are fascinating creatures. There are so many variables to take into account to
define who someone is or what his personality is all about. The full answer to
this question goes beyond what a simple post can describe, but there’s still something
deeply essential defining who we are as individuals. Something we can describe
pretty quickly and it’s called the unconscious.
We can hide a lot of things, but the split seconds reaction we have exposes our
true self. According to many experts, each of those moments comes with physical
reactions that sometimes are so fast a video would require slow motion to make
it visible unless the observer is some kind of expert. Those experts are said to be able to read minds…
Unconscious behaviors could very much be the most basic and fundamental player’s footprint. His experience is heavily defined by it and his success is often based on his ability to react before he even thinks. So when we sell a given experience, we better make sure the lowest decisions the player makes are related to it. How can we pretend to offer a given experience if the player is not confronted to it directly? If we look at games coming out, it seems to be quite complicated to achieve. I mean, there’s barely any game that delivers such a constant vision.
It’s quite surprising in a way, we represent the most interactive medium of them all and yet, we are not delivering a consistent experience. The fantasy we sell, the experience we deliver and the game simulation required to do so are rarely in harmony. If we look at Prototype from Radical, which I have yet to finish, it seems it suffers the same problem than the hulk games they did previously. Those games are supposed to represent inner conflicts and still there is no mechanical representation of that. The choices you make are not about those conflicts, they are more about which tool you will use to destroy your enemy. To me any game pretending to be about Hulk should be heavily related to self-control and prototype definitly plays on a similar concept but still dont do a better job at it.
Mirror’s Edge is another example in which you are a delivery runner pursued by enemies who wants you to fail. But when you play your brain constantly seek red or blue paths and your number one failure condition is when you fail to follow it. It's almost never about you getting caught and you cannot even make intelligent choices on how to deal with the problem of being pursued. There is a complete disconnect between the narrative context of this game and what the game is actually about gameplay wise.
Is it that hard to make a game that focus on a core experience? When I flee people in mirror’s edge, I expect to make decisions that will help me get good at fleeing. When I play a game like prototype, I expect my body condition to impact my decisions. This is a fundamental thing we seem to forget in video games. Good board games are doing better at respecting their aesthetics than we do. This is kind of sad considering the options we have through the power of computers…
I just wish we were more sensible towards those things. I know they are quite a few that tries hard and others that would like to but always see their concept get cut in half. Still, I feel a lot of us are not even considering this and are simply throwing ‘cool stuff’ at players without really paying attention to what their game is about. In the end, this mean players are unconsciously following things that are not at all what they were expecting. They often say they like it, but deep inside they might feel a certain disconnect with the fantasy the game aspires to fulfill.
Do you guys think this kind of extra care would be perceived by players in a more meaningful way? Would you like to see more games like Bioshock or Portal that tries to connect what players experience at the cognitive level to the narrative context? Are you aspiring to get there with your next game or do you think this is not worth doing?
I certainly hope more developers would explore this...