The Temporal Curve
Curves VS Harmon
Please don't replicate the events of other games simply to achieve a similar level of satisfaction from the players. Play, experience, and understand how these methods are used in the many games you might enjoy. Basically, Game design is the same as writing. The more you experience, the more you know. You can't create well without first understanding why games have been successful beforehand. Well, I guess you could. On accident.
The Vague Flow
A good example, for instance, would be a well made spawning system in a shooting game. You spawn, you're safe for now, but you have a goal you must search for, and so endeavor into the danger of enemy lines, relying on only your own skill for survival.
The player should typically start at the very top of the graph in a video game. Usually, most players will only allot a small amount of time to experience a first impression of your game. Which usually means that you'll want to set up a first impression that will greet the player every time they enter the game, not just the first time. This will not only serve to capture the audience from the beginning, it will also give the game a rhythm for the player to follow, keeping them engaged with the game for the longest possible amount of time.
Just past the tip top of our graph, we use the word "Engage" to exemplify the section that Harmon labels "Need". In this example, this is where the need, or goal, is introduced. In a shooting game, this might be when the player is told to "Capture the flag!", which in Halo's case, the game orders you to do right off the bat.
Usually in a shooting game, the go section will have you running, either for a varied amount of time, to the other side of the map, Harmon's "Go".
The player will take down the enemies in the way, "Search".
The player will either take the flag, or defend someone else in order to capture, "Find", "Take".
The player will return to their base, "Return".
The player will have scored a point, "Change".
We start over again, "You".
As you can see, most solid game-play actually follows the same patterns of engagement as a story, and any other form of media.
So, the second hump, which in our example would be the time between fighting off the enemy team and capturing the flag, is the Drama. It is an intense moment of action, the moment the player is usually playing the game for.
Learn By Example
Though, as has been said frequently before, this graphical example can be used a variety of ways. It can be used to understand the mental impact of animations, story moments, etc. And really, should be used for such. Even if we choose to (which we should when it feels most appropriate) stray from this method, there is much more to learn from it's use.
So, you may be asking... "How am I supposed to even use this?"
My answer for you is simple; make a copy of this diagram:
This kind of collaborative design analizing is important, and requires you to be able to discuss your opinions analytically, with full understanding that every perception is personal, and does not need to be shared by others. Actually, the opposite is what you're going to want. To better understand how to improve a game's design, you will need someone that disagrees with you on some things. This will allow you to come up with a design you both will like, greatly improving the number of people that enjoy your games.
A Gamer at Heart
This is THE BEST WAY to learn.