Game Design in Everyday Writing: Cadence

Game design is all about making things more fun. Turns out you can make reading fun too, even on a “mechanical” level. Here’s one way.


The easiest way to discuss cadence is to compare a highway and roller coaster.

While accelerating on a straight empty highway can feel thrilling, once you’ve been the same speed for enough time, you’ll eventually get used to it. It’ll get monotonous, on that empty highway.

Roller coasters aren’t fun because they are fast per se; their fun actually comes from the changes. First is the long, slow climb, building anticipation. Then your stomach lurches as you drop and twist and launch through turns and loops, and your speed fluctuates, too, slowing on some hills, before lurching down again. Etc.

In games you utilize the principle of cadence to make sure that levels are constantly shifting in terms of pace, difficulty or even type of skillset required.


But you can do this in writing too! It’s somewhat common knowledge to alter the length of your sentences, but are you making sure your paragraphs shift between information and calls to action? Low-energy words and high-energy words? Nouns and verbs? There’s so many things you can play with! Repetition is a useful tool, of course, but do anything for too long - and in the same form for too long - and your reader will lose interest.

If you find that people check out of your conversation… check that you’re not repeating yourself, or continuing on the same thread too long after your audience understands you, or that you’re not calling on someone to give the same ‘style’ of response over and over - ie forcing someone to keep giving you responses like ‘that’s awful/that’s great’, etc.

There’s some other stuff, like challenge and discovery - but that’ll come later. Until then - may your words catch like wind on sails!