Gaming My Way

10 May

The Experience of Gaming

When I play a video game, I’m looking for an experience. This holds true for any form of entertainment, really, but I’m going to talk specifically about gaming.

It’s hard to define what creates an experience. It’s even harder to define what creates a good experience. You just know when you’ve had one, because you come away from the game thinking that was awesome.

Another way to think about this is realizing that games that create better experiences tend to be more immersive, another nebulous term, but one that most people certainly understand.

There are many ways to make someone feel this way about a game, such as photo realistic graphics, a well composed score, an artistic approach to visuals that may or may not be technically demanding, a good story, or intense and rewarding gameplay.

Those last two make or break most games for me. If the game has either an excellent story or intense, rewarding gameplay,  I will play it to the end no matter what it takes. If a game has both, it will become one of my favorite games.

With a good story, I get the same feeling I get from reading a book, of broadening my horizons in some way.

When I play a game that is intense and rewarding, it just evokes a feeling of being awesome. You play, you conquer the challenges the game throws at you, and you achieve victory. The intensity gets your heart rate up, builds tension, and makes sure you know you can fail. The rewarding bit comes from designing games in such a way that the path to victory is logical and possible, but challenging, so whenever you overcome a challenge, such as finishing a level or boss battle, you feel like you accomplished something. Having a good control scheme is an important part of this, as intuitive controls make it the game challenging the player, rather than the player wrestling with the controls to get the game to work.

From there, good looking graphics, high quality music and sound, and any other things a designer might come up with serve to further improve the experience for me. Other people, of course, may have other priorities. For them, different games will appeal more than the ones that appeal to me.

Given all of this, it’s still important to realize that many games are more than the sum of their parts. For instance, the original Super Mario Brothers has held up incredibly well over the past twenty years. I still play it today, and I know many other people who also still play it. Yet it’s graphics certainly aren’t on par with games today, nor are the sound effects and music. It’s not particularly challenging for the most part, and there’s no plot to speak of. Perhaps there’s some nostalgia, but that’s definitely not enough to keep me playing a game. What is there is simply put together so well that it remains enjoyable, regardless of what “better” things have come afterward. I know when I play it, I still come away thinking “that was awesome.”

How things come together to create an experience is what will determine which games are played years from now, and which games are forgotten, or remembered but no longer really played.

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