have their own section The Speed Zone and are also relevant to other speed mechanics that are marked with the The pleasure principle of Contrasts tag.


By including sections where Sonic can use his speed to achieve impossible feats, the player will value and respect the speed as a ‘superpower’.

The principle of Super power combines the pleasures of progression, freedom and invincibility, as super power situations reinforce that Sonic’s speed can achieve (almost) anything.

Superpower has its own section in The Speed Zone and is also relevant to other speed mechanics that are marked out with The pleasure principle of Superpower tag.

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The problems of speed Basic Concepts Categories of speed


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