I’ve been questioning what gives games their allure for several years now and I think I’ve come to a conclusion or two. The main quest in my search has been to find the games I really find engrossing - dissect them - and discover what the core components are. Personally, I’ve settled upon three variables that drive the volume of fun and set how habitual my experience with the game will be.

  • To connect with the being I will play as, the game must not overpopulate the world with beings of a similar nature. By this - I mean to say that in the game world I must feel alone. Even if the game world is (lets say) a planet rife with all manner of interesting characters, they must feel alien, or at least foreign. Isolation seems to be another factor, even if it’s just in select moments. Strangely isolation seems to create a drive to move forward and understand the presented world better. (but, that might just be me)
  • Exploration - is - in it’s own right a tool for generating the feeling of accomplishment in players. This plays off the above characteristic of feeling alone quite nicely. The effect of seeing a new area, zone, or location for the first time can be increased if the player feels he or she is the first to do so. This is not to say that exploration is limited to visual changes in the game world. Exploration can just as easily be the interaction a player has with the game itself. I would go so far as to write: The amount of exploration is in a 1:1 ratio with the amount of value a game can have.
  • The final aspect seems to be a well paced sense of progress. I think the key here is not the advancement itself - which is present in all media, even if internal to the viewer - but instead the pacing of said progress. The way in which a world moves forward is directly proportional to how alive it seems to be. In this light, correct momentum in a game seems to be paramount. You could correlate this to storyline, character growth, scenery, audible changes, and basically any other facet of a game to see it’s importance.

I think it’s important to note that simply having these themes is not the same as having them be executed well. There are plenty of low quality examples one could find that feature one or more of the above and still suck - but I’m not game bashing here, so let’s move on.

One final point is how these concepts can come to interact. I hate to bring up any real examples but since it will most likely come up anyway and this is an opinion piece - here we go. Let’s take a look at the first half of the Metroid series, which is in my eyes possibly the best series ever created: Each of the games in turn (though, I guess Super Metroid shines) features these three components in spades. The isolation and panic drove me forward where I was greeted with a sort of forced exploration; but no matter how linear Metroid is, it never fell as such thanks to its excellent pacing.

I’m sure there will be people that disagree, and I’ve not really fleshed out these ideas yet, but I think it’s a start in defining what makes a game experience useful or fun. I will continue to work on this theory of mine, but I would like to hear what anyone reading this has to think as well.

(This post taken from Threeli.com )


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